A Step Back for Palestinian Workers’ Rights and for Israeli Democracy

Palestinians working at a grove of date palms in the Jordan Valley. Photo Credit: Michal Fattal

Aug. 23, 2016 - Haaretz: Israel’s justice minister has recently instituted a new regulation that will undermine the right of Palestinians living in the West Bank who are employed by Israelis – in Israel or the West Bank – to seek legal redress for abusive and unlawful labor practices. 

The Jewish Labor Committee opposes this new regulation, explicitly designed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, both of the right-wing, pro-settler Habayit Hayehudi party, to prevent Palestinian employees of Israeli businesses from benefiting from Israel’s progressive labor laws. We call on the Knesset and Israel’s Supreme Court to act forthrightly to defend these workers’ just rights to fair labor practices, and nullify the new regulation. 

Under the new requirement, non-citizens will be obligated to make a monetary deposit before submitting a lawsuit against an employer in Israeli labor court, unless they can immediately present evidence proving their claim. If they cannot do so, the deposit will be forfeited. Such a measure would primarily affect Palestinians living in the West Bank – most notably those who work on Israeli-owned farms in the Jordan Valley, who will greatly suffer the consequences – by placing a heavy financial burden on those who seek to sue their Israeli employers for labor-law violations. Israeli farmers in the valley, who in the past have been sued for labor law violations, have applauded this new measure.  

As an organization that cares about Israel’s future as a democratic and progressive society, this matters to us, and should matter to others as well. 

Continue reading "A Step Back for Palestinian Workers’ Rights and for Israeli Democracy" »

1936: Anti-Nazi World Labor Athletic Carnival Held in NYC

1936 NYC World Labor Athletic Carnival.jpg
(Jewish Labor Committee collection, Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives / Tamiment Library, New York University)

August 16, 2016 - New York, NY: We mark the anniversary of the World Labor Athletic Carnival, held on August 15th and 16th at New York’s Randall’s Island, to protest the holding of the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. The two day event, organized by the Jewish Labor Committee with the active support and cooperation of a number of unions and labor bodies, brought over 400 athletes from across the country to compete in what became known as the “Counter-Olympics.” Honorary co-chairs of the event included New York Governor Herbert Lehman, NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, American Federation of Labor President William Green and Judge Jeremiah Mahoney, former President of the Amateur Athletics Union of the United States and a leader of the “Move the Olympics” movement, who resigned from the American Olympic Committee to protest holding of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Chairing the Labor Committee of the Carnival was Isidore Nagler, Vice President of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

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Massachusetts Passes Most-Comprehensive State Equal Pay Law

At a New England JLC Labor Seder Photo from the New England Jewish Labor Committee

August 4, 2016: Boston, MA (via Press Associates Union News Service) - With bipartisan support, the Massachusetts legislature passed and GOP Gov. Charlie Baker signed the most-comprehensive state equal pay for equal work law in the U.S., on August 1.

The state AFL-CIO, the New England Jewish Labor Committee, 9to5 and Jobs with Justice were among the large coalition that pushed the law. It would, for the first time, bar employers from demanding past salary figures from job applicants and screening applicants based on past pay. Both demands and screening hurt female job applicants.

Instead, the employer must present salary figures, which the job-seeker could accept or reject. The new law takes effect at the start of 2018.

That’s not all. The new law also “seeks to help eliminate the gender wage gap in Massachusetts by providing a more comprehensive definition of comparable work” than just exactly equal jobs, its sponsoring coalition says.

And it orders firms to let workers “discuss salaries without the threat of retaliation and eliminates the practice of requiring salary history on job applications,” said its leading backers, the Equal Pay Coalition and the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.

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Chicago educators visit Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center

Photo by Sarah Spiro

June 28, 2016: Skokie, IL - To educate Chicago public school teachers on both the historical record of the Holocaust and on issues of racism and bullying, Chicago Jewish Labor Committee Regional Director Eli Fishman arranged for a group of 22 Chicago Teachers Union members to participate in a docent-led tour today of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skoke, IL. The Chicago JLC has organized similar tours for the past four years; nearly 100 Chicago-area teachers have attended such programs.

Jewish Labor Committee Condemns Mass Shooting In Orlando

June 14, 2016: New York, NY - The Jewish Labor Committee condemns the mass shooting in Orlando, FL, which targeted the LGBT community. We send our condolences to the families of those who were killed, and our wishes for a full recovery to those injured.

