Interfaith Worker Justice

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Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) is a nonprofit and nonpartisan interfaith advocacy network comprising more than 60 worker centers and faith and labor organizations that advance the rights of working people through grassroots, worker-led campaigns and engagement with diverse faith communities and labor allies. IWJ affiliates take action to shape policy at the local, state and national levels.

IWJ is governed by a 33-member board of directors.[1] The president of the board is Rev. Doug Mork, the lead pastor of Cross of Glory Lutheran Church.[2] The executive director is Laura Barrett.[3]

History of IWJ[edit]

Kim Bobo founded Interfaith Worker Justice in 1991 as Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues. Bobo had previously been director of organizing at Bread for the World and an instructor at the Midwest Academy.[4] In 1989, Bobo became involved with workers' rights campaigns for coal miners. 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.[5]

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.[5]

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.[5]

In 2015, Kim Bobo stepped down as executive director at IWJ in order to expand on her social justice work as the new executive director for the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.[6] After a brief transition period, Laura Barrett, the former executive director at Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), took Bobo’s place as the new executive director at IWJ.[3]

IWJ has been active on a number of worker's rights and worker justice issues. It has taken a lead role in criticizing Wal-Mart for forcing employees to work off the clock, not providing affordable or comprehensive health insurance, and refusing to pay an adequate wage.[7] In 2006, the group sued the United States Department of Labor to obtain the names of migrant agricultural workers who had been victims of unpaid overtime.[8] It has also been active in supporting higher wages for workers and the use of unionized laborers in the reconstruction of New Orleans, and condemned the importation of lower-paid illegal immigrants to displace American workers.[9]

Today, IWJ includes a national network of more than 60 local interfaith groups, worker centers and student groups, making it the leading national organization working to strengthen the religious community's involvement in issues of workplace justice.[10]

Issues Focus[edit]

Wage Theft[edit]

Interfaith Worker Justice is dedicated to ending wage theft.

Wage theft covers a variety of infractions that occur when workers do not receive their legally or contractually promised wages.

It happens in every industry to millions of workers. Billions of dollars are stolen when employers pay less than minimum wage; refuse overtime pay; force workers to work off the clock; hold back final paychecks; misclassify employees as independent contractors; steal tips; and fail to pay workers at all.

Most commonly wage theft is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which provides for a federal minimum wage and allows states to set their own (higher) minimum wage, and requires employers to pay time and a half for all hours worked above 40 hours per week.[11]

Health and Safety[edit]

Millions of individuals in the workforce are working at jobs where they are not guaranteed a safe and healthy work environment.

Immigrants (especially Latino immigrants), low-literacy workers, young workers and low-wage workers are particularly vulnerable to unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. Through grants from NIOSH, the Public Welfare Foundation, and OSHA's Susan Harwood program, Interfaith Worker Justice and members of its national worker center network are rapidly expanding their health and safety work, doing outreach, training, and organizing of workers.[12]

Right to Organize[edit]

Interfaith Worker Justice is dedicated to educating, organizing and calling people of faith to stand with worker unions so their voices are heard.

The organization recognizes the accomplishments of unions such as the 8-hr workday, social security, anti-child labor laws and the minimum wage and seeks to advance their interests, as they have proven to be the best way for workers to get fair treatment.[13]

Immigration Reform[edit]

Interfaith Worker Justice and its labor allies call for comprehensive immigration reform providing a clear path to citizenship and protecting the rights of all workers, regardless of immigration status. As people of faith, the organization recognizes and honors the social and economic contributions made by immigrant workers.

More than 11 million undocumented people are living in this country, including children raised as Americans and workers who have become an integral part of the U.S. economy. Without legal status, immigrant workers are victims of every kind of labor abuse and cannot protect their rights without fear of deportation.[14]

Racial Justice[edit]

IWJ works closely with affiliates, such as the Workers Center for Racial Justice, in order to increase access to quality jobs and strengthen working conditions and job security for ethnic families and communities.[15]

As an organization that seeks to advance the rights of working people, Interfaith Worker Justice is dedicated to providing resources for those facing injustice in the workplace, including workers who face discrimination from employers.

Minimum Wage[edit]

Interfaith Worker Justice is a major proponent of the Fight for 15 movement which calls on the government to raise the federal minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour.

The organization is focused on both raising and indexing the federal minimum wage. Research shows that raising the federal minimum wage would mean a financial lift for nearly 30 million working Americans, no effect on the unemployment rate, a more stimulated economy, and a boost in public health.

