Worker justice is necessary for a just economy. Worker Justice Wisconsin builds collective worker power through training, labor rights education, collective action and community engagement with an emphasis on interfaith involvement. To achieve this, we:
- Join workers in resolving workplace problems through collaboration, accompaniment, advocacy and collective action.
- Develop worker leadership and nurture workplace democracy through education and labor organizing.
- Engage and mobilize a coalition of individuals, labor unions, faith communities, and community organizations committed to economic, racial, immigrant, and worker justice.
The Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin began in 1999 and launched a study of actual workplace conditions in Dane County through the Latino Worker Project. The Latino Worker Project fact-finding delegation was a collaborative effort of faith community representatives, union leaders, workers, and local social service providers. The final published report, “Can’t Afford to Lose a Bad Job,” highlighted the difficulties and barriers these workers face.
One of the recommendations of the delegation was the establishment of a worker rights center to address the needs of low-wage and immigrant workers. Using resources and best practices from successful faith/labor initiatives around the country, ICWJ soon opened a worker center in the Villager Mall on South Park Street in Madison. The Workers’ Rights Center became its own organization in 2007, a community center dedicated to educating and advocating for worker justice, and empowering workers.
ICWJ continued to grow, as a coalition of congregations, unions, other organizations and many individuals. From a variety of backgrounds and beliefs, coalition members have shared a commitment to the health and dignity of workers, as well as the rights to organize and collectively bargain. In 2011, ICWJ gained international attention for its key role in mobilizing a multi-faith community as part of an uprising against the implementation of Act 10, legislation which undid many years of progressive labor policies in our state.
Over the years, these two organizations have worked together at the intersections of service and advocacy such as the Just Dining Guide and the Latino Workers Project, in addition to many organizing campaigns. In 2017, the boards of the WRC and ICWJ reviewed our separate models and decided that we are needed as a unified organization, centered around worker rights, organizing, and developing worker leadership. We moved into share space in the Madison Labor Temple and merged becoming Worker Justice Wisconsin in 2018.