The International Refugee Crisis: Experts Examine the Challenge at Washington DC Forum


(L-R: Randi Weingarten, AFT and ASI President; Herb Magidson, Past JLC President; Shelly Pitterman, UNHCR Regional Representative; Mark Hetfield, HIAS President and CEO; Jennifer Podkul, KIND Director of Policy) Photo Courtesy of Mary Cathryn Ricker, AFT Executive Vice President

May 18, 2016: Washington DC - The Jewish Labor Committee and the Albert Shanker Institute hosted a valuable and timely panel discussion on the international refugee crisis and what can be done to alleviate the situation confronting the refugees, as well as the countries in which they are trying to get to and the agencies attempting to help them. A short, moving video showing refugees from around the world began the forum and framed the discussion. Herb Magidson, past JLC president and member of its executive board, introduced the forum by noting that there has always been nativist and isolationist tendencies in the United States, but this is the first time in our history when a nominee of one of our two major political parties is espousing these views.

Shelly Pitterman, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' regional representative for the United States and the Caribbean, noted that the number of displaced persons worldwide is the largest since World War II and is rising, that the first thing to remember is that these are children and their parents and that they are victims, but that the resources pledged to help them is lagging badly. Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS (known earlier as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), pointed out that the Refugee Convention is now considered international law, but it only means that the first country a refugee reaches cannot turn one away, which is significant as many refugees are struggling to get to another destination after escaping their country of origin.

Photo Courtesy of Arieh Lebowitz, JLC Associate Director

Continue reading "The International Refugee Crisis: Experts Examine the Challenge at Washington DC Forum" »

With Striking Verizon Workers in Boston


May 18, 2016: Boston, MA - Ed Goldstein and Sam Schwartz joined New England JLC Regional Director Marya Axner in picketing with Verizon workers in downtown Boston. Marya notes: "The workers are so appreciative of us being there. I enjoy the time I spend walking with people and hearing their stories."

The International Refugee Crisis


A Panel Discussion

Co-sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute & the Jewish Labor Committee
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
555 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001

Around the globe, the refugee crisis has become more dire. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes to find a safe haven only to be denied entry and basic human needs. The United Nations has called this the worst migration crisis since World War II. We cannot remain silent in the face of such a catastrophe.

On May 18th, join the Jewish Labor Committee and the Albert Shanker Institute at a panel discussing the current crisis and the historical parallels with the anti-refugee sentiments and policies in the World War II era.

Speakers include Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, HIAS; Shelly Pitterman, United National High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Representative for the U.S. and the Caribbean; and Jay Winik, historian and author of 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History.

Stuart Appelbaum, President, Jewish Labor Committee and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW, and Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers, and Albert Shanker Institute will host this event.

Register here:
Join us for a reception following the panel.

Labor Seders Across the Country

New England Jewish Labor Committee's 2016 Labor Seder Photo by Michael Massey

April 20, 2016 - 3,500 years ago, the Hebrew slaves gained their freedom from bondage in ancient Egypt. Their liberation has been celebrated for over two millennia with the holiday of Passover. The Jewish Labor Committee celebrates Passover with our own unique flair: our annual Labor Seders! These not only serve to celebrate Passover, but to also bring together local leaders of the labor movement and their counterparts in the organized Jewish community to “break matza,” explore the story of the ancient Israelites from captivity to freedom, and relate that to today’s efforts to secure dignity and security for working men and women, their families and communities. This year, JLC has organized, sponsored or assisted labor seders in Boston, MA, West Orange, NJ, New York, NY, Washington, DC, Madison, WI, and Philadelphia, PA.

This year’s New England JLC Labor Seder had a great turnout, with over 200 attendees in Boston, held at the headquarters of IBEW Local 103. For this year's seder, the NE JLC again produced a new local version of the classic JLC Haggadah. During the ceremony, each of the four cups of wine honored past and current struggles in the Jewish community and the labor movement, including the Fight for $15 and social, criminal, and economic justice, paid sick-leave, paid family leave, and regular work schedules. At this year’s New England Labor Seder, Attorney General Maura Healey received the Clara Lemich Shavelson Award for her work in support of earned sick time and the statewide Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Rabbis David Lerner and Victor Reinstein both received Abraham Joshua Heschel Awards for Rabbinic Justice and Leadership; both have played significant roles in the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis as it goes on record in support of working men and women.