We stand in solidarity with the LGBT people who were the direct targets of this terrorist attack, and the larger communities that they represent, sadly, by this most recent act of terrorist violence. For this attack was not solely aimed at those who were in that club on that night, but by extension a much larger target.

This was not just an attack on the LGBT communities of Orlando, but on freedom itself, on the basic principles of cultural openness, diversity and tolerance. Indeed, our way of life.

But standing with the victims of this latest outrage is not enough. These attacks have to be themselves attacked on many fronts:

• In the United States, serious gun control laws to restrict access to automatic weapons must be enacted on the federal and state level, and more serious penalties against those who own illegally-secured weapons, and use weapons in the commission of a crime, must be enacted. The power of the gun lobby must be challenged and curtailed. Too many times, easy access to weapons has led to them being in the hands of people with religious, political, racist or personal grudges who are taking them out against innocent victims.

• Homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia must be all be challenged wherever they rear their ugly heads, and we call on leaders in our communities and organizations to speak out clearly and consistently on this.

• Internationally, Islamist extremism, with religious and political components, provides inspiration to as well as support for terrorist acts such as that in Orlando. The full weight of the free world must be brought to bear to break its hold in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. At the same time, we recognize and remind others that radical Islamism is an extreme minority movement within the Muslim world, and does not represent the mainstream of Islam. We cannot allow the struggle against ISIS, Al Qaeda and other similar movements to devolve into or in any way legitimize Islamophobia.

It is time for Americans of every background to reject intolerance, and to come together and to cherish diversity, tolerance, and mutual respect as members of one community.

JLC, other Activists, back Brookline, MA teachers

[article in The Jewish Advocate by Brett M. Rhyne]

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Teachers, parents and Jewish activists at Brookline School Committeemeeting on June 1st. Photo by Brett M. Rhyne

June 10, 2016: Brookline, MA - The Brookline School Committee faced tough comments from a roomful of frustrated and angry teachers, parents and Jewish activists at its June 1 meeting.

At issue was the status of the town’s teachers, paraprofessionals and other members of the Brookline Educators Union, who have been working without a contract since September 2015.

Shelly Stevens, a speech pathologist at Brookline High School and a past president of Temple Hillel B’nai Torah in West Roxbury, said she is “disheartened” by the stalemated negotiations between the town and the union.

“Negotiations have been very challenging,” said the 28- year veteran of Brookline schools. “The school committee is completely ignoring what is at the core of being an educator. As teachers, we shouldn’t have our time taken up with data entry – we should have more time with the kids, and to prepare our lessons.”

Continue reading this article here
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Molly Schulman of the Jewish Labor Committee at June 1st Brookline School Committee meeting. Photo by Brett M. Rhyne

JLC Supports RWDSU Local 1-S Macy's Workers in their Battle for a Fair Contract

(l-r Arieh Lebowitz, Associate Director, and Brittney Willis, Intern)

June 2nd, 2016, New York, NY: Blazing heat couldn’t stop them. Over 1,000 members and supporters of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union attended a demonstration outside of Macy’s flagship store on West 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan. And the Jewish Labor Committee was on the street with them. The local is currently working on securing a fair contract for 5,000 workers at Macy’s four NYC-area stores in Manhattan, Queens, Parkchester and White Plains.

Local 1-S’s supporters included people from RWDSU Local 3, RWDSU Local 108, RWDSU Local 262, RWDSU Local 338, RWDSU Local 1102, UFCW Local 1500, the Communications Workers of America, the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York, the New York City Central Labor Council, Make The Road New York, New York Communities for Change, and The Black Institute. RWDSU representatives came from as far as Alabama and Massachusetts in solidarity with their brothers and sisters working for Macy’s. A range of politicians showed support for Macy’s workers as contract negotiations continue. Speaking at the demonstration were U.S. Congress members Jerrold Nadler and Grace Meng; NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, NYC City Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito (Speaker); Ben Kallos and Mark Levine. Others who were represented by their staff included NY State Senators Liz Krueger, James Sanders, Jr., and Brad Hoylman; NY State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, and U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and NY City Council member Inez Dickens.

“The workers rallying today have always been the real magic of Macy’s. The talented employees of the iconic Macy’s flagship store at Herald Square and other stores know how valuable they are to the company’s brand and profitability. Investing in the strength and quality of its workforce will help Macy’s attract more shoppers and regain a competitive advantage over online retailers like Amazon. We stand with Macy’s workers in their fight for a fair contract and support their decision to go on strike if the company does not negotiate in good faith,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum.

