The Final Stretch

(picture from the first day from work. Hard to believe it’s been so long!)

It’s an exciting and sad feeling to know that I’m at the end of my internship. As much as I look forward to my senior year at Brandeis, I’ve really enjoyed being in Chicago with IWJ. Chicago has been a gorgeous city, and I’ve enjoyed my time here from the food to the Cubs enthusiasm,  to the lakefront views. 

(pictured: picture perfect lakefront view near the office)

It’s been exciting during this time to do the ground work for implementing social justice, and understanding what I can do better to continue the fight. For instance, one thing that really makes a difference is being a regular donor. Even if it’s a small amount of money, having a source of guaranteed income can help projects progress more efficiency and help the budgeting process. 

Secondarily, the people you surround yourselves with are important. I’ve had days of the week where the activity was putting together mailings or making calls. Having friendly and amiable colleagues made all the difference in undertaking these tasks and understanding the importance of what we were doing. The diversity of my workplace helped me to appreciate the full impact of our community outreach and helped me to always conceptualize social justice concepts like eliminating wage theft through a variety of lenses. For instance, wage theft is experienced differently in different communities and tailoring a message of awareness to the specific group of people can make all the difference in seminar and workshop feedback. Having friends that are also willing to be open and educate themselves about these issues can do wonders to creating a better place. 

I like to think I added a different perspective as well while in the office. Most of my office is from the east coast and Midwest, while I spent my formative years in the west, primarily the southwest. I found sometimes that individuals from other states can be dismissive of Arizonan dialogue concerning immigration and labor because of political disputes. Maybe Arizona isn’t the first place that is referenced for social justice initiatives, but I still think it’s important to hear our stories. There is no one answer to complicated questions, and I’m glad that social justice is beginning to incorporate the perspectives of people from different states into understanding policy impacts instead of generalizing based on preconceived notions. 

Beyond that realization, advice to future students and what I wish I knew beforehand go hand in hand. I wish I had a clearer idea of my obligations at the internship from the beginning so I could have started more targeted instead of generalized projects. It would have also helped to understand how my small projects played a bigger role in our overall mission. But I still learned more about my dedication and resiliency in the process. 

I’ve reconfirmed my commitment to always be adaptable, humble and willing to work my way up. I’ve taken pride what I’ve done so I can appreciate the little victories before striving for larger aspirations so as to avoid burnout. 

So always remember, at the end of the day, taking the first step is better than none at all.

That in mind, I encourage you to take this time to donate to a group that represents your issues. Because if you feel seriously about social justice, actions and funds are invaluable. Here are a few of IWJ’s national affiliates here that are doing great work to learn some more. If funds are scarce, ask how you can volunteer for a local organization. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog posts and I hope I’ve painted a clear picture of a job in the SJ field! 



(A little piece of Brandeis away from Brandeis at a Chicago event)

Skills I’ve honed and the faith that I’ve gained

Two major events of my internship are over, and it’s time to thoroughly reflect upon what they have taught me. 

(My realization that I’m reaching the end of this internship journey, illustrated by the pathway towards the Chicago Botanical Gardens)

The first skill that I’ve found to be infinitely useful in the world of social justice is adaptability. Situations can change quickly and you have to be able to quickly reassess what needs to be done. While at the Convening, there was one particular instance where I was forced to think on my feet.

The first one: At the Convening I was in charge of recharging the translation equipment and I learned the hard way that some of our charging equipment had broken and most of the batteries had not charged over night. Given the immediacy of the next bilingual panel, I found out how many receivers we actually needed, replaced those with batteries from other working receivers, and assessed which chargers were actually working so that they could be continually replaced. 

As technology is continually developing and society is changing, the demand for particular jobs ebbs and flows. Being able to adapt to the circumstances presented before me will help me make an impact in a dynamic workplace.

Another quality that has proved to be important is that of patience. 

(A statue of Mother Cabrini at the Cabrini Retreat Center. Her story is one of kindness, patience and persistence.)

I joke often that this manifests most apparently in the commute I take to work. While public transportation is overwhelmingly a net good, I’ve had my fair share of delayed trains and nosy passengers. Music helps.

But in the case of organizing, patience is realizing that most of the issues we are dealing with are systemic and well-rooted. One demonstration isn’t going to always result in change. I may have to call hundreds of people before one agrees to attend an event, or donates towards a certain cause. Those frustrations, however, is what makes the success all that sweeter.

When it comes to myself, I’ve found that beyond exhibiting these two qualities, I found great joy in listening, learning more and adapting my world view from the experiences of those around me. At this national convening, I was honored to make the acquaintance of organizers from New Mexico to Maine and learn their stories and I networked with the IWJ representative from Massachusetts in hopes of continuing my involvement once I return to Brandeis.

Furthermore, I’ve realized how important it is that I continue to hone my communication skills and continually think outside of the box like Kim Bobo did when she formed an organization to bridge the communication gap between labor and religious leaders. Sometimes one just has to take the first step in starting the conversation. That’s why I’m excited about Labor in the Pulpits encouraging religious leaders to talk to their constituents about faith and worker justice. That first conversation can change everything.

In the future, I hope to take these general and infinitely important skills to be a leader in my future workplace that will be attentive to my clients and always striving towards creative and efficient problem-solving. 