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Jewish Labor Committee Supports Verizon Workers

April 15, 2016: New York, NY – Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, just issued the following statement:

The Jewish Labor Committee stands with the 36,000 Verizon workers – members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – who are on strike across the country after months of working without a contract. Despite earning $39 billion over the last three years and $1.8 billion in profits each month this year, Verizon is proposing to contract out more customer service and sales calls to centers in lower-cost places, and insist that technicians leave their families for two or more months at a time.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam made $18 million last year alone. That’s more than 200 times what the average Verizon worker makes. At a time when the middle class is being gutted, Verizon refuses to negotiate in good faith to ensure that its workers can preserve their good jobs. These workers deserve better.

Challenging Racial and Economic Injustice


April 14, 2016: Brooklyn, NY - What does the death of Akai Gurley have to do with the Fight for $15 and poor communities? These all relate more than you think. In April, the “Fight for 15” campaign’s global day of action in New York City focused not only on raising the federal minimum wage and gaining the right to unionize, but also on racial injustice brought on by poverty – and poverty wages – and the larger issues of racial inequality and racial injustice in the United States. The case of Akai Gurley, and his death, the focus of a mid-day rally in Brooklyn, is a notable example.

In November 2014, Akai Gurley was fatally shot by police officer Peter Liang, who was patrolling a dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project. Liang was convicted in February 2016 of manslaughter and official misconduct for firing the shot that ricocheted off a wall and struck Gurley, standing a floor below, in the heart.

The morning of the day of the demonstration, Liang stood trial for manslaughter and sentencing on whether or not he would receive jail time. The Jewish Labor Committee, along with the New York City Central Labor Council, Justice for Akai Gurley, and Black Lives Matter came out to support the family of Akai Gurley, connecting this call for justice with the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 / per hour, and the right to unionize.

Continue reading "Challenging Racial and Economic Injustice" »

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire And Its Relevance 105 Years Later


105 Year Later, We Will Not Forget!
(l-r Arieh Lebowitz, Associate Director, and Brittney Willis, Intern. Photograph by Avia Moore.)

March 23, 2016: New York, NY – One hundred and five years ago, March 25th, 1911, was a tragic day in New York City. 146 women and girls, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants, perished from a fire that spread on the floor where they worked making shirtwaists, ladies’ blouses. On the 8th, 9th, and 10th floor of a building between Washington Place and Greene Street, just east of Washington Square Park, these poor souls could not escape the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory workplace: the locks on the door that were originally placed to protect minor property loss lead to a horrific loss of lives. Not long after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the United Hebrew Trades of New York, the Ladies Waist and Dressmakers Union Local 25 of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, the ILGWU as a whole and others held a funeral procession (see above) to mourn the loss of the garment workers’ lives.

105 years later, the United Hebrew Trades, now the New York Division of the Jewish Labor Committee, still commemorates not only the loss of workers’ lives on the job, but the need to protect the safety of workers, and their right to join a union. On March 23rd, 2016 the Jewish Labor Committee joined with others to again commemorate the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (picture below). The deaths of these garment workers were not totally in vain: as a result of this tragedy, more than 36 laws were passed for improved fire and safety laws, as well as child labor laws.

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Celebrating Bessie Abramowitz Hillman


March 22, 2016 - This Women’s History Month, the Jewish Labor Committee and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs are celebrating the life and achievements of a woman who made great contributions to both workers’ rights and civil rights, Bessie Abramowitz. She was a fighter for worker’s rights the moment she started working her first factory job in the garment industry, back in the early 1900s.

Bas Sheva Abramowitz was born May 15th, 1887 in a small village, Linoveh, near the Grodno, a city in Russia. She grew up in a family of 10 children and spoke only Yiddish and Russian. At the age of eighteen, she made the decision to emigrate with an older cousin to the United States to avoid the fate of many her age, arranged marriage. And so, in 1905, she moved to the United States, and lived in Chicago, in a boardinghouse owned by distant relatives. Her first job was sewing buttons at a Hart, Shaffner, and Marx garment factory. During the day she worked and at night she was enrolled in the Hull House night school; she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1913.

Abramowitz’s first job did not last long: in 1908, shortly after she organized a shop committee to protest working conditions and pay of three dollars for a sixty-hour week, she was fired. This incident led her to be blacklisted as a labor agitator. She eventually again found work at Hart, Shaffner, and Marx using a pseudonym. But being blacklisted would not stop her on her quest for decent working conditions and better pay.

