Unprovoked Rocket Attacks from Gaza Must Cease

July 11, 2014 – New York: Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement today:

As there is no let up in the unprovoked rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli towns and cities and as Israel considers enhanced ways to stop the assault, the Jewish Labor Committee expresses its solidarity with people, government and defense forces of Israel.

The Government of the State of Israel has both the right and the obligation to defend the country against a barrage of rockets from beyond its borders. Indeed, no country would be expected to do otherwise. It is the responsibility of the Government to defend all who live and work within the country.

After a long period of relative quiet in terms of rocket fire from Gaza, the most recent escalation by Hamas has placed the lives of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israelis in mortal danger, and we condemn the leaders of Hamas for their actions.

Having joined the government of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas has made it nearly impossible for the PA to continue to pursue a negotiated peace with Israel.

Hamas has endangered Palestinians by deliberately embedding rocket and missile launchers in civilian population centers, near homes, schools and medical facilities, placing a high proportion of the Palestinians in Gaza at risk when the Israeli Defense Forces respond to rockets and missiles fired indiscriminately at civilian centers within Israel.

We hope that Hamas will immediately cease firing rockets and missiles into Israel, and that as a result Israel will cease its retaliation

Our heats go out to the innocent victims on both sides of this confrontation. The death and suffering produced by this most recent round of military conflict must end. Irresponsible decisions will only lead to more of the same, and further harm the chances for a mutually-agreed upon two-state solution to the legitimate needs of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Jewish Labor Committee Condemns Murder of Palestinian Teenager

July 7, 2014: New York, NY -- Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement:

The Jewish Labor Committee condemns the brutal murder of the Palestinian teenager, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and we offer our sympathy to the family and friends of this innocent boy and to the people of Palestine who mourn his death, just as we do for those who mourn the death of the three Israeli innocents who were murdered.

Those who committed this heinous act must be brought to justice through the rule of law, not through acts of unlawful revenge. We are encouraged that six suspects have quickly been apprehended. It is in both Israel's interest and the Palestinian Authority’s that Israeli authorities judge Israeli and Palestinian terrorists against the same standards, as reflected in recent Israeli government statements.

Incitement and violence will only lead to more violence and deaths.

The brutal murders of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel have made even more difficult the pursuit for a just peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, to which we remain committed.

Jewish Labor Committee Condemns Murders of Three Israel Teenagers

July 1, 2014: New York, NY -- Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement:

The Jewish Labor Committee condemns the kidnapping and brutal murder of the three Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.

Those who committed these heinous acts must be pursued and brought to justice. We regret that this has further complicated the pursuit for a just peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and we offer our sympathy to the family and friends of these three innocent boys and to the people of Israel who mourn their death.

Israeli President Peres receives Congressional Gold Medal

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Israeli President Shimon Peres, center, at Congressional Gold Medal ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite, AP, in the Citizen-Times)

June 26, 2014: Washington, DC -- Israeli President Shimon Peres received the Congressional Gold Medal today in an audience, which included Jewish Labor Committee Acting Executive Director Rita Freedman, filling the Capitol Rotunda.

After a career in public service that began before the State of Israel was founded, the 90-year old will be leaving the presidency in a matter of a few weeks. But he does not intend to give up his quest for peace. The speakers lauding him were Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, Congressman Joseph Kennedy III and Senator Kelly Ayotte.

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At Jewish Labor Committee Human Rights Awards Dinner, Al Sharpton calls for healing

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(l-r) Rev. Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network; Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and JLC President Stuart Appelbaum at the JLC's awards dinner in New York, June 19th. (Miller Photography)

By Miriam Moster (JTA) Friday, June 20, 2014 -- Al Sharpton hasn’t always had the best relationship with the Jewish community.

But on Thursday night, he had a place of honor at the Jewish Labor Committee’s annual Human Rights Awards Dinner in New York.

Sharpton addressed the gathering to present the group’s Human Rights Award to Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

And Sharpton was in a bridge-building (perhaps even contrite?) mood.

“We that have done things that has led to the division of blacks and Jews have to work vigorously to heal the wounds that we’ve had in this city and correct the behavior that has divided us, and we say whatever we’ve done, we’ve got to do better,” Sharpton said.

