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Appalachian and Western coal communities call for fast action from President-Elect Trump and Interior Nominee Zinke

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Hundreds of coal workers demand Trump make good on promise to defend working people against “special interests”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ian Pajer-Rogers ipajer-rogers@iwj.org

WASHINGTON, DC (December 15, 2016) — Hundreds of coal miners from Appalachia to Western coal lands have sent an openletter to President-Elect Donald J. Trump and his nominee for Secretary of the Interior, Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT), requesting their much-needed help for coal communities across the country. 

In the letter, coal miners and their families urge the incoming Administration to take action to ensure coal industry CEOs and their companies keep their promises to reclaim the mines they developed, which would create jobs in coal communities, and to protect promised pension and health benefits. 

While coal companies nationwide have declared bankruptcy, laying off thousands of working people, coal industry CEOs and senior executives have reaped multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses and even proposed cuts to pensions and health benefits for retirees and workers who have suffered injuries on the job. Some companies are also maneuvering in federal and state courts to break their promises to taxpayers to create local jobs in coal communities by cleaning up the public land and waterways affected by mining operations.

“You’re making a promise to somebody when you hire them and tell them, ‘This is your retirement; this is what we’re going to do,’” said Branden Walsh, a coal miner in Gillette, Wyoming. “And now they’re reneging on that and getting bonuses for doing that. I can’t think of anything worse. The coal companies should focus a little bit harder on re-training their laid-off employees.”

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Secretary of the Interior, Congressman Zinke would oversee coal that is developed from publicly owned minerals as well as the reclamation of mines on public and private lands across the country.

The letter, which was organized by the nonprofit Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), asks the Trump Administration to stop coal companies from abandoning their responsibility to clean up old mines. Moreover, legislation to protect miners’ health and retirement benefits as well as legislation that would make investments in re-training workers in coal country failed to pass in the 114th Congress. IWJ hopes the Trump Administration will stand up for these working people and their families.

“I worked in the mines for 25 years until I had an accident and could not work anymore,” said Charles E. Boyd of McCalla, Alabama. “I am on disability due to my work injury. I also have black lung. My pension and health benefits was promised to coal miners by our government.  Please keep the promise.” 

As the President-elect Trump prepares to take office and Congressman Zinke is considered for the next Secretary of the Interior, coal miners implore them to take action on these vital issues.

The miners quoted in this release and others are available for interview by phone upon request. To arrange an interview, please contact Ian Pajer-Rogers at ipajer-rogers@iwj.org. To view the letter and an interactive signers map, please visit http://www.helpcoalworkers.org/.

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Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Laura Barrett on Donald Trump’s pick to lead Department of Labor

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ian Pajer-Rogers ipajer-rogers-at-iwj-dot-org

CHICAGO - (December 8, 2016) “As advocates for worker justice focused on ending wage theft and improving pay, benefits, and safety for all working people, we have serious concerns about the president-elect’s nomination of Andrew Puzder to lead the Department of Labor.

“Mr. Puzder is the chief executive of a restaurant empire that thrives under a business model based on low wages and the abuse of overtime protections. Mr. Puzder’s restaurants have been accused of wage theft on numerous occasions.

“Over the past year, IWJ affiliated worker centers and faith-labor groups across the country have put in significant time and energy to establish working relationships with regional community outreach specialists in the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

“These contacts offer our affiliates a direct channel to the Department of Labor to report violations and request enforcement of the nation’s labor laws. This has led to the recovery of tens of thousands of dollars in stolen wages and sent a clear signal to employers that wage violations will be met with the full force of the law.

“While we have strong ideological disagreements with Mr. Puzder, we are committed to finding common ground and continuing a productive and professional relationship with the Department of Labor, the Wage and Hour Division, and their regional community outreach specialists to continue advocating for justice for working people everywhere.”

Interfaith Worker Justice is a national network of more than 60 worker centers and faith-labor organizations committed to dignity and justice for all working people.

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Industry challenges to President Obama's Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order would double-down on broken federal contracting system

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ian Pajer-Rogers ipajer-rogers@iwj.org

(October 11, 2016) Washington, DC - Late last week, lobbyists representing more than 400,000 federal contractors quietly filed a lawsuit intended to block President Obama's Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, which would protect low-wage workers on federal contracts from serious labor law violations like wage theft.

"In an economy where working people lose tens of billions of dollars to wage theft every year, the federal government should be the standard-bearer for fair labor practices, not playing catch-up," said Rev. Doug Mork, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice. "The president's executive order would ensure that those working people who are on contract with the federal government are paid in full and treated with dignity and respect as they perform the often unseen labor that keeps the wheels of the federal government turning.