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Celebrating Rose Schneiderman


March 18, 2016 - In honor of Women’s History Month the Jewish Labor Committee and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs celebrate a great unsung contributor to both women’s and workers’ rights, Rose Schneiderman, a dedicated activist who spent her life fighting for things many of us too often take for granted, such as the eight hour work day, a federal minimum wage, workplace safety, and more.

Rachel Rose Schneiderman started from humble background. She was born on April 6, 1882, as the first of four children of a religious Jewish family in Savin, Poland. She immigrated to America with her family when she was a young girl. Shortly after her father passed away, she was forced to stop attending school when she was nine years old in order to take care of her brothers. When poverty forced her mother to place her siblings into an orphanage, she was able to return to school for a brief period until her mother lost her night job as a seamstress. Rose had to drop out of school at thirteen years of age to work as a retail salesgirl. She never got the chance to complete a formal education, but that didn’t stop her from self educating and becoming an avid reader.

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Today's JLC's 82nd anniversary

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February 25, 2016: New York, NY - Today's our 82nd anniversary - the Jewish Labor Committee was founded on this day, Feb. 25th, 1934, on Manhattan's Lower East Side, to provide a presence for the Jewish community, specifically the activists of the mostly Yiddish-speaking, mostly immigrant Jewish labor movement, in the councils of the American labor movement and in the larger mainstream Jewish community "establishment," and to mobilize labor in the struggle against the rising threat of Nazism in Germany, and, more generally, the rise of fascism in Europe.

Its founding meeting, at Central Plaza on Second Avenue, brought together more than a thousand delegates representing the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, United Hebrew Trades, Workmen's Circle, Jewish Daily Forward Association, and a number of smaller groups. Baruch Charney Vladeck, general manager of the Forward, was chosen president; David Dubinsky of the ILGWU, treasurer; Joseph Baskin of the Workmen's Circle, secretary; and Benjamin Gebiner, also of the Workmen's Circle, executive secretary. Holding that only a broad-based workers' movement could overthrow Hitlerism, the JLC emphasized its labor orientation and nonsectarian philosophy. Its aims were to support Jewish rights everywhere, support all progressive and democratic anti-fascist groups, aid refugees, and educate the American labor movement (and the general public) about the Nazi threat.

Back in 1985, some 850 boxes of historical records of the JLC were deposited at the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, part of the Tamiment Library at New York University. This vast collection contained more than three million pages of documentation and ten thousand photographs, posters, and graphics, recording the work of the Committee from its founding in 1934 through the early 1980s.

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"How to Become a Labor Lawyer"

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Bruce Gitlin and Bennet Zurofsky speak with students at Rutgers Newark Photo by Arieh Lebowitz

February 24, 2016: Newark, NJ - Students at Rutgers School of Law-Newark heard from two labor and employment law attorneys at the third of an ongoing series of campus-based programs bringing together Jewish and non-Jewish law students and labor lawyers. These discussions are designed to expose law students to the field of labor-side law and work as lawyers in defense of workers' rights. The spirited discussion was cosponsored by the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC), Rutgers Newark's Jewish Law Student Association (JLSA), and Rutgers Newark's Labor and Employment Law Society (LELS). This is the third such program cosponsored by the Jewish Labor Committee: in January, law students met with four attorneys at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark, New Jersey at an event sponsored with the Seton Hall Law School's JLSA and the school's Employment Law Forum; last December, law students met in Manhattan at New York University's Law School with two labor attorneys at a program cosponsored by NYU Law School's JLSA and Law Students for Economic Justice (LSEJ). The Jewish Labor Committee is working on expanding this program to other law schools across the United States.

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From a graphic by Brittney Willis

MLK, Jr., JLC and Marching for Workers' Rights

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(l-r: Marya Axner, Regional DIrector, New England Jewish Labor Committee; Lily Sieradzki, Program DIrector, NE JLC; Aliza Levine, board member, NE JLC; Members of Mass Interfaith Worker Justice, including Paul Drake) Photo courtesy Marya Axner

January 18, 2016: Boston, MA and New York, NY – Honoring the commitment of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to working men and women struggling for better conditions at the workplace and a measure of dignity and justice, the Jewish Labor Committee continues in 2016 - no matter what the weather is outside.

Snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures didn’t stop our passion for economic justice during this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

In Boston [above], the New England Jewish Labor Committee marched with Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice to support airport workers at Boston Logan International Airport. They’ve been on strike since November, trying to secure better wages, health insurance, the right to unionize, job stability, and full-time work weeks.