Back in the 1990s, Sharpton was accused by critics of incitement during the Crown Heights riots and in protests targeting a Jewish-owned store in Harlem that boiled over into a deadly arson and shooting attack. But in recent years, he has achieved a degree of mainstream respectability, mending relations with old adversaries like the late New York mayor Ed Koch, cultivating ties with President Obama and landing a hosting gig on MSNBC.

Stuart Appelbaum, the JLC’s president, told JTA that the group decided to invite Sharpton as part of its effort to rebuild the alliance between blacks and Jews.

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Human Rights Awards Dinner June 19th 2014 in NYC

We are delighted to announce that Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley as well as the Reverend Al Sharpton will address the JLC Human Rights Dinner honoring AFSCME President Lee Saunders and Teamsters Vice President George Miranda.

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Make your reservations now. Click here for an RSVP form.

Just fill in the form, print it out, and either send it back to us via fax — 212-477-1918 — as an email attachment to dinner@jewishlabor.org, or by mail to
Jewish Labor Committee – 140 West 31st Street, 3rd Floor – New York NY 10001

You may make your reservation using a credit card: space is on the RSVP form, and you can also send us an email and write where to call you and when would be good.

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JLC Regrets Conference of Presidents Rejection of J Street Membership Application

May 1st, 2014: New York, NY -- “The Jewish Labor Committee voted in favor of J Street's application for membership in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Wednesday evening, and we are disappointed that J Street was not approved for membership,” stated Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee. The JLC is a founding member of the Conference of Presidents.

“The Conference of Presidents has a diverse membership that holds a variety of views representing those in the wider Jewish community in the United States,” Appelbaum noted. “That should allow for healthy discussion within the Presidents’ Conference of the range of issues that the group addresses. The admission of J Street to that membership would have added to that discussion in significant ways. At the same time, it would have demonstrated that the Conference member agencies were not afraid of a healthy level of diversity of opinion on the key issues that the Conference addresses, and that it truly wanted to represent the sentiment of the majority of American Jews.”

Bearing in mind that a significant number of current organizations affiliated with the Conference of Presidents did not initially have their memberships accepted, and had to reapply, Appelbaum encouraged J Street to reapply. “We are hopeful that it will be admitted for membership at a future meeting, and will support it if and when it does in fact reapply.”

One year after Bangladesh factory collapse, Chicago-area activists demand safer conditions for Walmart workers

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Photo by Ashlee Rezin courtesy Progress Illinois

April 24, 2014: Chicago, IL -- Eli Fishman (holding sign, left), Chicago Jewish Labor Committee Director, represented the JLC at an Our Walmart demonstration in front of the Walmart Lakeview store on the north side of the "Windy City." The rally was called to commemorate the one year anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza sewing factory in Bangladesh that resulted in the death of more than 1,100 workers. Also recognized were workers from a Walmart warehouse who were recently fired for speaking out on safety issues.

For more details, read this item in "Progress Illinois"

JLC Condemns Attempts to use Ukrainian Jews as an Excuse to Destabilize Ukraine

April 18, 2014: New York, NY -- The Jewish Labor Committee today condemned the attempt to use the Ukrainian Jews as an excuse for Russia to destabilize and take over portions of Ukraine, stated JLC President Stuart Appelbaum.

On March 27, 2014, a group of prominent Ukrainian Jews -- businessmen, scientists, scholars, political figures, rabbis, artists and others -- issued an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, refuting his statements that they were being humiliated, discriminated against and in danger of a pogrom being launched against them by fascists attempting to dominate the government in Kiev. The group pointed out that while they are well aware that those who helped overthrow former Ukrainian president Viktor Yankovych included some ultra-nationalist groups who are indeed anti-Semitic, they "are well controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government - which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security services." The open letter went on to state: "Your certainty of the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine does not correspond to the actual facts. It seems you have confused Ukraine with Russia, where Jewish organizations have noticed growth in anti-Semitic tendencies last year."

