Interfaith Worker Justice

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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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Faith Leaders Applaud Obama’s Call for an Increase to the Federal Minumum Wage

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For Immediate Release, February 13, 2013
Contact: Cathy Junia, cjunia@iwj.org / 773-710-9837

National – Interfaith Worker Justice joins people of faith around the country in applauding President Obama’s recent call for a federal minimum wage increase during last night’s State of the Union address.

“Raising the minimum wage is the clearest and fastest way to lift families out of poverty,” said Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Kim Bobo. “It also stimulates the economy by increasing spending in our communities.

IWJ-19 states have already established minimum wage rates higher than the current federal rate of $7.25. Congress last voted toraise the federal minimum wage in 2007, approving legislation that raised the minimum wage in three steps from $5.15 per hour to the current rate of $7.25 by July 2009. If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with the rising cost of living since 1968, it would equal $10.56 today; instead, decades of Congressional inaction have allowed the minimum wage to lose 30 percent of its purchasing power.

“Surprised to hear it included but very pleased that the president chose to include this among his top priorities for this year. It’s a priority because raising the minimum wage is long overdue. Wages haven’t kept pace with proactivity or the economy. People who make the minimum wage or less are falling even further behind every month, every year that passes. Person who works full time and makes the minimum wage in the U.S. is guaranteed to be poor. That’s the tragic absurdity that is also just plain wrong, immoral, and contrary to the spirit of our democracy. As a people of faith, as Christians, we are called to stand with especially the most vulnerable people among us. People who make minimum wage and below are among those for whom God has a special concern and our faith compels us to stand with them, to join our voices with their and to demand just and fair wages.”

Polling consistently reveals broad public support for raising the minimum wage: A national poll conducted in 2012 found that nearly three in four likely voters (73 percent) support increasing theminimum wage to $10 per hour and indexing it to inflation. The same poll showed 50 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Independents favoring anincrease in the minimum wage.
 
A record number of business voices have endorsed raising and indexing the federal minimum wage. Nearly 1,000 business leaders, including Costco, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce CEO Margot Dorfman, Addus Health Care CEO Mark Heaney, Credo Mobile President Michael Kieschnick, ABCHome CEO Paulette Cole, and small business owners from all 50 states, signed a statement supporting the last increase in the federal minimum wage.
 
President Obama also called for indexing the federal minimum wage to rise automatically with the cost of living – a key policy reform that 10 states have already adopted. In January of 2012, Republican presidential nominee Governor Mitt Romney expressed supported for indexing the minimum wage to rise with inflation, stating, “My view has been to allow the minimum wage to rise with the CPI [Consumer Price Index] or with another index so that it adjusts automatically over time….  I already indicated that when I was governor of Massachusetts and that’s my view.”
 
The President’s support for an increase in the minimum wage demonstrates an understanding of the growing role of the minimum wage in today’s service-based economy.  An August NELP study showed that while the majority of jobs lost during the recession were in middle-wage occupations, 58 percent of those created in the post-recession recovery have been low-wage occupations. That shift towards low-wage jobs is a 30-year trend that is only accelerating, according to a recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
 
 The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, introduced in July of last year, called for raising the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour by 2014, boosting the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the full minimum wage, and indexing the minimum wage to rise automatically with the cost of living. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, this proposal would have boosted  the incomes of 28 million low-paid workers in the U.S., generating $25 billion in new consumer spending and supporting the creation of over 100,000 full-time jobs.
 
In November 2012, voters in Albuquerque, San Jose, and Long Beach approved ballot measures by overwhelming margins to raise the wages of the lowest-paid workers in each city. Citywide minimum wage increases passed inAlbuquerque, with 66 percent support, and in San Jose, with 59 percent support, while 63 percent of Long Beach voters approved an ordinance establishing a higher minimum wage for hotel workers in the city.
 
The most rigorous economic research over the past 20 years shows that raising the minimum wage boosts worker pay without causing job losses – even in regions where the economy is weak or unemployment is high.  As Bloomberg News recently summarized, “[A] wave of new economic research is disproving those arguments about job losses and youth employment. Previous studies tended not to control for regional economic trends that were already affecting employment levels, such as a manufacturing-dependent state that was shedding jobs. The new research looks at micro-level employment patterns for a more accurate employment picture. The studies find minimum-wage increases even provide an economic boost, albeit a small one, as strapped workers immediately spend their raises.” National Employment Law Project

Contact: Daniel Massey, Daniel@berlinrosen.com, (917) 370-7312
Emma Stieglitz, EmmaS@berlinrosen.com, (267) 566-423
Jen Kern, (202) 494-2603


Interfaith Worker Justice has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of work and faith since 1996. IWJ has a network of more then 60 worker centers and interfaith groups around the country.

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