In New York [below] on the same day, the JLC joined with hundreds of others in Harlem, and marched from 145th Street down to 125th Street with 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East, the National Action Network, RWDSU, the Workmen's Circle, the West End Synagogue, T'ruah, Habonim Dror North America, Fast Food Forward and others in support of raising the New York State minimum wage to $15 an hour. A small klezmer band, part of the Workmen’s Circle-organized Jewish Contingent, warmed things up as people were waiting in the freezing windy street for the march to start; they accompanied us from one end of the demo to the other. Together, we stood shoulder to shoulder with low-wage workers, fighting to make Dr. King’s dream of economic equality a reality.

(JLC placards held by l-r: Tara Bognar; Brittney Willis, JLC intern; Arieh Lebowitz, Associate Director, JLC) Photo courtesy The Workmen's Circle, by Avia Moore

JLC: in Support of Fair Share Fees in Public Sector Jobs

January 14, 2016: New York , NY – Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee’ issued the following statement earlier today:

The right to form and join unions in both the public and private sectors has been and is still critically important to working men and women in the United States as well as to our democratic way of life. Unions provide a voice for workers in the economic and political spheres. They help build and sustain a strong middle class, mitigate income inequality, which, if it grows too wide, can destabilize our society. That right, now under threat, is essential to a fair and equitable workplace.

Public sector unions, of teachers, firefighters, social workers, police and other jobs, work to help ensure that these public employees have decent pay, fair working conditions, and a range of benefits -- whether or not they are a part of the union that negotiates on their behalf -- something the union is legally obligated to do. All who labor in workplaces where there is a union representing the workers benefit from the union’s representation - and should therefore pay a fair share fee, representing the union’s work on their behalf. Otherwise, they are getting a free ride, reaping the benefits that others pay for.

In the 1977 case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court clearly ruled that it is constitutional for public sector unions to collect fair share fees from those employees who chose not to join a union but are still legally required to be represented by that union. The fee is only for costs involved in negotiating for bread and butter issues, not political activities. The most recent case before the court, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, threatens to change that 1977 ruling, eliminating fair share fees; this will lead to the deterioration of public sector unions.

Overturning Abood v. Detroit Board of Education will go far beyond public school teachers in California , affecting all public employees throughout the country. Without the fair share fee, unions will have fewer resources to handle negotiations and grievances, and adversely affect all of the workers in the places that the unions have members. It may also impede state and local governments’ ability to recruit and hold onto highly skilled employees: if public sector workers earn less, and have more precarious work situations, than their private sector counterparts, more will be inclined to work in the private sector.

Stating the obvious, union membership would shrink because more people will attempt to gain the benefits of the work of unions without paying for their fair share of the cost of securing those services.

The Jewish Labor Committee stands with public sector unions, and the decision of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. We are firmly opposed to this most recent attack on workers' rights and unions. Those behind the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case are the most recent manifestation of an ongoing multifaceted campaign to tear down not just fair share fees in California public schools, but more generally to reverse over a century’s worth of the hard-won gains of workers in the United States to have strong unions defending their interests, in the public as well as the private sectors of our society.

Confronting Poverty: Affordable High-Quality Early Childhood Care and Education


Our most recent issue paper, Confronting Poverty: Affordable High-Quality Early Childhood Care and Education for Ages Zero Through Five, is online - for a printable copy, just click here.

Public Education: National Values and National Need

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Students at Oñate High School of the Las Cruces Public School district; photo source NASA.

"A strong, educated population is a vital national interest. An educated public can make wise decisions on issues of national concern, contribute their skills to the economy, and invent the goods and services of the future that can help strengthen our economy, including lessening income inequality."

Our most recent issue paper, Public Education: National Values and National Need, is online - for a printable copy, just click here.

Paid Sick Leave: A National Priority

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Image from Franz Heinrich Corinth on his Sick Bed, by Lovis Corinth, 1888.

The rights of workers have long been a bedrock social justice concern and a priority of American Jews. With strong Jewish leadership, major achievements such as the minimum wage, the forty hour work week, the abolition of child labor, and family and medical leave have enhanced the quality of life for millions over successive generations.

Continue reading "Paid Sick Leave: A National Priority" »

Jewish Labor Committee Joins #GivingTuesday

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Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday has grown into a global giving event on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. On December 1st, the Jewish Labor Committee is joining this movement. Now it's your turn. Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the two best days to get a good deal. Now we can add a third day. Get the best deal of all this year through helping the next Jewish generation.

Years ago, many American Jews were active in the organized labor movement. Today this is no longer the case – many young Jews are not as knowledgeable and sympathetic to workers' issues. We at the JLC have initiated a program to help turn this around.