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Your help needed re Perelman Jewish Day School

Dear friends:

We are reaching out to you now to make your voices heard, as we have done.

Teachers at the Perelman Jewish Day School have been members of a union local and represented by their union since 1976. Their contract ends on August 31. On March 24, following a closed door meeting, the school’s board of directors informed the school's faculty that the school would no longer recognize the union as of the end of the contract. The teachers work at campuses in Wynnewood and Elkins Park, PA.

The 59 union members were told to attend a night meeting with the board with less than 24-hours' notice to learn the details of a plan that took 10 months to develop and to pick up individual job offers and a new “Faculty Handbook.” They had to sign the individual contracts within two weeks or risk losing their job. At a meeting on Wednesday morning, union members were denied union representation, despite the board saying that the union contract was still in effect until the end of August. Under the new terms that would take effect in the fall, faculty members could be fired at any time without cause, a hearing or any recourse. Teachers would also give up seniority, tenure and other rights that are guaranteed under their current collective bargaining agreement.

The Perelman Jewish Day School, which is associated with the Conservative Movement’s Solomon Schechter school network, has three key words on its website: academics, ethics, and community. Yet, as the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee (PJLC) pointed out in its public statement, “by dismantling the union and denying employees the power of collective bargaining, the Perelman Jewish Day School is acting in opposition both to major halakhic authorities and to the official position of the Conservative Movement.” {Please see the PJLC’s statement, below and in its entirety online here }

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Philadelphia JLC Statement on the Perelman Jewish Day School Situation

(April 3, 2014) Philadelphia -- Parents and community leaders have reached out to the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee regarding the Perelman Jewish Day School board’s unilateral withdrawal of union recognition and refusal to bargain with the teacher over the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Philadelphia JLC stands firmly with the teachers and their union as they fight for their collective bargaining rights, and also in alignment with tenets of Conservative Judaism.

By dismantling the union and denying employees the power of collective bargaining, the Perelman Jewish Day School is acting in opposition both to major halakhic authorities and to the official position of the Conservative Movement.

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“Raise the Federal Minimum Wage” Resolution Adopted at National Jewish Communal Affairs Gathering in Atlanta

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Graphic from website of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs

(March 17, 2014) New York -- The Jewish Labor Committee is pleased to report that a resolution we cosponsored in support of Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10, as well as raising the wage of tipped workers, was passed by an overwhelming majority of 250 delegates, from 60 groups across the United States, at the annual conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, meeting one week ago in Atlanta, GA.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, noted that passage of the resolution on raising the Federal minimum wage is part of a broader campaign that must be waged community by community, and across the United States.

"The Torah provides the moral imperative: `Justice, justice shall you pursue.’ In practical terms, that means that we should support a just minimum wage - a wage that will enable working people to support themselves and survive in our society. And we must partner with others to ensure it happens.

Continue reading "“Raise the Federal Minimum Wage” Resolution Adopted at National Jewish Communal Affairs Gathering in Atlanta" »

2-25-1934: JLC is formed - first goal is to oppose rise of Nazism in Europe

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Poster by Mitchell Loeb, 1934. The Jewish Labor Committee, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, the Labor Chest to Combat Nazism and Fascism, and others made use of it in outreach campaigns.

February 25, 1934, New York, NY - The Jewish Labor Committee was formed by Yiddish-speaking immigrant trade union leaders, and leaders of such groups as the Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring, the Jewish Labor Bund, and the United Hebrew Trades, in response to the rise of Nazism in Germany.

More than 1,000 delegates - representing about 300 different groups, including such unions as the ILGWU and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union of America, a range of union locals and a number of Jewish organizations - gathered at the Central Plaza in New York City's Lower East Side to organize a permanent body to fight Fascism, Nazism and anti-Semitism, and to study the challenges confronting working people not only abroad, but in the United States as well. The delegates had as a top priority mobilizing opposition to Nazism and Fascism in Europe. A Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) article on the conference appeared in the Feb. 26, 1934 issue of the Jewish Daily Bulletin, online here.

