Tag Archives: Labor
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!

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…

Rabbi David Saperstein and Nancy Zirkin discussing the election

Midterms 2014: What the Election Means for Jewish Social Justice

With a few days’ distance from the 2014 midterm elections, we are beginning to put the results of this election in context — for what it means for Congress, state legislatures, state laws and of course our work to advance social justice in the United States. The day after the election, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center released a statement welcoming the resounding success of three key state ballot initiatives and noting our long history of working successfully with members on both sides of the aisle to advance shared priorities. We look forward to another exciting chapter in Washington, D.C. and in the states.

On Thursday, Rachel Laser moderated a conversation between RAC Director Rabbi David Saperstein, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Executive Vice President and Director of Policy Nancy Zirkin and RAC Senior Advisor Michael Horowitz. To watch the exciting conversation, visit our Election Day resources page, or watch it here:

Read more…

Reform Movement Responds to Election Results

In response to the 2014 midterm election results, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued a statement:

In the wake of yesterday’s election results, we welcome the resounding success of three key state ballot initiatives that will enhance America’s safety and well-being. In Washington State, all gun purchases will now require a common-sense background check. Thanks to Nebraska voters, the state’s minimum wage will increase to $9 by 2016. In fact, voters approved minimum wage increases in four states nationwide, all by wide margins. And in Massachusetts, voters said “yes” to Question 4, allowing workers at companies with 11 or more employees to earn paid sick leave. In each of these states, Reform rabbis and congregants working with the Religious Action Center’s staff were key to the initiatives’ passage – offering sermons, publishing op-eds, speaking with colleagues and friends, and voting.

Read the entirety of the statement here.

To learn more about our work on economic justice issues (including paid sick days and minimum wage) and the Jewish values that underpin our advocacy and programming, be sure to visit our issue page.

The Reform Movement has a long and storied history of advocating for civil rights, from our engagement in the Civil Rights Movement, to the fact that we are intimately acquainted with the effects of bigotry. Our ancestors knew both the continuing indignities of second-class citizenship and the constant fear of xenophobic violence. Our history teaches us that discrimination against any members of a community threatens the security of the entire community. Learn more about our work on civil rights, including election reform and voting rights.

Also, don’t forget to join our post-election briefing today, November 6, at 1:30 p.m. as our panel will discuss different perspectives on the prospects for critical human and civil rights issues in the upcoming Congress. Join in live here.

Not Just the Federal Level: States Can Also Work To Raise The Wage

Earlier this month, we called on Congress to raise the minimum wage on 10/10 (October 10), by passing The Fair Minimum Wage Act (H.R 1010) and The Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737), two bills that would increase the minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $10.10/hour through a series of gradual increases.

Yet even though Congress is on recess until November 12, this absence does not mean that individuals are no longer fighting to combat economic inequality. As the conversation on increasing the minimum wage moves from the federal level to the states, there are four measures on the ballot this November that would raise the wage..

Read more…

Yes on Question 4 in Massachusetts; earned sick time now

Double Booked: In Massachusetts, Ballot Question 4 Brings Us Home

By Rabbi Matthew Soffer

When I read the language Question 4 (a ballot question to ensure earned sick time in the Commonwealth), and I contemplate how Jewish values relate, I’m drawn particularly to that fundamental paradigm of home vs. exile, which is so central to Judaism. Obviously, the emergence of the State of Israel gave physical, geographical shape to that exile/home binary, but fundamentally we know that exile vs. home is a metaphysical issue. That our tradition demands that we recognize exile when we see it, that we mourn over it, and that we fight to come home.

From the literal exiles of 586 BCE to 70CE, and in the Rabbinic Period when the bayit (the home), the dinner table to be more specific, according to one Talmudic voice, replaced the altar in the Temple: fighting to come home, in our tradition, is “how we roll.”
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On this October 10, let's raise the minimum wage to 10 dollars an hour, and urge your members of congress to raise the wage at rac.org/alerts

On 10/10, Let’s Raise the Minimum Wage to $10.10/Hour

This Friday, it will be October 10th, or 10/10, a timely and unique opportunity for a major campaign to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10/hour, a $2.86/hour increase from its current rate of $7.25/hour.

Over the last forty years, the real value of the minimum wage has fallen by close to 30%, demonstrating a need to raise the wage to account for changing cost values. The 1968 federal minimum wage would be worth over $10/hour in today’s dollars – yet our current minimum wage of $7.25/hour is far below that. Our current minimum wage translates to a lifetime of poverty, not near enough for anyone to live by: in no states can a minimum wage worker afford a two-bedroom apartment working a 40 hour week. Read more…

Yes on Question 4 in Massachusetts; earned sick time now

Double Booked: No One Should Have to Choose Between A Healthy Family and A Job

In this season of renewal, Jews reflect on the year past and look forward to a 5775, a year that brings new opportunity. Since the launch of Double Booked this past January, we have identified some of the challenges that working families face today and discussed a wide variety of cultural, social, and policy solutions. The Jewish new year seems a fitting time to reveal the next phase of our Double Booked initiative, which will focus on working with our interfaith partners to lift up good internal employment policies as well as to engage our denominations and houses of worship in federal, state, and local initiatives to pass much-needed policies to support the modern American family.

One such policy is ensuring paid sick days. We are proud to report that the Union for Reform Judaism (which the RAC is part of) offers its employees a generous paid sick days policy. The Union demonstrated its strong support again for these policies in a new resolution that was passed at our 2013 Biennial.

Read more…

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