You're invited to join the Jewish Labor Committee this #GivingTuesday and help our campus organizing initiative on labor rights and economic inequality through "From History to Action." From History to Action is our educational program engaging Jewish college students in exploring the contribution of American Jews to the labor movement, and the roots of Jewish social justice, empowering them to get involved with local labor activism. From History to Action is not only fostering a deeper sense of the many links between Jewish identity and social justice in individuals, but also the larger community. From History to Action consists of a series of programs we run with the help of student fellows.

We are currently operating on the campuses of Tufts, Brandeis, and Harvard, and with your help we can expand From History to Action to campuses nationwide. Your donation of $18 ($36, $72, $90...) can help these students become great activists for economic justice. So join us and invest in the future of economic justice and tomorrow's Jewish labor activists.

To donate click here

Jewish Labor Committee Condemns Recent Massacres in Beirut and Paris

November 16, 2015 – New York, NY: Jewish Labor Committee President Stuart Appelbaum released the following statement moments ago:

The Jewish Labor Committee strongly condemns the recent massacres in Beirut and Paris carried out by ISIS. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the victims' families and loved ones and to the people of Lebanon and France.

Clearly, these atrocities demand increased and stronger steps by a coalition of countries, with the United States continuing its leading role, to defeat this evil force. That has already begun, with the retaliatory air strikes that are being conducted.

This tragic situation, however, should not become an excuse for turning our backs on the refugees fleeing war and the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS in areas they conquer. We especially reject as abhorrent statements that refugees should be accepted on the basis of their religion, in particular, that only Christian refugees should be accepted. As an organization founded to oppose the rise of Nazism in the early 1930s, we find restrictions on who is aided – and who isn’t – based on religion repugnant. All countries accepting refugees, including the United States, just have to ensure that the screening process for allowing refugees to come into their country is rigorous enough to block any potential terrorists attempting to cynically take advantage of this act of humanity.

Jewish Labor Committee Dismayed
by PM Netanyahu’s Statement on the Holocaust

October 22, 2015 – New York, NY: Addressing the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a statement that is factually inaccurate and inflammatory precisely at a time when tensions are already extreme. Netanyahu claimed that "Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews," but was persuaded to do so in a meeting he had with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in November 1941.
While it is true that the Grand Mufti was a notorious anti-Semite who helped instigate Arab violence against Jews and who collaborated with the Nazis, including recruiting Balkan Muslims to the SS and helping lead the1941 pro-Axis rebellion in Iraq, his meeting with Hitler took place after the mass murder of Jews had already begun and some one million had already died.
Today, when Palestinians are attacking Israelis on a daily basis, a statement blaming Palestinians for the Holocaust will only further inflame tensions. It is inaccurate and the opposite of what is needed, not only to quell the current violence, but also because it hinders negotiations for a two-state peace which is the long-term solution.

A Sabbath of Solidarity

October 16, 2015 – New York, NY: Rabbis and leaders of the four largest Jewish religious streams in the United States -- Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist -- have endorsed plans to declare this Sabbath, which begins tonight at sundown, a "Shabbat of Solidarity with Israel."

Rabbis and synagogue leaders have been asked to add special prayers in addition to the prayer for the State of Israel in their Sabbath services and to address, from the pulpit, the rising lethal violence in Jerusalem and in
neighboring communities.

People are also being asked to keep in touch with their friends and relatives in Israel.

Acts of violence against innocent civilians can never be condoned. Both Israelis and Palestinians suffer as a consequence. This is not the way.

NE JLC reaching out for MA's Fair Share Amendment

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Photo by Hannah Klein, an activist from JALSA (Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action), who was also volunteering with us.

October 7, 2015 – Somerville, MA: Volunteers worked with New England Jewish Labor Committee's Lily Sieradzki to collect signatures for the Fair Share Amendment in Davis Square. The Fair Share initiative, an ongoing project of RaiseUp Massachusetts, of which the NE JLC is a partner organization, is an amendment -- which needs 100,000 signatures to get onto the ballot by 2018 -- would raise state income taxes on people who make over $1 million a year. The revenue generated would be dedicated to public transit and public education. The NE JLC collected over 200 signatures on Wednesday and will be out collecting more in the next month!

