Tag Archives: Labor
Homeless youth

Capital of Economic Inequality?

Last July, I packed up all of my bags, loaded up the trunk of my dad’s car, and made the trek from New England to move to Washington D.C. and begin my post-collegiate professional life.

While I’ve been enjoying the past year in the Nation’s Capital, amidst learning WMATA and running routes, dashing between meetings, enjoying the monuments and museums, it’s impossible not to see the rampant inequality in the District. In Dupont Circle alone, just blocks from the RAC’s office on Kivie Kaplan Way, too many people experiencing homelessness camp out at night, not sure where else to go in the hazy humidity of a D.C. summer or during the winter nights before the federal government closes for a snow day.

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Rabbi Beth Singer marching with the Torah

We March in the Footsteps of the Great Figures of Our Tradition

Our Jewish tradition is full of journeys, from the very beginning of our sacred texts. Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden; Noah’s Ark and his aquatic sojourn – while these are not explicit commandments from God, they are journeys for these Biblical figures. Later, in parashat Lech Lecha (literally, “go” or “leave”), God commands Abraham “go from your land … to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 17:27). Later on, we read of Moses’ journey from Egypt to Midian, back to Egypt, and then his leadership of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and the subsequent wandering in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. Ruth leaves Moab with Naomi to a new land, Israel, where she is a stranger, and finds a new life. Over the course of millennia, Jewish individuals and the Jewish people have journeyed, whether by choice, whether by command from God, whether by necessity due to forced exile, anti-Semitism or more modern crises, such as the pogroms.

Journeys, both literal and figurative, are familiar to us as Jews. Journeys are not easy, and the miles walked and the distances covered illustrate for us the challenges and struggles of the time.

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The Perils of Payday Loans

There are too many Americans struggling to make it paycheck to paycheck because of insufficient wages, and this struggle is further exacerbated by numerous other issues, including payday lending.

A payday loan is a small loan that is framed as being an easy way to help borrowers and to hold them over until they receive their next payment. These loans are typically around $500 or less, and are usually due on a worker’s next payday. Yet these loans do the opposite of creating relief for borrowers.

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Solidarity Forever Singalong

I have always loved musicals. When I was younger, I remember watching the musical Newsies, a movie about a group of young newspaper workers calling for fair treatment in response to new restrictions by newspaper giant Joseph Pulitzer that make it harder for them to earn money. I would belt out “Pulitzer may own the world but he don’t own us” along with my favorite characters. Through song, the characters illustrate what collective bargaining and organizing can be.

In addition, I remember loving Billy Elliot when I first saw it with my family. The scene when Billy’s family members were all marching on strike along with other coal miners was particularly striking for me.  “Solidarity, solidarity, solidarity forever. We’re proud to be working class, solidarity forever,” the coal miners sing. Though they were not the protagonists of the musical, I felt sympathetic to the coal miners’ experiences. How could these workers be experiencing this unjust treatment?

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Equal Work Deserves Equal Pay

Wage Discrimination Continues to Cast a Shadow

Even in 2015, equal pay for equal work for women is not a reality in the United States and it’s no different for female professional soccer players. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) only pays its players between $6,000 and $30,000 per year, while Major League Soccer (MLS) players earn a minimum salary of $50,000 per year. These low salaries act as a serious deterrent to players starting the game. Jazmine Reeves, 2014 Rookie of the Year for the NWSL’s Boston Breakers, had to leave the world of professional soccer because she was unable to get by on her $11,000 salary (that’s less than annual earnings on the U.S. minimum wage!).
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Workers protesting low wages with a sign saying "Hard work deserves fair pay!"

Learning from the Past to Create a More Economically Just Future

In this week’s Torah portion, Devarim (and the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy), Moses begins his recounting of the Israelites’ forty-year-long journey in the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:1-21). Moses’ reflection on the past as the Israelites’ time of wandering comes starts to end offers a timely lesson for us to take stock of where we are in our journey towards economic justice.

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dad comforting sick kid in bed

Healthy Families, Healthy Nation

This Fourth of July weekend, we gathered together to celebrate our nation’s birthday and the values for which it stands. It is clear from their writings and the way they shaped our founding documents that the Framers and revolutionaries were concerned with the most basic articulation of justice and equality (as much as the prejudices of the time and of their lives would allow). Throughout American history, we’ve expanded and nuanced those rights, recognizing that laws about justice and equality touch even family life and workplaces. So, this early July as we celebrate the United States, we also celebrate state-level laws that are taking effect. Earlier this month, Connecticut’s paid sick days law, as well as laws in California, Massachusetts and in Eugene, Oregon are being implemented.

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Paid Leave Laws Support All Working Parents, Including Dads!

This Father’s Day, when we take some time to celebrate the fathers in our lives, be they our dads, grandpas, uncles, brothers, cousins or friends, we thank these fathers for everything they do for their families. This special time of year is also an opportunity to reflect on fatherhood today and the challenges facing working parents.

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