The Bigger Picture at IWJ

This past weekend was IWJ’s National Convening, and being a staff member for the event has made me realize both the necessity of and the labor that goes into national coalition gatherings.

Currently, IWJ has been going through a period of transition, in terms of leadership and overarching objectives. Thus, there are important discussions to be had about the means of implementing IWJ’s core tenets, and which organizations and projects should be garnering the most focus and resources. While observing these discussions about IWJ’s future, I noticed how they had to balance the possibility of measurable success with moral ideals and ideological consistency. No one answer was found at the Convening, but coming together meant tangible bonding as a community in a way that could not be achieved with conference calls alone. In order to enact change, you have to create connections with like minded people from a variety of backgrounds. At the Convening, I saw religious leaders and worker center leaders interacting about their commonalities, and it gave me hope for the future.

Personally, I found it extremely gratifying to see the small details that I contributed adding up to create a bigger picture, even if they seemed insignificant at first. For instance, knowing that we were successfully able to have the programming simulcast in Spanish and English, and having near seamless transportation and registration for the individuals involved gave me great pride, since I knew the role that I had played in putting everything together. When it comes to organizing, especially organizing around social justice where it constantly feels like an uphill battle against entrenched norms, every little bit makes a difference. Small tasks and projects that I took on, including finding more efficient ways of organizing equipment and schedule, were important components of an enriching experience.

There were two major events that stood out to me at the Convening.

The first was participating in a boycott action. We took buses to Wendy’s and stood in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers by asking passerby to protest Wendy’s. It felt powerful; taking a tangible step to turn the theoretical ideas discussed in the conference rooms into reality. It reminded me how every person I observed and conversed with at the Convening is truly dedicated to the betterment of workers everywhere, especially as I heard the powerful speeches of the individuals I recognized from our day-to-day activities.

The particular issue that we were taking a stance on is related to Wendy’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program. As a brief summary, the Fair Food Program guarantees safe working conditions for tomato pickers in Florida and has been signed by Walmart, Burger King, Subway and many other large corporations. To learn more about this important campaign, please check out the website.

The other event was the viewing of David DeSario’s documentary, “A Day’s Work.” “A Day’s Work” delves into the story of Day Davis, a temp worker killed on the first day of work. The documentary was heart-wrenching because it both painted a picture of how much Day Davis meant to his family, and the way workplace negligence and proliferation of temporary worker agencies that don’t care about worker safety led to his demise. I was surprised at how common temporary work is within the United States, and how a labor activist who infiltrated the temporary work agency that placed Day Davis at his position at Bacardi reported that trainees are only given a thirty minute video before operating heavy duty machinery. Realizing the extent of worker grievances in the United States has made me more happy that IWJ and its affiliates are there to push for a system that puts worker humanity first and foremost. I encourage you to watch the documentary itself.

Onto the next project: Labor in the Pulpits!

Seeing My Internship through a Brandeisian Lens

For this post, I will be talking about the effect studying at Brandeis has had on how I approach my internship.

Besides the fact I was fortuitous enough to be able to apply for this internship through Brandeis’ Handshake Program, I also see my social justice work through the important lens of a Politics/Psychology double major. And as Politics/Psychology double major, I’m often asked about the relevancy and intersection of my two majors to my life view.

The connection between them isn’t always obvious–hence the dearth of cross-listed classes compared to other disciplines. But the way I’ve always seen it is that both seek to understand and generalize behaviors writ large. Politics is understanding systems. We talk about the ways other nation states interact with each other, and how they straddle the line between order and anarchy. Psychology, on the other hand, focuses on individuals and to the extent to which human behaviors and predispositions affect our perception of the world.

I’ve found an interconnected approach is an important part of organizing. Because, specifically relevant to IWJ, while talking with the religious congregations, organizations and corporations, it’s important to know the right people to target. An action is as successful as the allies you acquire and the extent to which you are able to quantify and exhibit successes. Having demonstrable goals makes victories relevant to the cause of social justice.

A few weeks ago, I participated in Seminary Summer, straddling the middle ground as a participant and observer. I learned about the variety of inequalities faced by individuals in the labor market and the way non-profits and religious organizations are speaking out.

One example stuck out to me. We were given an issue of wage theft and were given time to brainstorm with a partner the most effective way to address this injustice, and how to incorporate religious communities. Knowledge of political science helped me to vocalize what systems I should be targeting and what structures were in place to encourage, or more often than not discourage, systemic change. But knowledge of psychology made me think what would be the most effective way to approach people for my desired result.

(Some of the reading I’ve done at work. Learn more here.)

Since Seminary Summer, I’ve spent time putting together details for our National Convening. In this, I’ve drawn upon my extracurricular experiences at Brandeis. Being a debater and learning how to speak succinctly and persuasively has aided me in crafting scripts to message and interact with IWJ donors and affiliates about our upcoming National Convening–in particular, encouraging allies to come to a photo exhibit we’re hosting with the work of David Bacon.

If you haven’t seen his phenomenal and moving work as a labor activist and photojournalist, his website is available here.

The following is one of his powerful images:

Overall, I’m grateful that Brandeis has improved my analytical and persuasive abilities and I have them come to play as I prepare for the next major event of my internship.