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In Support of University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty Local 6456

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Overpass Light Brigade shows support for striking UIC faculty members. (Photo/Emily Brosious)

February 18, 2014, Chicago, IL - Faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago, members of United Faculty Local 6456, AFT-IFT, AAUP, voted to go on a two-day strike as part of their efforts to ensure their students get what all students deserve: reasonable class sizes, individualized instruction, support for cutting-edge research, and classrooms and labs that are safe and well-equipped. These are the rights of every student.
From the outset, the UIC United Faculty has bargained and the administration has stalled. While the administration rakes in millions in profits, and has hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves, it refuses to pay faculty what they deserve. The UIC administration can’t claim they have offered a fair contract when newly hired faculty make more than faculty who have dedicated many years to the institution; when some nontenure-track faculty earn just $30,000 a year — less than a living wage in Chicago; or when faculty who have been teaching more than 10 years have to wait until August each year to see if they still have a job for the upcoming school year.
The Chicago Jewish Labor Committee has issued the statement below.
You can do something as well! Click here to sign a petition in support of the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago!

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A Special Bond: Martin Luther King, Jr., Israel and American Jewry

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by Stuart Appelbaum

This year, U.S. Jews, like other Americans, will mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by remembering him as a powerful voice against racism and for civil rights. But, for Jews, Dr. King was also something else: a uniquely important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism and for a secure Israel.

Today, Dr. King’s close bond with the Jewish community is treated only as a small footnote of his life and work. But, toward the end of his life, Dr. King devoted significant time and energy to strengthening what were becoming increasingly strained ties between black Americans and U.S. Jews. One issue Dr. King was particularly concerned with was the growing mischaracterization of Zionism as racism.

Dr. King spoke and wrote often about Israel. However, the true depth of Dr. King’s commitment to Israel was readily apparent in a September, 1967 letter he sent to Adolph Held, then president of the organization I now lead, the Jewish Labor Committee. Dr. King wrote Held after the Jewish leader contacted him regarding press accounts of a conference that Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference participated in. At the meeting, strongly worded resolutions blasting Zionism and embracing the position of the Arab powers had been considered.

Understanding Held’s worries, Dr. King explained that, beyond offering opening remarks, he had no part in the conference. But, Dr. King said, had he been present during the discussion of the resolutions “I would have made it crystal clear that I could not have supported any resolution calling for black separatism or calling for a condemnation of Israel and an unqualified endorsement of the policy of the Arab powers.”

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2013 11-Month Activity Report & Membership Form

You're invited to read the Jewish Labor Committee's Activity Report for the first 11 months of 2013, online here

To join the JLC, or to renew your membership, just print out, fill out, and mail back the (two-sided) JLC membership form online here.

In Opposition To Academic Boycotts

December 19, 2013: On Shanker Blog, "the voice of the Albert Shanker Institute," JLC President Rita Freedman discusses recent calls to boycott Israeli academic institutions in order to pressure Israel into an agreement with Palestine.

There is a growing, worldwide effort to ostracize Israel and to make it into a pariah state. (This despite the fact that Israel is still the only democratic country in the Middle East.) A key ingredient of this campaign is the call to boycott, divest from and impose sanctions on Israel (known as BDS for boycott, divest, sanction). Within the world of higher education, this takes the form of calls to boycott all Israeli academic institutions, sometimes including boycotting all Israeli scholars and researchers. The rationale is that this will somehow pressure Israel into an agreement with the Palestinians, one which will improve their lot and lead to an independent Palestinian state that exists adjacent to the State of Israel (although it is worth noting that some in the BDS movement envision a future without the existence of Israel).

Certainly, the goals of improving life for the Palestinian people, building their economy and supporting their democratic institutions – not to mention supporting the creation of an independent Palestine that is thriving and getting along peacefully with its Israeli neighbor – are entirely worthy.

And, certainly, Israeli (and indeed Palestinian) policies that obstruct progress toward these goals are not above criticism (a great deal of which can be found within the free press and lively opposition among the many political parties and independent judiciary within Israel itself). Individuals and groups in other nations should make their views known as well, and that includes the world of academia. Open discussion and debate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ways to resolve it should be encouraged. However, those discussions should not be one-sided. They should consider the behavior of all those involved in the dispute. Otherwise, they are likely to produce the result opposite to the one intended.