RaiseUp Massachusetts, dedicated to building an economy that supports working families, is focusing on making all full-time jobs pay livable wages, as well as supporting policies that improve the balance between work life and family life. In June 2014, they and a range of colleague organizations, including the NE JLC, were successful in raising the state minimum wage: Massachusetts now has the highest state minimum wage in the USA. Their most recent campaigns include paid family and medical leave, the Fight for 15, and the Fair Share Initiative.

Jewish Labor Committee Joins in Welcome of Pope Francis to the United States

Finds Common Ground in Labor, Concern for the Poor and Interreligious Actions
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Photo Jeffrey Bruno/ALETEIA - (Creative Commons)

September 18, 2015 – New York, NY: Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement on the occasion of the impending visit of Pope Francis to the United States:

As an American organization that links the organized Jewish community and the organized labor movement, the Jewish Labor Committee joins in welcoming Pope Francis on his visit to the United States.
Pope Francis' visit is a special occasion for many of us to note his heartfelt and deeply-rooted respect for working men and women, for the poor and for the plight of immigrants.
We find common ground in Pope Francis’s statement of last October that “[t]here is no worse material poverty than one that does not allow for earning one’s bread and deprives one of the dignity of work,” and his many pronouncements on the dignity and safety of workers. The Pope’s appeal this March, that solidarity and justice prevail, noting that “when people do not earn their bread, they lose their dignity” resonated with us, bringing to mind the Talmudic passage from Pirke Avot, 3:16, on the importance and interrelatedness of both spiritual and physical sustenance: “Without bread [literally, ‘flour’], there is no Torah; without Torah, there is no bread.”
His respect for and advocacy of the rights of workers, including the right to form and join unions, and secure decent remuneration and secure retirements, deserve wide applause from the larger community, and emulation by community leaders, religious and secular.
We also find both common ground and deep respect for the Pope’s connections to and solidarity with the Jewish people, in Argentina, in Rome, and in more general terms, from the spirit in which he has approached interreligious encounters and dialogue. We welcome his condemnation of anti-Semitism, his solidarity with the victims of the attack on the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, his leadership in Holocaust commemoration and education within Argentina, and his articulation of “the right of the State of Israel to exist and flourish in peace and security within internationally recognized borders” in May of last year.
The Pope's concern for the poor, for the exploited, for those who cannot earn a decent wage to provide for their families, for immigrants, and, especially in this time, those desperate refugees trying to escape horrendous conditions in the Middle East and Africa are concerns that resonate with us deeply. We hope that his visit here will focus upon these pressing issues and thereby help lead to solutions.

Best wishes for the New Year

Wishing you a
Sweet and Good New Year
L'Shana Tova u'Mtukah
Gut Yuntif, Gut Yohr

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All of us at the Jewish Labor Committee
wish you, your family, relatives,
co-workers, friends and neighbors
a good and sweet year - a more peaceful,
more just, fairer and better year.

New England JLC Supports Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill Hotel Workers

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Photo via New England Jewish Labor Committee

September 9, 2015 – Boston, MA: Jewish Labor Committee members joined 400 Boston hotel workers at Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill Hotel earlier today as part of the workers' efforts to secure a safe and healthy workplace.

Workers at the hotel clean rooms for Massachusetts General Hospital patients at MGH's 8-bed sleep study in the hotel, which is right next to the hospital.

Hotel workers filed an OSHA complaint in May, stating that they cleaned blood, vomit, feces, and needles without sufficient training and protection, and the agency opened an inspection of the hotel that month. They submitted evidence to the agency supporting their allegations of hazardous working conditions related to the potentially infectious materials. Workers also allege lacking information about the waste they clean and dispose of from the MGH sleep study inside the hotel.

They went on strike June 25, 2015 and they testified at Boston City Council that they were afraid for their safety at work.

In July, the hotel hired a temporary agency to clean the MGH sleep study facility. The workers are still concerned that the temps are not given enough training and that "the hotel is going in the wrong direction."

"We are seriously concerned about health and safety conditions in our workplace. Although we clean up after medical patients, we have not always had gloves to protect ourselves or cleaning supplies adequate to do our jobs. Housemen have had to transport bloody linens through the hotel without leak-proof, biohazard bags. Housekeepers have had to dispose of potentially contaminated needles without training on procedures for doing so safely."

According to a Boston Globe article*, Brian Lang, President of Unite Here Local 26 said that Wyndham management has been resisting workers’ attempts to join a union, but the complaints filed by the housekeepers with OSHA are “independent of the issue of unionization.”

* "Wyndham housekeepers say waste from patients endangers them," Boston Globe, May 20, 2015,

Photo via Unite Here Local 26

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