Indexing this wage would ensure that it can keep up with rising costs of living.[16]


More than 40 million workers in the United States, and more than 80 percent of low-wage workers, don’t have a single paid sick day. Not only is this bad for public health, it is also bad for workers, families, and businesses.

IWJ has been on the front lines fighting for better workplace standards, including paid leave, since 1996, taking the battle to the state and local level, where big changes in workplace standards have often begun.[17]

Corporate Justice[edit]

IWJ is active in multiple campaigns targeting well known corporations that have standardized poor working conditions, low pay and stifling collective bargaining rights.

Along with their labor allies, Interfaith Worker Justice is working closely with campaigns such as the Fight for 15 movement for a higher minimum wage and the Making Change at Walmart campaign, which is dedicated to changing the company into a more responsible employer and to improve the lives of Walmart workers.[18]

Missions & Values[edit]

Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) advances the rights of workers by engaging diverse faith communities into action, from grassroots organizing to shaping policy at the local, state and national levels. We envision a nation where all workers enjoy the rights to:

  • Wages, health care, and pensions that allow workers to raise families and retire with dignity.
  • Safe working conditions.
  • Organize and bargain collectively to improve wages, benefits, and conditions without harassment, intimidation, or retaliation.
  • Equal protection under labor law, regardless of immigration status, and an end to the practice of pitting immigrant and U.S.-born workers against one another.
  • Fair and just participation in a global economy that promotes the welfare of both domestic and foreign workers.[19]


Celebrate for a Cause[edit]

As an alternative to asking for gifts, Interfaith Worker Justice offers the opportunity for those celebrating special occasions to request a tribute gift or donation from their friends and family. Interested supporters can create a Cause Wish page which outlines the specific worker justice issue they wish to fund and why, which can then be shared with others.[20]

Seminary Summer[edit]

Interfaith Worker Justice sponsors "Seminary Summer." In the annual program, IWJ places student ministers, priests, rabbis and imams with labor allies so that these emerging religious leaders can participate in worker justice campaigns and learn about labor issues.

Labor in the Pulpit/on the Bimah/in the Minbar[edit]

Interfaith Worker Justice's annual "Labor in the Pulpit/on the Bimah/in the Minbar" program places pro-union speakers in houses of worship during Labor Day weekend in order to recognize the sacred work of all its members and support low-wage workers' struggles for justice.[21]

Worker Justice Runners[edit]

Interfaith Worker Justice encourages all amateur, professional, seasonal and serious runners to join their diverse and dynamic team of runners who a share a commitment to protecting and advancing workers' rights. To become a Worker Justice Runner, athletes are asked to donate the funds raised in their next fun run, marathon or triathlon to IWJ.[22]

Interfaith Resources[edit]

Interfaith Worker Justice creates easily downloadable resources, free for workers, clergy and worker justice advocates at no cost. The resources are aimed at helping folks learn, organize and advocate for worker justice across the country.[23] They can be found on the organization's website.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Rev. Doug Mork". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  3. ^ a b "Staff". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  4. ^ "Midwest Academy · A leading national training institute for the progressive movement for social justice". Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  5. ^ a b c "Interfaith Worker Justice: Organizational Profile," Marguerite Casey Foundation, 2005.
  6. ^ "Anti-poverty programs help alleviate costs: More must be done to reduce burdens". Augusta Free Press. 2016-10-11. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  7. ^ Alter, "Faith-Based Groups Take Aim at Wal-Mart," Miami Herald, November 12, 2005.
  8. ^ Greenhouse, "Group Sues Labor Dept. to Get Names of Workers," New York Times, January 19, 2006.
  9. ^ DeSue, "Nonprofits Call for Fairness, Equity in GO Zone," Bond Buyer, April 6, 2006.
  10. ^ "History". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  11. ^ "FAQ". Wage Theft. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  12. ^ "Health and Safety". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  13. ^ "Right to Organize". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  14. ^ "Immigration Reform". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  15. ^ "About - Center for Racial Justice". Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  16. ^ "Minimum Wage". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  17. ^ "Paid Sick Days". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  18. ^ "Corporate Justice". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  19. ^ "Mission & Values". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  20. ^ "Celebrate for a Cause". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  21. ^ "How to plan Labor in the Pulpits/On the Bimah/In the Minbar". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  22. ^ "Become a Worker Justice Runner". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  23. ^ "Resources". Interfaith Worker Justice. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 


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External links[edit]