"We know that wage theft by federal contractors is rife. A United States Senate investigation found that nearly one-third of companies that receive the most serious penalties for federal labor law violations were federal contractors.

"A Government Accountability Office analysis showed that known labor law violators have continued to receive lucrative government contracts because of lax government oversight and enforcement, exposing a deep and systemic problem that must be addressed. The president's executive order would do just that."

Working people employed by federal contractors echoed the urgent need for better oversight and enforcement against wage theft and other violations.

"This executive order would make sure other workers aren't victimized by wage theft like I was," said Sonia Chavez, a federal contract cleaner who recovered $20,000 in back-pay and damages.  "We already earn low wages, so when contractors steal our hard-earned money, it adds insult to injury."

"When someone steals a loaf of bread at a store, they get arrested," said Magaly Ramirez, a food service contract worker at the Pentagon. "But when a company steals wages from workers, they rarely face serious consequences.  This executive order will fix that by punishing outlaw contractors."

The president's executive order is scheduled to go into effect later this month.

Interfaith Worker Justice is a national network of more than 60 worker centers and faith-labor organizations committed to dignity and justice for all working people.

IWJ responds to reports of serious safety violations at a Tyson Foods chicken processing plant

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In response to news that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Tyson Foods for fifteen serious violations following a gruesome worker injury at a chicken processing plant, Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Reverend Doug Mork released the following statement: 

“The terrible injury and numerous safety violations at a Texas chicken processing plant confirm what some Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) affiliated worker centers have been saying for years: cheap chicken comes at a high cost for the workers who process poultry.

“In the never-ending corporate quest to boost profit margins, the biggest poultry producers in the country, including Tyson, have long neglected worker safety and worker rights in the name of faster, more profitable production lines. In a report released earlier this year, IWJ-affiliate Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center expose the brutal working conditions and serious injuries endured by poultry processing workers on a near daily basis. Another IWJ affiliate, the Western North Carolina Workers’ Center is in the midst of a campaign to help poultry processing workers win even the most basic dignity from their managers: the right to take a bathroom break.

“While IWJ is outraged by this latest report of serious violations at a poultry processing plant, we are far from surprised. We applaud OSHA for taking swift and bold action to address these serious violations. IWJ will continue to mobilize faith communities and support worker center-led campaigns to bring justice to the poultry processing injury.

“Four poultry corporations –including Tyson Foods– control 60% of the U.S. market. We urge Tyson Foods and its competitors to commit to a comprehensive evaluation of safety standards and the fair treatment of working people at all poultry processing plants. As the nation’s appetite for chicken grows, the safety, dignity, and respect of the workers who produce this chicken are non-negotiable rights that must be protected at any cost.”

“You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns.” - Deuteronomy 24:14

Contact: Ian Pajer-Rogers, ipajer-rogers[at]iwj[dot]org

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Workers mobilize for national Hungry For Justice month of action

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Labor, religious, and progressive allies planning ongoing actions for a living wage, better working conditions, end to wage theft, and more

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Media Contacts:

Ian Pajer-Rogers, 603-988-9775, ipajer-rogers@iwj.org

Sung-Yeon Choimorrow, 312-513-2289 schoimorrow@iwj.org

CHICAGO (November 2, 2015) — Thousands of workers who are fed up with poverty wages, unsafe  and unreliable working conditions, and tired of being victims of wage theft will take action throughout the month of November to show elected officials and corporate executives that they are Hungry For Justice. 

The month of action will include a massive mobilization of fast-food workers rallying for a $15 per hour living wage and a union, a two-week fast by Walmart workers, and a day of action to expose and end wage theft in America.

“For many Americans, the month of November means a big Thanksgiving meal and the biggest shopping day of the holiday season,” said IWJ executive director Rudy López, “But to those who work in retail or foodservice, those who drive the trucks that deliver our holiday goods, those who are denied their full pay as victims of wage theft, the start of the holiday season is just another example of the stark difference between the haves and the have-nots in America. This month presents us with an opportunity to reclaim the spirit of the holiday season -- peace, love, and justice for all.”

The Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) network is taking the lead on organizing the wage theft day of action on November 18, which will coincide with the launch of a redesigned website to help workers and organizations fight against wage theft. The site will be available on November 18 at wagetheft.org.


Interfaith Worker Justice has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of work and faith since 1996. There are 70 affiliated organizations in the United States.

