By Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Madison

There’s no getting around it. We live in dark times. The gap between the rich and poor relentlessly expands. Radical disparities take away the rights of workers. 
We live in a world that overflows with human suffering, injustice, inequality. It is difficult to work for social justice when the world around us is so bleak. We come to believe that the fight is futile, that our actions don’t matter.
But the holiday of Hanukkah suggests otherwise. It reminds us that even in dark times it is our obligation to hope, to believe in miracles, to act as if another world is possible.
On Hanukkah we retell the story of Judah Macabee, a man who refused to accept the destruction of his traditions and community. He believed that he could organize, that he could make things better. He refused to accept what was and insisted on fighting for what could be.
We honor his bravery and courage. We celebrate his stubbornness. We remember that even in the darkest times change can happen. 
Jewish tradition teaches us to believe in miracles. From the story of Hanukkah we celebrate the miracle that a small jar of oil lasted for eight days. But we also remember that there are miracles in our own world. There is the miracle of hope, of change, of love and forgiveness and community. 
In these dark times we come together to demand respect for workers and justice for the poor. May this Hanukkah inspire all of us to believe that the way things are is not the way things have to be.

Madison’s Guide to Isthmus Restaurant Employment Standards
3rd Edition Release

Do you know whether your waiter has access to health insurance and a living wage? Sick day pay? Written hourly records and employee policies, and other workplace benefits?

December 11, 2014, The Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice and the Workers’ Rights Center release the 3rd edition of the Just Dining Guide, a guide to the employment standards of 205 Downtown Madison restaurants. Through information gathered from employee and employer surveys, we are proud to bring Madison an updated guide that points out and celebrates the employers providing good jobs in Madison’s restaurant industry. This year the producers of the Guide will award certificates to 15% of the employers listed in the Guide, for their upstanding treatment of employees. ICWJ director Rabbi Renee Bauer comments, “We are lucky to have exemplary employers in our city, and we must support them.”

During this season of celebrations and festive meals, let the Just Dining Guide be a reminder that you are more than “just dining;” you are supporting jobs and workers in the Madison community. Look at Just Dining to Guide your support of good jobs in Madison restaurants.

Look for this Guide update in community centers, libraries, etc. near you.

Just Dining 2014 Update

See the full guide online, including methodology, myths of the restaurant industry, and more.

Get the updated Just Dining App Here:

JustDiningImage

Over 100 workers, together with organizers from Wisconsin Jobs Now, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, Workers Rights Center, and Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, filed a complaint in compliance with a Wisconsin State law, stating that their wages at or near the minimum wage of $7.25/hour are not a living wage. Under the law, the Governor has 20 days to respond to the official complaint.

Link to Media Coverage

A prayer for workers

November 26, 2014

in Prayers

Adapted from the prayer to St. Joseph by Pope Saint John XXIII (1958-63)

Almighty God, who sent your Son Jesus Christ as a carpenter and teacher to the world, we ask that you protect and provide for Jesus’ brother and sister workers, your sons and daughters.

You know their anxieties and sufferings, as the worker Jesus experienced their sufferings. Let all workers know that their purpose comes from you their Creator. Remind all workers that in the fields, factories, mines, schools, and everywhere that they work, they do not labor, rejoice, or suffer alone, for at their side is Jesus to sustain them, dry the sweat of their brow, and give value to their labor. In Jesus’ name we ask for your guidance in valuing all workers’ hands as the hands of Jesus. Amen.

When many of us think of holiday stress we picture the rush to buy and prepare all the food for our visiting families; the cost and complications of travel to go away to family; the stress of shopping for holiday presents and the strain to our pocketbooks. You may have a roadmap already for your “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” shopping, in an attempt to alleviate post-holiday debt through the sales.

Workers in the retail, grocery, and restaurant industries have all those stresses and more; they wonder if they will even see their families on the holidays. Stores that open at midnight on Black Friday or even after Thanksgiving dinner, staying open late on Christmas Eve for those last-minute Santas, plus the higher influx of customers during this season, means longer and less predictable hours for workers, as well as tougher work on days that are set aside to be times of family gathering, vacation, and religious commitment.