Continue reading "JLC Supports RWDSU Local 1-S Macy's Workers in their Battle for a Fair Contract" »

The International Refugee Crisis: Experts Examine the Challenge at Washington DC Forum


(L-R: Randi Weingarten, AFT and ASI President; Herb Magidson, Past JLC President; Shelly Pitterman, UNHCR Regional Representative; Mark Hetfield, HIAS President and CEO; Jennifer Podkul, KIND Director of Policy) Photo Courtesy of Mary Cathryn Ricker, AFT Executive Vice President

May 18, 2016: Washington DC - The Jewish Labor Committee and the Albert Shanker Institute hosted a valuable and timely panel discussion on the international refugee crisis and what can be done to alleviate the situation confronting the refugees, as well as the countries in which they are trying to get to and the agencies attempting to help them. A short, moving video showing refugees from around the world began the forum and framed the discussion. Herb Magidson, past JLC president and member of its executive board, introduced the forum by noting that there has always been nativist and isolationist tendencies in the United States, but this is the first time in our history when a nominee of one of our two major political parties is espousing these views.

Shelly Pitterman, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' regional representative for the United States and the Caribbean, noted that the number of displaced persons worldwide is the largest since World War II and is rising, that the first thing to remember is that these are children and their parents and that they are victims, but that the resources pledged to help them is lagging badly. Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS (known earlier as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), pointed out that the Refugee Convention is now considered international law, but it only means that the first country a refugee reaches cannot turn one away, which is significant as many refugees are struggling to get to another destination after escaping their country of origin.

Photo Courtesy of Arieh Lebowitz, JLC Associate Director

Continue reading "The International Refugee Crisis: Experts Examine the Challenge at Washington DC Forum" »

With Striking Verizon Workers in Boston


May 18, 2016: Boston, MA - Ed Goldstein and Sam Schwartz joined New England JLC Regional Director Marya Axner in picketing with Verizon workers in downtown Boston. Marya notes: "The workers are so appreciative of us being there. I enjoy the time I spend walking with people and hearing their stories."

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Syrian refugees at the Germany Macedonia Border photo credit from Wikipedia creative commons

Guided by our own history as refugees as well as our shared biblical and prophetic mandate to protect and welcome the stranger, the American Jewish community has always been a stakeholder in refugee resettlement and protection, both in the U.S. and in other countries ― offering new beginnings, including helping to welcome more than three million refugees who have arrived in the U.S. for resettlement since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980.

Our most recent issue paper, The Syrian Refugee Crisis, is online - for a printable copy, just click here.

The International Refugee Crisis


A Panel Discussion

Co-sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute & the Jewish Labor Committee
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
555 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001

Around the globe, the refugee crisis has become more dire. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes to find a safe haven only to be denied entry and basic human needs. The United Nations has called this the worst migration crisis since World War II. We cannot remain silent in the face of such a catastrophe.

On May 18th, join the Jewish Labor Committee and the Albert Shanker Institute at a panel discussing the current crisis and the historical parallels with the anti-refugee sentiments and policies in the World War II era.

Speakers include Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, HIAS; Shelly Pitterman, United National High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Representative for the U.S. and the Caribbean; and Jay Winik, historian and author of 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History.

Stuart Appelbaum, President, Jewish Labor Committee and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW, and Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers, and Albert Shanker Institute will host this event.

Register here: http://www.shankerinstitute.org/event/internationalrefugeecrisis
Join us for a reception following the panel.

Labor Seders Across the Country

New England Jewish Labor Committee's 2016 Labor Seder Photo by Michael Massey

April 20, 2016 - 3,500 years ago, the Hebrew slaves gained their freedom from bondage in ancient Egypt. Their liberation has been celebrated for over two millennia with the holiday of Passover. The Jewish Labor Committee celebrates Passover with our own unique flair: our annual Labor Seders! These not only serve to celebrate Passover, but to also bring together local leaders of the labor movement and their counterparts in the organized Jewish community to “break matza,” explore the story of the ancient Israelites from captivity to freedom, and relate that to today’s efforts to secure dignity and security for working men and women, their families and communities. This year, JLC has organized, sponsored or assisted labor seders in Boston, MA, West Orange, NJ, New York, NY, Washington, DC, Madison, WI, and Philadelphia, PA.

