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

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

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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Faith Communities Encouraged by Growing Momentum for Meaningful Immigration Reform

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For Immediate Relaese, January 28, 2013

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

National – As the White House and Congress lay out plans to reform the country’s broken immigration system, faith communities voice strong support for a comprehensive immigration reform program that includes a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, and protects the rights of all workers, regardless of immigration status.

Responding to recent immigration reform announcements, Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, said, “Immigrants come to the U.S. to work, and yet when they are kept in the shadows without a path to citizenship, they are easily exploited and undermine standards for all workers. Thus, it is right morally and economically to create a clear and quick path to citizenship for immigrants. We should ‘welcome the immigrant’ now.”

IWJ has a network of more than 26 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 joins other grassroots organizations around the country in welcoming recent immigration reform plans as a significant first step in the struggle to fix a broken system that tears apart families and keeps millions of hardworking people in the shadows.

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


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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National Day of Prayer for Walmart Supply Chain Workers People of Faith Call for Justice for Bangladeshi Factory Fire Workers

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For Immediate Release, December 20, 2012

Contact:
Cathy Junia, Interfaith Worker Justice
773-710-9837 / cjunia@iwj.org

National – People of faith across the country are planning prayer vigils outside Walmart stores on Saturday, Dec. 22, to remember the 112 Bangladeshi workers who died in a tragic factory fire last month, and call on Walmart to take responsibility for allowing dangerous working conditions within its supply chain.

The victims of the tragic fire at Tazreen Fashions in Bangladesh produced Faded Glory brand of clothing for Walmart.

“Mother Jones says, ‘Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.’ We will pray for those who lost their lives, and challenge those in leadership to do more to raise standards for all workers – here and abroad,” said Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Kim Bobo. “Our faith calls us to pray and challenge injustice.”

In a letter to be delivered to store managers on Dec. 22, people of faith are asking Walmart to support a full and transparent investigation of the tragedy and take meaningful steps towards preventing future tragedies.

Faith communities are also asking the retail giant to provide emergency relief including coverage of medical costs; full and fair compensation covering loss of future earnings as well as damages for the injured and families of the dead; and ensure wages continue to be paid for all workers and that all workers are offered priority hiring at equivalent or higher salary levels.

A list of prayer vigils are can be found at http://bit.ly/walmartvigil1212 or at http://bit.ly/CANWMPrayer

Last month, clergy and faith communities led prayer vigils at more than a hundred Walmart stores across the country to support the Black Friday actions and work stoppages led by Walmart store and warehouse workers.

For information about any of the actions happening on Saturday, Dec. 22 or to schedule an interview, contact Cathy Junia cjunia@iwj.org or 773-710-9837.


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 IWJ network, including a variety of interfaith groups and more than two dozen worker centers. More groups form every year.

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Supporting Hyatt Workers One Step at a Time Faith Leaders Join in Interfaith Sabbath Walk for Justice

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News Advisory, November 15, 2012

Media Contact:
Cathy Junia, IWJ Communications Director
773-710-9837 / cjunia@iwj.org

CHICAGO – This weekend, the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) will host their annual joint convention at McCormick Place in Chicago. Many academic scholars, teachers and faith leaders are honoring Hyatt's global boycott and staying at other hotels.

Worker advocates and people of faith are planning a solidarity walk to support Hyatt hotel workers and AAR and SBL Sabbath-observant Jewish members who are honoring the boycott. In order to observe the Sabbath, these rabbis must walk (rather than use transportation) to the convention center

Participating in the Sabbath walk is a way to support Hyatt hotel workers, Sabbath observant Jewish boycotters, and to draw attention to the workers’ rights aspect of Sabbath observance.

The solidarity walk is set for 8 a.m., starting at Hilton, 720 S Michigan Ave.

For many years, Hyatt hotel workers have been fighting for a living wage, safer working conditions and dignity on the job. Interfaith Worker Justice organizes faith communities to support Hyatt workers.

WHAT: Interfaith Sabbath Justice Walk for Hyatt

WHO: Religious academics, faith leaders, worker advocates, Hyatt workers

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 17 - 8:00 a.m.

WHERE: Hilton, 720 S. Michigan Ave. (http://www.justiceathyatt.org/walk/)

CONTACT: J.R. Green, Organizing Intern, Interfaith Worker Justice
773-728-8400 * jgreen@iwj.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 IWJ network, including a variety of interfaith groups and more than two dozen worker centers. More groups form every year.

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Interfaith Worker Justice Stands With Workers Experiencing Wage Theft Calls People of Faith to Join in the Struggle to End this Crime

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For Immediate Release, November 12, 2012
Contact: Cathy Junia
Phone: 773-728-8409 x 40
Email: cjunia@iwj.org

National – On Nov. 14-16, Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) affiliate worker centers have planned a variety of actions highlighting the prevalence of wage theft, and what communities are doing to fight this crime. In cities around the country, worker justice advocates are standing up against the illegal nonpayment of wages.