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Interfaith Worker Justice’s Rudy López releases statement on the conclusion of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations

0 Comment(s) | Posted | by Ian Pajer-Rogers |

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts:

Cathy Junia, cjunia[at]iwj.org

Ian Pajer-Rogers, ipajer-rogers[at]iwj.org

CHICAGO (October 5, 2015) — The White House announced early Monday that the United States and eleven Pacific-rim nations have reached a final agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

In response, IWJ’s Executive Director Rudy López released the following statement:

After years of secret negotiations, the American public will finally have a chance to examine the contents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and see for themselves what leaked documents have already exposed.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership will ship more American jobs overseas while lowering wages at home, weaken labor and environmental protections, and turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in certain participating nations.

“Last month, Pope Francis reminded lawmakers of their duty to ‘protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.’ Congressional debate regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be a crucial test for our elected leaders to condemn a throwaway economy that values profit over people. The Trans-Pacific Partnership will only further entrench this backward set of values.

“As the full text of the agreement is made public, IWJ will mobilize its network to urge Congress to engage in a vigorous, transparent, and honest debate with a constant eye towards what is best for American workers, not the huge corporate interests who have crafted this agreement.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not a “free-trade” agreement. It is a trade-off that sacrifices the rights of American workers for the sake of enriching the most powerful corporations on the planet.”

The full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be available for review on IWJ.org as soon as it is made public.


Interfaith Worker Justice has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of work and faith since 1996. There are 70 affiliated organizations in the United States.

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Hundreds of prayers sent to Congressional leadership, urging action after Pope Francis’s visit

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Prayers ask for a national living wage, paid sick and parental leave, and an end to wage theft.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts:

Cathy Junia, cjunia[at]iwj.org

Ian Pajer-Rogers, ipajer-rogers[at]iwj.org

WASHINGTON, DC (September 28, 2015) — Calling on Congress to heed Pope Francis’s message of taking on economic inequality and ending the cycle of poverty that so many Americans suffer under, Interfaith Worker Justice today delivered hundreds of prayers to Congressional leadership, urging swift action to address injustices suffered by working people, including poverty wages, no paid leave, and rampant wage theft nationwide.

Here are just two of the hundreds of prayers sent to Congress today:

For the dignity of work and for all persons in need of work; for those who can provide work for those without; for safe and healthy working conditions for all who labor; for just laws and just wages for all workers; for just relationships among workers, among employers and workers, and among workers' families. For all these intentions, I pray to the Lord. Lord, hear my prayer.


I am praying for justice for workers, in pay, working conditions, health and for set schedules so they can be with their families. I am praying for mother earth, for reduction in fossil fuels and increase in solar and wind power. I pray for Pope Francis to have a safe and productive trip to the United States. May he change hearts and minds.

“The interfaith prayers sent to Congress today signify the deep commitment to the fundamental values of decency, dignity, and respect for all workers that Americans across the nation share,” said IWJ Executive Director Rudy López. “Polls consistently show that an overwhelming majority of Americans want a living wage, paid leave, and the promise that workers will be paid for every hour they work. We hope that Congress hears these prayers and takes swift action in accordance with these values that we share as a nation.”

The 500+ prayers were sent to Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Harry Reid, Representative John Boehner, and Representative Nancy Pelosi. The prayers were accompanied by a short note on behalf of the IWJ network, asking the Congressional leaders to take immediate action to enact a national living wage, a mandate on paid leave, and a national law to put an end to wage theft.


Interfaith Worker Justice has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of work and faith since 1996. There are 70 affiliated organizations in the United States.

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IWJ Welcomes Senate Immigration Bill, Urges Congress to Include for Strong Worker Protection

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For Immediate Release, April 17, 2013

Contact: Cathy Junia
Phone: 773-710-9837
E-mail: cjunia@iwj.org

National – Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) welcomes the Senate “Gang of 8” immigration reform bill as an important and historic first step towards real and humane reform.

“Our elected officials have a great opportunity –and responsibility - to overhaul a broken system that tears families apart and leaves workers vulnerable to abuse,” IWJ Executive Director Kim Bobo said.  “Passing comprehensive immigration reform and creating a path to citizenship is clearly the way to “welcome the immigrant” and “love our neighbor.”

The proposed “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” (SB 744) offers a roadmap to citizenship that includes thousands of families torn apart by deportation. The proposal also includes a temporary worker program that extends workplace protection to immigrant workers.

“It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s an important first step and we will continue to push for stronger worker protections,” Bobo said. “Now is the time for all of us to put our faith into action, our feet to the street, and advocate policies that reflect our values of compassion and justice.”

IWJ has a network of more than 27 worker centers around the country that serve as drop-in centers for low-wage workers who experience injustice at the workplace. Many of these centers routinely see wage theft cases that involve immigrant workers.

