Tag Archives: Economic Justice
Budget documents

A Faithful CRomnibus

At the end of the 113th Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives voted to fund the federal government through the end of September 30, 2015, or to the end of the 2015 fiscal year. The passage of this bill avoided a government shut down by funding the federal government – except for the Department of Homeland Security – for the next nine months.

The bill is called a cromnibus, because (1) it is part continuing resolution (CR), which is a short-term deal Congress makes to fund the government when a deal cannot be reached; and (2) it is also part omnibus package of funding bills for all of the departments and agencies, which is how Congress would normally fund the government in a complete budget deal.

A continuing resolution is short-term legislation passed by Congress to keep the government funded, and an omnibus bill is an all inclusive package.

Read more…

sunrise over DC monuments

Interpreting Our Dreams and Addressing the Problems of Our Nation

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Mikeitz, Joseph is brought out of jail in Egypt to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Pharaoh’s had two dreams: one showing seven fat cows and then seven thin cows; and the other depicted seven healthy ears of corn followed by seven thin ears of corn. Deeply troubled by the dreams, he calls all the wise men in the land in an attempt to interpret the dreams, but finds that only Joseph can help (Genesis 41:23). Read more…

Workers protesting low wages with a sign saying "Hard work deserves fair pay!"

Treating Our Labor Well During Hanukkah

In this season of giving and shopping surrounding Hanukkah, we need to consider where our gifts are coming from and how the workers who help us make these purchases are treated. We need to keep worker’s rights in mind as we pursue this work and ensure that everyone is treated justly.

Labor movements remain to be a key and integral part of our work in advocating for just workplaces. Unions are organized groups of workers formed to protect and to ultimately further the workers’ rights as well as their interests. As independent employees, workers may face harassment, unsafe working conditions, and poverty-level wages. Through unions, workers can advocate that they are treated fairly in the work place: they can advocate for sufficient paychecks, adequate benefits, safety in the workplace, equal opportunities, and most importantly for respect. Workers have fundamental rights to have fair, safe, and healthy workplace environments, and unions help enable ensure that this is a reality.

Unions don’t just fight for workers within that specific union – they push for all workers to have higher minimum wages, encouraging support for better workplace practices at all levels. When workers earn more, they can perform better – unions help create the connection between better workplace practices and an improved minimum wage. The U.S. Department of Labor has also shown that union members are more likely to have health benefits and pensions than non-union workers.

Unionized workers are more likely to earn more than non-unionized workers, showing how the unionized workers see the impacts of these measures. This is especially true for people of color in the workforce. Additionally, as union membership has fallen, the share of household income going to those in the bottom 20% has also fallen and poverty levels are highest in states that are the lowest in union membership. States with higher levels of unionization also have stronger social safety net programs.

Our Jewish community has a long history of being involved with the labor movement, and many of the first labor activists were Jewish. Jewish texts further affirm our commitment to worker’s rights. The Torah, Talmud and various other commentaries discuss ethical labor practices including minimum wage, just working conditions, and a safe workplace. Moreover, this commitment to justice resonates for our community, given our history of forced servitude and affliction. As Deuteronomy states: “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer,” which is a dictum we should take to heart (24:14-15).

We have a guide on ethical practices in employing domestic workers. We also have resources for Labor on the Bimah that relate to Labor Day and opportunities to discuss workers from the pulpit. You can also urge your Members of Congress to advocate for a higher minimum wage, which would help all workers. Take action today to encourage your Member of Congress to raise the minimum wage!

Homeless youth

Helping Those Experiencing Homelessness as the Weather Gets Colder

Last month, Weather.com reported that there was record breaking November Arctic Cold weather, full of cold surges and record-breaking low temperatures. There may be global warming, but that does not mean that cold winters are a relic of the past. And, even as the weather gets cold, there are far too many Americans forced to sleep out on the streets in these conditions.

On any given night there are 250,000 people on the streets and 3.5 million people experience homelessness over the course of a year. The number of homeless students reached an all-time high in 2012 of more than a million, or 2% of the student population. The number of homeless children in the country has reached a record high, amounting to one in thirty children being homeless! This means that 2.5 million children in the United States go to sleep without a home of their own each night, a historic high in the number of homeless children in the U.S. Read more…

raise the minimum wage banner

Progress in the States on Minimum Wage: Time for Congressional Action

In the midterm elections last month, when we saw successful votes to increase the minimum wage in four states (Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska).

It is exciting that all of these measures were approved and the Reform Movement applauded these efforts at the state level. Read more…

Stand with Pregnant Workers

Diverse Coalition of Faith Groups Calls for Justice for Pregnant Workers

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Young v. United Parcel Service, a pregnancy discrimination case that has significant implications for working women across the country. Supporters of the plaintiff, Peggy Young, gathered before the Court to protest pregnancy discrimination, sharing stories to highlight that the discrimination Young faced is not unique but rather a widespread injustice for working women. Speakers shared stories of cashiers fired for requesting a stool to alleviate the fatigue of standing and of women who stocked shelves fired for carrying a water bottle to stay hydrated on duty. They shared stories of their own and stories from their mothers’ generation and before, wondering aloud “why we’re here,” 36 years after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978—the law in question in Young—was created to require reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Read more…

A Taxing Challenge: Funding EITC

As we get ready for the new Congress, it’s time to start thinking about how to continue to fund the important programs that keep our government thriving and operating. From fiscal year (FY2010) to FY2014, 19 out of 131 programs that are especially helpful to low-income and vulnerable people have seen decreases after adjusting for inflation.

We also need to ensure that the next budget includes extensions related to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  This federal credit applies to low and moderate income workers by encouraging work, offsetting federal income and payroll taxes, and ultimately increasing family income. These programs are effective – in 2012, the EITC lifted 6.5 million people, including 3.2 million children, out of poverty.

Read more…

Ferguson clergy protest

After the Ferguson Grand Jury Decision: What’s Next?

Monday night, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced that a grand jury had decided there was not enough probable cause to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was fatally shot on August 9, 2014. In response to the decision, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Steve Fox, Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, issued the following the statement: Read more…