During the Nov. 14-16 National Days of Action, Workers Centers in the IWJ network will hold a variety of actions around the issue of wage theft:

• The Micah Center in Grand Rapids, MI will hold a rally on November 14 outside of Grand Rapids City Hall, shortly before city commissioners vote on a city ordinance against wage theft.
• The “Down with Wage Theft” coalition in Houston, Texas is hosting a celebration of local workers that calls for an end to wage theft.
• The Workers Interfaith Network in Memphis, TN will be holding a protest in front of a local T.G.I. Friday’s to demand payment for a worker owed $1,572 in back wages.

Wage theft affects millions of workers and occurs when employers pay less than minimum wage, refuse overtime pay, force workers to work off the clock, hold back final paychecks, misclassify employees as independent contractors, and fail to pay workers at all.

Interfaith worker advocates were part of the coalition that pressured the County Board of Commissioners in Broward County, Florida to stand up for workers and honest businesses by approving a Wage Recovery Ordinance. Their efforts are part of a movement led by the IWJ affiliate network fighting for workers’ rights and winning victories, including tough anti-wage theft and paid sick day legislation, in cities and states across the U.S.

“People of faith and conscience all over the country are speaking out against the injustice of wage theft,” said Kim Bobo, the Executive Director of IWJ. “Since we started mobilizing workers and their advocates more than a decade ago, our affiliates have moved many cities and states to pass ordinances that combat wage theft in their communities. Next year our organization plans to work on strengthening our relationship with the Department of Labor and other agencies to ensure that wage theft is on their agenda.”


Interfaith Worker Justice has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of faith and work since 1996.

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Broward Commissioners Approve Wage Recovery Ordinance

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For Immediate Release, October 24, 2012
Contacts: Natalia Jaramillo (786) 317-3524, Jeanette Smith (305) 598-1404

Broward County is the second in Florida to protect workers’ salaries and side with honest businesses

Broward, FL – Yesterday evening, the Broward County Board of Commissioners stood up for workers and honest businesses by approving a Wage Recovery Ordinance. With a 7-2 vote, the Ordinance initially proposed by Vice-Mayor Kristin Jacobs creates a resource for thousands of workers in Broward County who currently have nowhere to turn when they do not receive their earned wages.

Broward is now officially the second county in Florida to implement this program, after Miami-Dade which passed the first Ordinance in 2010 and so far has been able to recover $511,429.26 in unpaid wages through conciliation. Florida stands as one of the worst states in the country when it comes to wage theft cases -which include workers who are not paid overtime or minimum wage, are forced to work off the clock, or are not paid at all-, due to the lack of a state level Department of Labor and a high percentage of workers who are not covered by federal wage and hour laws. Broward County currently has the third largest number in the state with nearly 5,000 cases only in the last three years.

“I was at the meeting yesterday asking Commissioners to vote yes for the Ordinance, speaking on behalf of my close friends who are victims of wage theft in our county and haven’t been able to recover their wages after months of effort,” says Maria Isabel Fernandez, a resident of Dania Beach in Broward County. “I was thrilled when the Ordinance passed! It may be too late for my friends, but it will help other people like them in the future who will now have the possibility of recovering the salaries they earned through their work without having to hire a lawyer and wait months without any income.”

Along with Maria Isabel, over 16 speakers signed up for public input, including community members and advocates. Representatives of business associations and chambers, as well as some Commissioners, insisted on dismissing the magnitude of the problem saying there were only “a few bad apples,” that federal laws were already in place to protect the majority of workers, and that all Broward needed was to send wage theft victims to legal aid program to utilize the existing court system.

Fortunately, experts on the issue were available in the room to correct those misunderstandings. The County Attorney confirmed state and federal laws do not cover all workers, and when they do, they are not covered equally either. One of the speakers commented, “if this ordinance wasn’t necessary, why has Miami-Dade been able to recover so much in unpaid wages with its ordinance?”

“We understand some business owners may need more education on wage and hour laws, but that should not be at the expense of workers who are not being paid and have no reasonable way to recover the salaries they need to subsist. What we don’t understand is why some business associations are so intensely opposed to an Ordinance that will protect honest businesses and will put money in the pockets of Broward consumers, which will positively affect Broward’s overall economy?”, says Jeanette Smith, Director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, a member of the Florida Wage Theft task Force, a coalition of organizations that has worked closely with workers and community groups to support the Ordinances in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and now in Broward.

Francesca Menes, from the Florida Immigrant Coalition, also a member of the Florida Wage Theft Task Force, added, “this is a great step forward for Broward County and for Florida as a whole! Even beyond the positive impact on our local economy, this Ordinance sends a clear message that not paying workers is not acceptable and honest businesses are valued and protected against those that want to cheat to compete”.


Interfaith Worker Justice has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of work and faith since 1996. To learn more about the national campaign to end wage theft, visit www.iwj.org.

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