An academic boycott of Israel is that kind of counter-productive action, effectively suppressing free and open speech, debate, exploration and constructive problem-solving. It is the antithesis of academic freedom, a basic principle of higher education, and is inconsistent with the basic democratic value of free expression. Nevertheless, on December 16, the American Studies Association (ASA) endorsed a boycott of Israeli universities, making it the largest group of U.S. scholars to do so.

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JLC Opposes Draft ASA Academic Boycott Resolution

December 12, 2013, New York, NY - The President of the Jewish Labor Committee, Stuart Appelbaum, issued the following statement:

The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) is extremely troubled by and stands opposed to the recommendation made by the National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) that its members vote for a resolution supporting an academic boycott of Israel academic institutions. Such a resolution would be an anathema to academic freedom and is totally inconsistent with basic democratic value of free expression.

Academic boycotts assume that all Israeli academic institutions and the people associated with them – whether professors or researchers – are inherently guilty. It would essentially also hinder the exchange of important scientific research that can benefit all of humankind.

Boycotts of this nature – especially since they are directed at only one party -- undermine hopes for a peaceful and just settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. These actions do not encourage compromise; rather, they hurt moderates on each side and encourage extremists and rejectionists on both sides. Ironically, such a resolution would discourage an open discussion – in Israel, Palestine and in organizations like the ASA -- one that considers the behavior of all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ways to resolve it.

Instead, the JLC encourages organizations to be even-handed as they work to press both sides to negotiate in good faith, to support academic and other efforts that build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians, to support programs to grow democratic institutions throughout the Middle East and to support moderates on both sides to promote meaningful dialogue and exchanges.

For these reasons, we encourage the members of the ASA to vote against this resolution.

JLC Western Region President Arrested at L.A. Protest against Poverty Wages

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From left, Gary Lasley, Secretary/Treasurer, Professional Musicians Local 47; John Acosta, Vice President, Professional Musicians Local 47; Joe Ayala, Vice President, NABET-CWA Local 53; Leslie Gersicoff, Executive Director, Jewish Labor Committee Western Region; Floyd Glen-Lambert, President, Jewish Labor Committee Western Region; Barbara Huss Hartmann, Board, Jewish Labor Committee Western Region, AFSCME 36; Ethan Harris, Lead Organizer, Professional Musicians Local 47. Photograph via the Jewish Labor Committee Western Region.

November 7, 2013: Los Angeles, CA - Hundreds of labor, faith and community activists rallied in the street in front of the Los Angeles Chinatown Walmart to protest that corporation's low-wage poverty policies. Enthused by great music, speeches, puppets and the presence of Our Walmart workers, even those still inside shopping could not help but notice that something very important was happening here.

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A Remedy for Inequality

October 29, 2013: The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Middle Class Gets Wise” (Sunday Review, Oct. 20):

Jonathan Cowan and Jim Kessler are right that there are a number of solutions to the problem of income inequality, including getting additional education. But one solution that they and most others overlook is removing the obstacles to allowing workers to form labor unions of their choice.

It is not surprising that income inequality has grown as union density has declined.

Through collective bargaining, workers can improve their own incomes, benefits and working conditions. But they also help nonunion workers through a spillover effect in related industries and by mobilizing their members to increase the minimum wage and other progressive causes.

STUART APPELBAUM
President, Jewish Labor Committee
New York, Oct. 21, 2013

Friday, Oct. 25: Calling Eric Cantor for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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"Welcome to the Land of Freedom," immigrants on board the steamer Germanic. Illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, July 2, 1887

Fixing the USA's broken immigration system is an economic and moral imperative – and we have an opportunity to help make it happen.

As the House Majority Leader, Representative Eric Cantor has the power to push for the vote that would make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.

Rep. Cantor has spoken eloquently about the American Jewish immigrant experience and the urgent need to reform our broken system. At the same time, he has refused to let comprehensive immigration reform come to a vote in the House.

