Kim Bobo (born c.1955) is an American religious and workers' rights activist, and executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, which she founded in 1996. She has led and taught groups for community organizing at the Midwest Academy.
After working on organizing to combat world hunger, Bobo got involved with labor issues. In 1991 she founded the Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues. Leading efforts for a living wage, she is widely quoted in national newspapers and broadcast media as an expert on worker justice issues. She has also written books and articles on wage issues and community organizing.
Early life and marriage
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and raised a conservative evangelical, Bobo graduated from Barnard College in New York City with a bachelor's degree in religion. She later received a master's degree in economics from the New School for Social Research in New York.
In 1976, Bobo became director of organizing for Bread for the World, a Christian organization that works to relieve and combat hunger. During this time, she wrote her first book, Lives Matter: A Handbook for Christian Organizing.
Bobo left Bread for the World in 1986 and became an instructor at the Midwest Academy, a community organizing training institute in Chicago, Illinois. While at the Midwest Academy, Bobo and her colleagues co-authored Organizing for Social Change, a fundamental text in community-based organizing.
In 1989, Bobo became involved with a strike by coal miners at Pittston Coal. Attempting to organize religious leaders to support the workers, she was startled to find that almost no religious organizations had labor liaisons. She started an informal network of religious leaders to share information about campaigns for worker justice that year.
In 1991, Bobo founded the Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues. It was an all-volunteer group led by Bobo and four influential Chicago religious leaders.
In 1996, using a $5,000 inheritance from her grandmother, Bobo launched the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. The organization initially was run out of her home. By 1998, the organization had 29 affiliates throughout the country. The group changed its name to Interfaith Worker Justice in 2005, by which time it had grown to 59 local affiliates and a full-time staff of 10.
IWJ has been active on a number of worker's rights and worker justice issues. It has developed 20 workers centers around the country, and programs such as “Labor in the Pulpits” and “Seminary Summer,” which "places seminary and rabbinical students with unions for summer internships." In 2012, when Walmart was celebrating its 50th anniversary, she called on the corporation to ensure a living wage for its employees.
Awards and honors
Bobo was selected for the 2012 Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award. The award commemorates Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical letter, Pacem in Terris, which means "Peace on Earth." Bobo joins previous award recipients including Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Selected published works
- Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid - And What We Can Do About It. The New Press. 2008. Available at www.iwj.org or www.wagetheft.org
- Lives Matter: A Handbook for Christian Organizing. Lanham, Md.: Sheed and Ward, 1986. ISBN 0-934134-87-1
- Bobo, Kim, et al. Organizing for Social Change. 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: Seven Locks Press, 2001. ISBN 0-929765-41-9
- "Do Catholics Still Care About Labor?" America. August 29, 2005.
- "Laboring for Justice: What's Happening in the Religion-and-Labor Movement?" Sojourners. July 30, 2005.
- "Religion-Labor Partnerships: Alive and Growing in the New Millennium," WorkingUSA. 6:4 (March 2003).
- Barb Arland-Fye, "Workers’ rights advocate will receive Pacem in Terris Award", Catholic Messenger, 31 May 2012, accessed 29 August 2013. Quote: "Bobo, a 57-year-old Ohio native..." also: "That led to the creation in 1996 of the National Interfaith Committee on Worker Justice. Through the organization’s efforts, a network of more than 50 religion-labor groups and 20 workers centers around the country has been developed. Programs have been launched, such as “Labor in the Pulpits” and “Seminary Summer,” the latter of which places seminary and rabbinical students with unions for summer internships."
- Jones, "Religion, Labor Tap New Energy as Allies," National Catholic Reporter, June 4, 1999.
- "Interfaith Worker Justice: Organizational Profile," Marguerite Casey Foundation, 2005.
- "Interfaith Worker Justice: Organizational Profile." Marguerite Casey Foundation. Seattle: May 2005.
- Jones, Arthur. "Religion, Labor Tap New Energy as Allies; Interfaith Committee Seeks Justice for Workers," National Catholic Reporter. June 4, 1999.
- Interfaith Worker Justice Web site
- Wage Theft in America
- Kim Bobo, "A New Vision for the Department of Labor", Dollars & Sense magazine, January/February 2009