The People United: A Summer of Community Organizing

I started my internship in Miami at an organization called Interfaith Worker Justice, just a couple of days ago. IWJ is a non-profit dedicated to faith-based organizing around labor rights issues. These issues include fighting against wage theft, securing living wage or paid sick days for low-wage workers, ormaking sure that overtime wages are given to workers. In addition, my organization has also been voicing the urgency for an immigration reform for years, which is currently gaining momentum on a national scale with the upcoming Comprehensive Immigration Reform to be voted on in Congress.

The South Florida branch of Interfaith Worker Justice is very active in most of the areas that the national organization addresses across the state. During the first meeting I attended with representatives from unions and other community organizers, I had to pay very close attention to which cause they were talking about (since there were so many!). So far, I started organizing a phone-banking session for synagogue members who will be making phone calls urging voters to ask their Senator to support the immigration reform. This type of “organizing work” will be very common throughout my internship, as part of my responsibilities will be to engage religious communities and leaders in political activism. I will also be attending “actions” myself – protests and demonstrations fall under this category. On Friday I already attended my first protest as part of my internship, you can read about the reasons why people gathered to protest here.

Miami Herald journalist interviews activists at protest
Miami Herald journalist interviews activists at protest
IWJ Shirt, Quote from Isaiah
IWJ Shirt, Quote from Isaiah

However, my work also entails parts that don’t include shouting slogans and marching on the streets. The administrative part of my internship will be gathering email addresses of potential constituencies and organizing the mailing list of existing supporters. I will also be in contact with the board members, and potentially recruit new members to join the board.

I admit that I’ve had some mixed impressions about my internship initially. I’m really excited about the work that I’ll be doing, but I was expecting more structure. However, soon I realized I’d like to develop in this area, structuring my own time and managing my own projects without supervision is a skill I will need in life. Thus, one of my expectations for this summer is to learn to articulate clear goals for myself, and become a better time-manager. In addition, as I was sitting in on a few meetings and conference calls, looking perplexed, I concluded that I will need to do a lot of research on my own. Reading about state legislation and federal labor rights, stances of particular politicians, and problems of border security will be part of my daily job. Thus, I definitely expect to end the summer with some tangible knowledge on these issues!

Viktoria Bedo ’15

2 thoughts on “The People United: A Summer of Community Organizing”

  1. Hi Viktoria!

    It sounds like you’re learning a lot and you’re really getting a hands-on internship experience. I’m wondering if you experience much frustration in phone banking – especially in responsiveness of particular constituencies. For me, it sometimes feels frustrating to hear the same responses over and over again of “I’m just too busy to help,” etc. Personally, I’ve also struggled with being confident on the phone. One thing that helps me, though, is to remember why I’m here and that I believe in what I’m telling them. As you must know, it can be difficult to make good connections with people without being face-to-face. Is there anything that’s worked particularly well for you while phone banking?

    Best,
    Kate ’14

  2. Hi Kate!

    Yes, as you mentioned, activating people to make phone calls during their free time can be very difficult. There is never a shortage of excuses. My limited experience is that the best way to have people commit is to ask them in person, because they are less likely to say no. Also, you can ask a friend to bring a friend, and they are less likely to say no as well. But believe me, I’m no expert! It’s shocking how difficult it is to convince people to donate their time to a cause they actually believe in and support.

    In terms of talking on the phone, my best advice is something you probably already do – be personable! Don’t be afraid to schmooze and laugh with them. But also be firm and know when to get down to business. Do you have any advice for me? Something that worked for you?

    Thanks for commenting!

    Best,
    Viki ’15

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