Interfaith Worker Justice

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Press Release Archive

Senate Bill Passage Will Mean More Deaths of Working People

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Repeal of 45-year-old OSHA regulation will make American jobs less safe

The following is a statement from Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Laura Barrett:

“On Wednesday, the United States Senate voted along party lines to repeal a decades-old rule giving the Occupational Safety and Health Administration the authority to hold employers accountable to maintaining accurate health and safety records.

“The health and safety of working people should never be a political issue. This OSHA rule has been uncontroversial for 45 years and former Directors of the Bureau of Labor Statistics under both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have publicly urged the Senate to reject the repeal.

“When the president signs this bill, as is widely expected, he will be accelerating his attack on the nation’s working people, many of whom supported his candidacy for the White House.

“In the wake of the president’s support for this repeal of the OSHA rule, as well as his decision to cut vital OSHA health and safety training grants in his draconian budget proposal, it becomes more clear everyday that when Donald Trump promises to be a champion for working people, he is lying.

“Donald Trump’s only concern for working people is how quickly he can sell them out.”

Trump's Budget: A sellout of working people

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Donald Trump promised to be a champion for working people. He lied.

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

The following is Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Laura Barrett’s response to proposed $2.5 billion budget cuts to the Department of Labor:

“The Trump Administration’s $2.5 billion in proposed cuts to the Department of Labor are in deep violation of the president’s campaign trail promises to be a champion for working people.

“Even a cursory review of which Department of Labor programs the Administration intends to cut or eliminate shows its true intentions to sell out the nation’s working people to the same old special interest parasites that have been feasting on the fruits of labor for decades.

“Proposed cuts to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) —the agency charged with ensuring workplaces are in compliance with safety regulations— are particularly galling.

“Currently, there is only one OSHA inspector for every 59,000 working people in the nation, making it impossible for OSHA to inspect each and every workplace in the country. Instead, the most cost-effective way to prevent workplace injuries or death is to have a workforce educated in health and safety on the job.

“Since its inception in 1978, more than 2.1 million working people have completed health and safety trainings under OSHA’s Susan Harwood Grant Program. In the past five years, Interfaith Worker Justice and its affiliates have trained thousands of difficult-to-reach and often vulnerable working people on occupational health and safety issues. These trainings have saved lives and prevented serious workplace injuries and illnesses. Cutting this relatively low-cost program from OSHA’s budget will put working people across the nation at risk of serious injury or death on the job. This is unacceptable.

“All of the proposed cuts to the Department of Labor are the strongest indicator yet that Donald J. Trump’s promises to be a champion for working people on the campaign trail and during the early days of his administration were nothing more than a brash, oft-repeated lie.

“The nation’s working people deserve better. We will fight these proposed cuts at every turn.”

Interfaith Worker Justice: Trump’s latest travel ban is anti-American and hurts working families

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

Photo credit: Bryan Anselm/The New York Times

CHICAGO (March 6, 2017) — The following is a statement from Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Laura Barrett regarding today’s executive order reinstating the president’s ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries:

“As the White House reintroduces its plan to temporarily bar residents of six predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States, the Trump Administration has once again implemented a policy that will tear apart working families, create a culture of fear whenever immigrants interact with law enforcement, and embolden terrorists who feed off of the hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric of this president and his team.

“Of course, the travel ban itself defies logic. Not a single terrorist act has been committed on American soil by any citizen of any country on the president’s list. Instead of making our country safer, the president’s order today resigns to the wastebasket the great tradition of openness and diversity that truly makes our country great.

“We call on citizens everywhere to hit the streets and head to the airports to demonstrate against this anti-American travel ban and do whatever we must to protect the most vulnerable amongst us.”

Puzder’s withdrawal proves that organizing will remain a powerful tool for working people in the Trump era

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

CHICAGO (February 15, 2017) — The following is a statement from Laura Barrett, Executive Director at Interfaith Worker Justice:

“Today, the weeks of powerful, coordinated organizing by working people nationwide paid off as Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration for Secretary of Labor less than 24 hours before his first confirmation hearing was scheduled to begin.

“This is a testament to the power of working people organizing in the face of injustice. Andrew Puzder has made millions of dollars on the backs of low-wage and often undocumented working people, all while advocating for a lower minimum wage and replacing workers with robots.

“So far, this is an Administration that has proven itself intent on shutting up the will of working people. Today, we demonstrated that we will not be shut up when we show up.

“As we witness the President of the United States’ ongoing betrayal of the working people who voted for him and for whom he promised to be a champion, today’s victory is an important lesson. We must continue to resist against the destructive policies of the Trump Administration. Today we reaffirm that organizing remains the antidote to injustice.

“We urge the president to remember his campaign promises to working people and nominate a Labor Secretary who will be a champion for working people and is committed to the mission of the Department of Labor. If he fails to do so, working people will be ready.”

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”


Contact: Ian Pajer-Rogers

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 To view the letter and an interactive signers map, please visit


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

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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.


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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Contact: Ian Pajer-Rogers

(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


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


Media Contacts:

Ian Pajer-Rogers, 603-988-9775,

Sung-Yeon Choimorrow, 312-513-2289

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

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.


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

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Media Contacts:

Cathy Junia, cjunia[at]

Ian Pajer-Rogers, ipajer-rogers[at]

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 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.