This year’s New England JLC Labor Seder had a great turnout, with over 200 attendees in Boston, held at the headquarters of IBEW Local 103. For this year's seder, the NE JLC again produced a new local version of the classic JLC Haggadah. During the ceremony, each of the four cups of wine honored past and current struggles in the Jewish community and the labor movement, including the Fight for $15 and social, criminal, and economic justice, paid sick-leave, paid family leave, and regular work schedules. At this year’s New England Labor Seder, Attorney General Maura Healey received the Clara Lemich Shavelson Award for her work in support of earned sick time and the statewide Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Rabbis David Lerner and Victor Reinstein both received Abraham Joshua Heschel Awards for Rabbinic Justice and Leadership; both have played significant roles in the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis as it goes on record in support of working men and women.

Continue reading "Labor Seders Across the Country" »

Jewish Labor Committee Supports Verizon Workers

April 15, 2016: New York, NY – Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, just issued the following statement:

The Jewish Labor Committee stands with the 36,000 Verizon workers – members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – who are on strike across the country after months of working without a contract. Despite earning $39 billion over the last three years and $1.8 billion in profits each month this year, Verizon is proposing to contract out more customer service and sales calls to centers in lower-cost places, and insist that technicians leave their families for two or more months at a time.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam made $18 million last year alone. That’s more than 200 times what the average Verizon worker makes. At a time when the middle class is being gutted, Verizon refuses to negotiate in good faith to ensure that its workers can preserve their good jobs. These workers deserve better.

JLC Western Region Speaks Out at Hindenburg Park Sign Debate

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Photo by Ryan Torok, of the Jewish Journal.

April 7, 2016: Los Angeles, CA - Leslie Gersicoff, Executive Director of the Jewish Labor Committee Western Region, spoke in opposition to the Hindenburg Park sign at a public meeting on April 7th.

At issue was a recently installed sign at a Los Angeles County park where Nazi supporters once rallied. The 6-foot-high sign, reading “Welcome to Hindenburg Park,” was installed at the entrance of Crescenta Valley Community Regional Park in February. Although a historical plaque previously installed inside of the park explains the site’s historical ties to the German-American community, nothing mentions the pro-Nazi rallies organized by the German American Bund that were held there during the 1930s and 1940s.

For more information, see "Hindenburg Park sign debated at meeting."

Challenging Racial and Economic Injustice


April 14, 2016: Brooklyn, NY - What does the death of Akai Gurley have to do with the Fight for $15 and poor communities? These all relate more than you think. In April, the “Fight for 15” campaign’s global day of action in New York City focused not only on raising the federal minimum wage and gaining the right to unionize, but also on racial injustice brought on by poverty – and poverty wages – and the larger issues of racial inequality and racial injustice in the United States. The case of Akai Gurley, and his death, the focus of a mid-day rally in Brooklyn, is a notable example.

In November 2014, Akai Gurley was fatally shot by police officer Peter Liang, who was patrolling a dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project. Liang was convicted in February 2016 of manslaughter and official misconduct for firing the shot that ricocheted off a wall and struck Gurley, standing a floor below, in the heart.

The morning of the day of the demonstration, Liang stood trial for manslaughter and sentencing on whether or not he would receive jail time. The Jewish Labor Committee, along with the New York City Central Labor Council, Justice for Akai Gurley, and Black Lives Matter came out to support the family of Akai Gurley, connecting this call for justice with the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 / per hour, and the right to unionize.

Continue reading "Challenging Racial and Economic Injustice" »

With Support from JLC Western Region, AFM Local 47 Signs New Agreement Reached With Amazon’s ‘Transparent’


JLC Western Region Executive Director Leslie Gersicoff joined AFM Local 47 musicians and union officials March 29th for an early morning leafleting outside a “Transparent” desert location shoot in Pearblossom, CA. Less than two weeks later, the show producers signed on to cover musicians under an AFM contract less than two weeks later. Photo by AFM Local 47 Communications Director Linda A. Rapka

April 11, 2016: Los Angeles, CA - “Transparent” is an Amazon show produced by Picrow. For some time, AFM 47 musicians, union officials, and their supporters in the larger community were calling for Picrow to treat musicians fairly, specifically, asking Picrow to treat them the same as it treats the other working people on the show. Before today's announcement that the agreement had been reached, while the actors, writers, directors and crew received union wages, benefits and protections, musicians were not covered by a labor contract.