Black Friday brings an opportunity to renew the effort to improve conditions for workers. Join with Walmart workers and affiliates of Interfaith Worker Justice to press Walmart store managers and owners to treat their employees with dignity and respect.
Many protests and vigils will be held at Walmart stores around the United States, as concerned individuals and organizations deliver letters to store managers asking for higher wages and full-time employment for Walmart workers.

You can participate by signing and delivering  This Letter to a Walmart store near you. The letter can be tailored to your location and organization.
Mail a copy of your letter to: Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, Walmart Corporate Office Headquarters, 702 SW 8th St. Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611

Publicize your solidarity. Use #WalmartStrikers on Black Friday to post pictures outside of the stores with signage saying “We stand with Walmart workers.”

More resources, information, and suggestions HERE

 

Economic Justice Film Series

Hosted by WI Faith Voices & ICWJ

Event(s) Flyer

WhyPovertySeveral Films will be shown between Oct. 16 and Dec. 10. Click the link above for venue information.

Refreshments served

Pictures & Quotes

from religious leaders who demand a living wage in Wisconsin

With Wisconsin Jobs Now, ICWJ is publishing faces and voices on the web of the growing number of people in Wisconsin who demand a higher minimum wage for just treatment of workers. ICWJ is collecting statements from religious leaders on how their faith and social witness interact in the issue of workers’ wages. Keep an eye on our page for new faces and voices in the campaign.

Rev. Breanna Dahl, Trinity United Methodist Church:

Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” Part of having an abundant life is having a job that pays you enough so you don’t have to stress out over paying for housing, food, insurance, etc. As a Christian, my faith calls me to work for justice so that all may have that abundant and full life that Jesus spoke of. My faith pushes me to fight for fair wages for workers in all sectors. We must raise the “minimum” wage so that it is a living wage. So that all may earn enough to care for their families and live full and abundant lives.

 

Raise Your Voice to Raise the Wage:

Write to Organizer@WorkerJustice.org

Other Voices:

Reverend Jerry Folk

Sister Isabel Rafferty

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

Pastor Amanda Stein

Pastor Ron Adams

Kelly Schaefer

Reverend Peder Johanson

Saturday, October 18, 7:00pm
First Unitarian Society of Madison
900 University Bay Drive, Madison, WI 53705

*Tickets will be available at the door. Advance ticket sales have ended.*

Join us in an evening of music and celebration. Sister Maureen McDonnell celebrates 50 years of vowed Sinsinawa Dominican life and has chosen to honor ICWJ with a benefit concert as her Jubilee event.

Lou & Peter The Prince Myshkins Prince Myshkins

 

Hear activist musical storytelling duo The Prince Myshkins, as well as Madison locals Lou & Peter Berryman (No Relation!).
Andy Gricevich and Rick Burkhardt of The Prince Myshkins met at the University of Illinois and have have made music together since 1995. They have performed at labor and anti-war rallies, as well as street corners and house concerts. Andy and Rick are members of the North American Traveling Musicians’ Union and reside in Madison, WI.

The Prince Myshkins Website

Lou & Peter Berryman Website

Event Flyer

Tickets (only at the door from 10/15 on)

$25 at the door

Additional Donations to ICWJ at any level:

$25, 50, 100+
are accepted in advance or at the Jubilee.

* Owing to serious illness in Charlie King’s immediate family, he is unable to be with us on Oct. 18. He has arranged for The Prince Myshkins, Andy Gricevich and Rick Burkhardt to perform in his stead. Well known to Madison music fans, their musical storytelling is in the same tradition as Charlie’s. We are grateful they are able to be with us, and we offer heartfelt support to Charlie and his family. *

ICWJ celebrates Labor Day, 2014, at the following Labor in the Pulpit Events. We will focus on the “Strike for 15″ fast food movement and low-wage retail workers who are standing up against poverty level wages. At many of these events workers will give personal testimonies. Please join us:

August 31:
9:00 am Worship at First Unitarian Society of Madison
9:30 am Worship at Sherman Avenue United Methodist Church
10:00 am Worship at Lakeedge United Church of Christ
11:00 am Worship at First Unitarian Society of Madison (second service)
5:00 pm Forum at Madison Mennonite Church
5:00 pm Worship at Monona United Methodist Church, Spanish Language (Alabanza en Espanol!)

