I started working at Mass Interfaith Worker Justice right after finals week.
On May 9th – my first day at work- I walk to the office wondering anxiously how I am going to start a 9 AM to 5 PM job again. The memories of the administrative work from my previous office jobs come to mind as I am invited in to the office by several people. The office of Mass IWJ looks genuine, I think, as I compare it to my last summer internship in Downtown Boston among huge plazas and professional looking people.
Sarah, my supervisor, comes to greet me and immediately offers to go out to get coffee at somewhere nearby. We walk to a close coffee house and sit. She slowly explains me what IWJ does and each campaign and issue it is working on. There is so much to digest. But as she explains further and further, I do feel that the information starts to sink in.
What/ Who is IWJ? What Does It Address?
Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) is a national network that builds collective power by advancing the rights of workers through unions, worker centers, and other expressions of the labor movement and by engaging diverse faith communities and allies in joint action, from grassroots organizing to shaping policy at the local, state and national levels. It welcomes people of good will from every faith tradition who are committed to proclaiming the dignity of every working person and securing the well-being of all working people.
Founded in 1997, IWJ supports and advocates for a living wage, health care, safer working conditions, rights to organize and bargain, and protection under labor law both for U.S.- born and immigrant workers. IWJ condemns discrimination, harassment, intimidation and retaliation in and out of the work place. Overall, IWJ’s goal is to advance fair and just participation in a global economy that promotes the welfare of both domestic and foreign workers.
How Does It Address These Issues?
IWJ addresses these issues through a network of unions, worker centers, faith and labor organizations, guilds and NGOs that have similar agendas. By organizing congregations for campaigns around these issues, IWJ strengthens the working communities.
Grassroots worker centers, faith-labor allies and other groups in our network support workers and lead their communities and states in shaping policy and advocacy. The network includes more than 60 faith-labor organizations and worker centers across the country.
After explaining what IWJ is and what it does, Sarah talks about some of the campaigns that they have been working on.
Tasks and Campaigns
Raise Up Massachusetts
One of the main campaigns that I will work on is Raise Up Massachusetts (RUM).
Raise Up Massachusetts is a grassroots coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that works for all of us. An economy that invests in families, gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and creates broadly shared prosperity.
RUM works towards two ballot question: 1) paid family and medical leave, to provide up to sixteen weeks of protected and paid leave to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, to care for a new child, or to meet family needs arising from a family member’s active duty military service and 26 weeks to recover from a worker’s own illness and/ or injury. 2) $15 minimum wage – to increase the $11 minimum wage by $1 each year until it reaches $15 an hour in 2022.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
One of the other campaigns I will work on is The Poor People’s Campaign(PPC). Starting May 13 and ending June 21, PPC will engage in collective action and nonviolent civil disobedience across the United States to combat systematic racism, discrimination, segregation, the war economy, environmental destruction and poverty.
PPC is bringing together people across the country who are organizing to build a broad and deep national moral movement—led by the poor, impacted, clergy and moral agents and reflecting the great moral teachings—to unite our country from the bottom up… to begin to shift the distorted moral narrative of our nation; advance common demands for transformative change; and build power to continue this fight long after June 2018.
Labor in the Pulpits/ Bimah/ Minbar/ Meeting Space
Another main event that I will work on is Labor in the Pulpits/ Bimah/ Minbar/ Meeting Space, which is organized by Mass IWJ. The event involves inviting workers to give a speech in a worship space to celebrate low-wage workers in the community, learn about the issues that impact workers most, and encourage conversation around practical solutions for workplace problems.
I learn from Sarah that other than these campaigns and events, I will help organize, mobilize, provide general support and attend actions for the workers’ rights campaigns.
How Will I Work to Further Mass IWJ’s Mission?
I learn that I will make phone calls, craft e-mails and meet with community and religious leaders and union representatives to mobilize and organize for campaigns, events and actions. As Sarah tells me that I will spent my time in the field mobilizing and attending actions more than I will spent time in the office, I feel a huge relief. This is not a regular office job!
As Sarah finishes her last words there is one thing that I am sure I want to accomplish this summer:
to get to know the action networks of Massachusetts and to take action against the injustices in the labor world.