The Jewish Labor Committee and other members of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable are asking American Jews from across the country to call Eric Cantor’s office on Friday, Oct. 25th, with this simple message: "Let your people vote."

Join us. Make a difference.

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The High Holidays are the Time to Help Domestic Workers

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Domestic Workers Photo Exhibit Event, August 10, 2013, Quincy, MA

by Marya Axner
Regional Director, New England Jewish Labor Committee

[From Boston's newspaper, The Jewish Advocate, issue dated August 23, 2013]:
As Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah approach, I would like to discuss a labor issue that is close to home. In fact, this issue is in our homes. I am talking about the rights and the dignity of the nannies, housecleaners and caregivers that take care of our homes and families.

This year, the New England Jewish Labor Committee is gearing up to support the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers in its legislative campaign for a Massachusetts Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights. The committee is calling on the Jewish community, and in particular, the employers of domestic workers, to help.

The proposed Bill of Rights would establish basic workplace rights for domestic workers employed in private homes, including meal and rest breaks; clarity on what constitutes work time; job-protected sick time; and freedom from discrimination and sexual harassment.

In Massachusetts, unlike many states, domestic workers already have minimum wage and overtime protections. In 1970, Mary Evans Wilson, a recruiter for the NAACP, championed An Act Making Domestic Employees Subject to the Labor Laws, which provided for those protections. She and her sisters were combating decades of historical exclusion of domestic workers from labor law dating back to 1938 when the Fair Standards Labor Act was passed. Because U.S. Representatives from the South did not want their black workers to have the rights that other workers had, they lobbied to exclude domestic workers and agricultural workers from labor laws. Northern Representatives acquiesced, and the exclusion became law.

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Justice means raising NJ’s minimum wage

by Rita Freedman and Arieh Lebowitz
New Jersey Jewish News - August 28, 2013

This November, New Jerseyans have the opportunity to support the economic fortunes of more than 400,000 residents who work for the lowest wages in the state. There is a constitutional amendment on the ballot to increase the minimum wage in New Jersey from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour, which also provides an annual cost-of-living adjustment to ensure the minimum wage keeps pace with the cost of basic necessities. The last time the legislature voted to raise the minimum wage was 2005. The minimum wage has simply not kept pace with the cost of living in New Jersey.

The Jewish communities of New Jersey — and indeed across the United States — remember full well the situation confronting so many of our ancestors as they came to this country: the prospects of low wages and hard jobs in the garment trades and other sectors. All of us should remember the difficulties of making ends meet with poor wages, tough economies, and the effort that went into not only getting by but trying to assure a better life for one’s children.

The challenges confronting those who earn the minimum wage today are no less daunting. More than 400,000 hardworking New Jersey men and women of every race, creed, and faith earn the minimum wage, which is lower than those of 19 other states and the District of Columbia, despite the fact that the Garden State’s cost of living is about 30 percent higher than the national average. They are the workers who care for our elderly parents, pump our gas, pick our produce, clean our offices, and wash dishes at restaurants. The vast majority of them work multiple minimum wage jobs to support their families; they are still struggling. They are faced with terrible choices, such as which bills to pay every month, choices about rent or heat or groceries or medicine that none among us should be forced to make.
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Join the Campaign to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage!

by Stuart Appelbaum
President, Jewish Labor Committee

It’s not that often that Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah fall so close together on the calendar. This year they are but three days apart, providing an opportunity for some introspection on an issue that should be of concern to the entire American Jewish community: the pitiful state of the federal minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage isn’t a living wage. At $7.25 an hour, today’s full-time minimum-wage worker makes just $15,080 a year. Even in a family with two people working minimum-wage jobs, household income hovers at the poverty level. And that’s assuming they are lucky enough to have full-time jobs.

Moreover, the makeup of minimum-wage workers has changed. James Surowiecki, writing in The New Yorker on August 12th, noted a recent study by the economists John Schmitt and Janelle Jones showing that “low-wage workers are older and better educated than ever.”

“More important,” Surowiecki wrote, “more of them are relying on their paychecks not for pin money or to pay for Friday-night dates but, rather, to support families.”

Meanwhile, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has plummeted.

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