Interfaith Worker Justice: Tree-Hugging the Labor Movement

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Every night for the past week I’ve come home exhausted, spending all day jumping from meeting to meeting on various labor campaigns. As an organizer of the Brandeis Divestment Campaign and being involved in the climate justice movement, transitioning to working for Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and its Massachusetts branch this summer is an exciting new direction. IWJ is a national network that engages faith communities in issues of worker justice, drawing upon religious values to mobilize community members around efforts to improve working conditions, wages, and benefits.

The Massachusetts IWJ is located in downtown Boston and works closely with Jobs with Justice, another organization dedicated to workers’ rights. In addition, Mass. IWJ works with various local affiliates, unions, and coalitions. There are currently four main campaigns IWJ is supporting. The past week I have been getting an overview of IWJ’s work by attending meetings, trainings, and various actions such as pickets and rallies. While my work plan is still developing, I will most likely be working on a few campaigns. First, I will be working to raise the minimum wage in MA to $11 per hour, as well as advocating for paid sick days. I will also be working on campaigns related to immigration reform and deportation.

In addition, I will be assisting to a lesser degree on a few other campaigns. There is a campaign called “Making Change at Walmart.” The campaign works to educate and organize Walmart associates into OUR Walmart, a group striving to improve working conditions for associates. The campaign is also working with local communities that Walmart is attempting to build new stores in by educating residents and crafting community standards that Walmart will have to uphold if they wish to expand. Tying in with “Making Change at Walmart”, I will also be helping with the Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Network-Boston, which is a group trying to get Gap and Walmart to sign on to Fire Safety Agreements to help prevent further factory deaths of Bangladeshi factory workers. Lastly, I will have various opportunities to meet and participate in actions with local coalitions and unions such as SIEU 615.

After spending last summer participating in Climate Summer, a program that allowed me to do community organizing around climate justice, I knew I wanted to broaden my breadth of experience. I found out about IWJ on the Hiatt Career Center website, as it is a partner organization for the Louis D. Brandeis Social Justice WOW Fellowship. It was a difficult decision to work for IWJ because my passion is climate justice and environmentalism, and I do believe that climate change is the most dire and urgent issue of our generation. However, I decided IWJ would benefit my organizing abilities by giving me new perspectives and experiences that I could take back to climate organizing. In my first week working with the labor movement and the faith community, I have started making connections and begun to try to bring the labor movement more into the Boston-area climate justice movement. I am excited to work on coalition-building, tying in interfaith, labor, and environmental perspectives in order to build a broader, more inclusive movement for transformative change.

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