“Immigrant workers who are forced to live the shadows are more vulnerable to abuse. When we allow immigrant workers to be exploited, we lower the standards for all workers,” Bobo said. “Reforming our immigration system is morally imperative and fundamental to restoring justice and equity in the workplace and the community.”

IWJ is a member of the Interfaith Immigrant Coalition, a coalition of 35 national faith-based organizations calling for a reform of our broken immigration system, and the Alliance for Citizenship.


Interfaith Worker Justice has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of work and faith since 1996. There are 70 affiliated organizations in the United States.

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Community Leaders Recommend Invstigation into Allegations of Wage Theft at Music City Center

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For Immediate Release, March 12, 2013                                              

Contact:
Cathy Junia, IWJ
Phone: 773-710-9837
E-mail: cjunia@iwj.org

Nashville, TN – A group of Nashville community leaders and worker advocates are asking city officials to conduct a formal investigation into allegations of wage theft at Music City Center, one of the city’s biggest and most expensive public construction projects.
At a community hearing, Saturday, March 9, several construction workers shared stories of underpayment and intimidation by their respective employers - drywall companies subcontracted by Georgia-based Roswell Drywall. Roswell is the project’s primary interior systems contractor.

“I understand that the pay for [drywall installers] is supposed to be $17.21 per hour. I was paid less,” said one worker employed by subcontractor, Obando Construction. “I did not ask for more because I did not want to be fired for complaining.” Dry wall installers at the convention center were paid at least $3 less than the prevailing rate of $17.21 per hour.

Intimidation was a common theme in all of the stories. Another worker talked about a supervisor who told workers they could leave if they did not like what they were being paid.

“Roswell’s subcontractors may have underpaid their workers by over a million dollars.” said Matthew Capece of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. “With the help of the greater Nashville community, underpaid workers will feel more protected if they come forward.”

In separate letters to Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, District Attorney General Victor Johnson III, and Nashville Convention Center Authority Chairman Marty Dickens, the group of community commissioners laid out recommendations to help address the wage theft and intimidation problems at Music City Center:

  • Investigate the potential fraudulent behavior of Roswell Drywall subcontractors for cheating workers and taxpayers.
  • Appoint an experienced agency other than the Convention Center Authority to investigate complaints from workers paid less than the prevailing rate. 
  • Create a project labor agreement for future projects to ensure that Tennessee-based construction firms and Tennessee residents get first priority on contracts and jobs.

“When companies agree to hire adequate skilled trades people and then don’t pay them the agreed upon wages, those companies have committed fraud,” the commissioners said. “We are concerned about the workers and their basic rights to a fair practice. We are also concerned about the use of public funds.”

Members of the fact-finding commission: The Rev. Jim Sessions, Interfaith Worker Justice board member; Dr. Melissa Snarr, worker rights advocate; The Rev. Dr. Daryl Ingram, IWJ board member; The Rev. Angela Hawkins, UMC Tennessee Conference Interfaith Council chair, and Ms. Dorit Kosmin, synagogue cantor.


IWJ has been educating, resourcing, and mobilizing the religious community in support of justice for workers and working families since 1996. For more information about IWJ, visit our website www.iwj.org or contact Cathy Junia cjunia@iwj.org, 773-710-9837.

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Community Hearing on Wage Theft: Music Center Construction Workers Tell All

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MEDIA ADVISORY
February 28, 2013

** Interview Opportunity**

Contact:
Cathy Junia
Phone: 773-710-9837
E-mail: cjunia@iwj.org

Nashville, TN – While Nashville takes great pride in the construction of its new convention center, construction workers struggle to make ends meet as their wages are stolen from them. 

Over the last two years, workers and worker allies have exposed misclassification and underpayment practices by some Music City Center sub-contractors. On March 9, a group of local faith leaders will join workers in bearing witness to stories of injustice and wage theft at one of the cities biggest and most expensive projects.

The community hearing investigating the wage theft problems experienced by construction workers building the convention center is sponsored by a range of worker rights and social justice organizations, including Interfaith Worker Justice, Workers Dignity, Justice for Our Neighbor, and Clergy for Tolerance.

WHAT: Community Hearing on Wage Theft at Music City Center


WHO: Music City Center construction workers
            Faith leaders and community allies

WHEN: Saturday, March 9
              10 a.m. to noon

WHERE: Raintree Room
                The Scarritt Bennett Center
                1008 19th Ave. S.
  
You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.

– Leviticus 19:13


 Interfaith Worker Justice has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of work and faith since 1996. There are 70 affiliated organizations in the country.

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