September 7:
9:00 am Worship at Holy Wisdom Monastery – Rabbi Renee Bauer, ICWJ director, will give the sermon, followed by…
…10:30 am Conversation with the social justice group

September 13:
10:30 am Service at Congregation Sha’arei Shamayim (location: First Unitarian Society of Madison)

Tabling at Labor Fest 2014:
12:00noon – 5:00pm Monday, September 1, Labor Day
Labor Temple, 1602 South Park Street.

_______________What’s the History of Labor Day?_______________

We’re moving!

June 10, 2014

in Uncategorized

On July 1, 2014,  the ICWJ office will move to to the Center for Change.

Our location and mailing address will be:

 612 West Main Street
Suite 200, Office #212
Madison WI  53703

 Our new phone number:

608-819-4740 Ext.  220

 

JUST DINING: A Guide to Restaurant Employment Standards in Downtown Madison

Produced by ICWJ and the Workers’ Rights Center.  

A first in Madison:  JUST DINING is a guide to downtown restaurants that informs customers and workers about the wages and benefits of people who cook, prepare, and serve food.                      

Download a PDF of the  2013 JUST DINING GUIDE 

Get the Interactive App! in the App Store

Just Dining App 

Worker Justice and Ethical Kashrut

by Rabbi Bonnie Margulis

 Once it happened, as Passover neared, that Rabbi Israel Salanter (founder of the Jewish Musar (ethics) Movement) came to a matzah factory to judge its fitness to receive a kosher certificate.  Without that certificate, the matzah factory would be out of business.  The owner of the factory wasn’t worried, however. He was certain his factory would be certified kosher for Passover. He had instituted new protocols of efficiency that he was sure would impress Rabbi Salanter.  Rabbi Salanter came in and observed the process in action.  When the matzah was finished and the owner proudly presented it to Rabbi Salanter, the rabbi told the owner the matzah could not be certified as kosher.  The owner was shocked. “Why, what’s wrong with my matzah?”. Rabbi Salanter replied, “The matzah has blood in it, and nothing with blood in it can be certified kosher.”  “Blood?  There’s no blood in my matzah!” exclaimed the factory owner. “The way you press your workers and the demands you place on them to be ever more ‘efficient’ in their work, shows that their blood is in every piece of matzah they produce, and therefore I cannot consider this matzah kosher.”

Workers’ rights and welfare has always been paramount in Jewish law and ethics.  From safety issues, to fair working hours, to living wages, to being treated with dignity and respect, all these are integral to the ethical underpinnings of Jewish law on how we treat our workers.  Last week, (the week of March 16) Jews around the world read the Torah portion in Leviticus that lists the animals that are considered kosher and those that are considered treyf (unkosher).  Today many Jews still follow those ancient laws of kashrut, keeping kosher. Others look to the kosher laws and imbue them with new meaning – ethical kashrut. For some, this means eating vegetarian or vegan. For some it means eating locally.  For some it means eating organic. And for many Jews today, ethical kashrut includes paying attention to who grows our food, who picks our crops, who works in our food factories.  It means caring about farm and food industry workers being treated fairly, making a fair wage, working in safe conditions, and being able to support their families in dignity.

Today our state, and our country, is facing a situation where economic injustice is rampant. CEO’s make wages hundreds of times greater than their workers.  Low-income workers are forced to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.  Food stamps and unemployment benefits are cut just when people need them most.  As we approach this Passover, as Jews all over meditate on the meanings of slavery and freedom, of having enough to eat or not having enough, let us all pledge to work together to build a fairer, more just, and more equitable society.

Rabbi Bonnie Margulis
President, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice
www.wisconsinfaithvoicesforjustice.org
www.facebook.com/WisconsinFaithVoicesForJustice