Judaism

Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Union for Reform Judaism

“The Union for Reform Judaism highlighted its concern for immigrant laborers in a 2007 Resolution on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, opposing “the exploitation of immigrants in the workplace” and encouraging “employers to maintain the highest safety standards and provide fair and just compensation for all workers.”

More at: http://urj.org//about/union/governance/reso//?syspage=article&item_id=1909 (Union for Reform Judaism, Resolution on Worker Rights, Ethical Consumerism and the Kosher Food Industry, 2008)

“The Union for Reform Judaism resolves to support the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively.”

More at: http://urj.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=8996

(Union for Reform Judaism, Resolution on Workers’ Rights in the United States, 2005)

Central Conference of American Rabbis

For many years the CCAR has sought just working conditions for members of the American Labor force. … The CCAR, in reaffirming the right of American Labor to self-determination, protests this injustice, supports the nationwide boycott against Farah products, and, in conjunction with other religious leaders, calls on store owners to discontinue the sale of Farah slacks until the workers are allowed to be represented properly.

(Central Conference of American Rabbis, Right of the Farah Slack Workers to Organize Resolution, 1973)

Living Wage

Union of American Hebrew Congregations

“The Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to support living wage ordinances and bills to bring wages to at least the poverty line, preferably higher; encourage our congregations across North America to become involved in living wage campaigns in their local communities…”

More at: http://rac.org/advocacy/issues/issuelw/issuemwres/

(Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Living Wage Resolution, 2000)

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

“The JCPA has long believed that those who work at full time jobs should earn enough to support their families above poverty line.”

More at: http://www.jewishpublicaffairs.org/equal/resolutions/low-income-2-28-00.html

(Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Resolution on Living Wage and  Low-Income Workers, 2000)

The Union for Reform Judaism

The Union for Reform Judaism resolved to support living wage ordinances and support bills to increase wages as well as call upon congregations to examine their employment and contract practices. The resolution also calls upon communities to support a living wage and to advocate for non-profits to support a living wage without curtailing their services. Furthermore, the resolution encourages congregations across North America to become involved in living wage campaigns in their local communities.

More at: http://urj.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=7201&pge_prg_id=29601&pge_id=4590

(The Union for Reform Judaism, Living Wage Campaign Resolution, Adopted- Orlando, Florida December 1999

The Women of Reform Judaism

The Women of Reform Judaism resolved that Judaism requires that workers be fairly compensated with “adequate wages, benefits, and protections,” and that this applies to our neighbors and strangers amongst us. Therefore, the WRJ called upon its affiliates to seek a living wage, health care, and other benefits for workers, to educate members about treatment of those who work in homes and to further educate about how service providers, production workers and migrant farm workers are treated, and to prevent the retraction of ethical labor practices and standards.

More at: http://www.womenofreformjudaism.org/programming/resolutions-statements/workerjustice/

 (Women of Reform Judaism, Resolution on Worker Justice)

Fair Working Conditions

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly

 “In response to the continuing disturbing allegations of unacceptable worker conditions at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly are united in their request that consumers of kosher meat evaluate whether it is appropriate to buy and eat meat products produced by the Rubashkin's label.”

More at: http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/press/docs/hekhsher2008.doc

(United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly’s statement regarding Rubashkin’s meat products, 2008)

The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism

The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism Resolves to: Support legislation that requires employers to provide reasonable paid sick leave to employees to attend to their own health care and the health care of their families, in a manner sensitive to potential impacts on employers; urge our congregations across North America to engage in paid sick days campaigns in their local communities; and call upon our congregations and all arms of the Reform Movement to examine their employment and contracting practices reflecting the spirit of this resolution and set an example for their communities.

More at: http://urj.org/socialaction/aboutus/reso/?syspage=article&item_id=1875

(Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, Resolution on Paid Sick Days, 2008)

Central Conference of American Rabbis

“Jewish leaders, along with our Catholic and Protestant counterparts have always supported the labor movement and the rights of employees to form unions for the purpose of engaging in collective bargaining and attaining fairness in the workplace. We believe that permanent replacement of striking workers upsets the balance of power needed for collective bargaining, destroys the dignity of working people, and undermines the democratic values of this nation."

More at: http://data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/resodisp.pl?file=fairness&year=1993

(Central Conference of American Rabbis, Workplace Fairness Resolution, 1993)

Labor in the Bimah: A Reflection by – Rabbi Brant Rosen, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Evanston, Illinois

In Exodus 1:14 the Torah describes the Egyptians enslavement of the Israelites thus:

And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field; all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor.

What does the Torah mean that the Israelites were made to serve “with rigor?”

According to the common understanding, this term refers to enforced work without limit, work without purpose or end – work in which a slave serves utterly at the whim of the slave master. Notably, once they have left Egypt, the Israelites’ experience of “rigor- ous service” directly informs the way they are commanded to treat their own workers when they settle in their own land.

According to Deuteronomy 24:14:

You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger...else he will cry to God against you and you will incur guilt.

In other words, ensuring the safety and dignity of workers is not merely one commandment among many – it is coded into the very DNA of the Torah’s most central narrative. The birth of the people Israel is rooted in a story of exploited laborers and their eventual journey to redemp- tion. Indeed, in a very real sense, their essential mission is repeatedly framed as a conscious disavowal of the slave masters of Egypt.

Thus, the question the Torah places before us is quite clear: what is the nature of the society we seek to create? Will it be an Egypt or a Prom- ised Land?

  • Will we ensure that workers receive basic protections under the law - or will we seek only greater exploitation in service of the bottom line?
  • Will we provide laborers with the dignity of livable wages and ad- equate benefits – or will we only see sanctity in greater and greater shareholder profits?
  • Will we allow workers the right to organize and engage their employers in collective bargaining – or will we allow workers to be intimidated into collective silence and compliance?

The answer, as ever, is up to us.