Continue reading "With Support from JLC Western Region, AFM Local 47 Signs New Agreement Reached With Amazon’s ‘Transparent’" »

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire And Its Relevance 105 Years Later


105 Year Later, We Will Not Forget!
(l-r Arieh Lebowitz, Associate Director, and Brittney Willis, Intern. Photograph by Avia Moore.)

March 23, 2016: New York, NY – One hundred and five years ago, March 25th, 1911, was a tragic day in New York City. 146 women and girls, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants, perished from a fire that spread on the floor where they worked making shirtwaists, ladies’ blouses. On the 8th, 9th, and 10th floor of a building between Washington Place and Greene Street, just east of Washington Square Park, these poor souls could not escape the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory workplace: the locks on the door that were originally placed to protect minor property loss lead to a horrific loss of lives. Not long after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the United Hebrew Trades of New York, the Ladies Waist and Dressmakers Union Local 25 of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, the ILGWU as a whole and others held a funeral procession (see above) to mourn the loss of the garment workers’ lives.

105 years later, the United Hebrew Trades, now the New York Division of the Jewish Labor Committee, still commemorates not only the loss of workers’ lives on the job, but the need to protect the safety of workers, and their right to join a union. On March 23rd, 2016 the Jewish Labor Committee joined with others to again commemorate the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (picture below). The deaths of these garment workers were not totally in vain: as a result of this tragedy, more than 36 laws were passed for improved fire and safety laws, as well as child labor laws.

Continue reading "Triangle Shirtwaist Fire And Its Relevance 105 Years Later" »

Celebrating Bessie Abramowitz Hillman


March 22, 2016 - This Women’s History Month, the Jewish Labor Committee and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs are celebrating the life and achievements of a woman who made great contributions to both workers’ rights and civil rights, Bessie Abramowitz. She was a fighter for worker’s rights the moment she started working her first factory job in the garment industry, back in the early 1900s.

Bas Sheva Abramowitz was born May 15th, 1887 in a small village, Linoveh, near the Grodno, a city in Russia. She grew up in a family of 10 children and spoke only Yiddish and Russian. At the age of eighteen, she made the decision to emigrate with an older cousin to the United States to avoid the fate of many her age, arranged marriage. And so, in 1905, she moved to the United States, and lived in Chicago, in a boardinghouse owned by distant relatives. Her first job was sewing buttons at a Hart, Shaffner, and Marx garment factory. During the day she worked and at night she was enrolled in the Hull House night school; she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1913.

Abramowitz’s first job did not last long: in 1908, shortly after she organized a shop committee to protest working conditions and pay of three dollars for a sixty-hour week, she was fired. This incident led her to be blacklisted as a labor agitator. She eventually again found work at Hart, Shaffner, and Marx using a pseudonym. But being blacklisted would not stop her on her quest for decent working conditions and better pay.

Continue reading "Celebrating Bessie Abramowitz Hillman" »

Celebrating Rose Schneiderman


March 18, 2016 - In honor of Women’s History Month the Jewish Labor Committee and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs celebrate a great unsung contributor to both women’s and workers’ rights, Rose Schneiderman, a dedicated activist who spent her life fighting for things many of us too often take for granted, such as the eight hour work day, a federal minimum wage, workplace safety, and more.

Rachel Rose Schneiderman started from humble background. She was born on April 6, 1882, as the first of four children of a religious Jewish family in Savin, Poland. She immigrated to America with her family when she was a young girl. Shortly after her father passed away, she was forced to stop attending school when she was nine years old in order to take care of her brothers. When poverty forced her mother to place her siblings into an orphanage, she was able to return to school for a brief period until her mother lost her night job as a seamstress. Rose had to drop out of school at thirteen years of age to work as a retail salesgirl. She never got the chance to complete a formal education, but that didn’t stop her from self educating and becoming an avid reader.

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Today's JLC's 82nd anniversary

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February 25, 2016: New York, NY - Today's our 82nd anniversary - the Jewish Labor Committee was founded on this day, Feb. 25th, 1934, on Manhattan's Lower East Side, to provide a presence for the Jewish community, specifically the activists of the mostly Yiddish-speaking, mostly immigrant Jewish labor movement, in the councils of the American labor movement and in the larger mainstream Jewish community "establishment," and to mobilize labor in the struggle against the rising threat of Nazism in Germany, and, more generally, the rise of fascism in Europe.

Its founding meeting, at Central Plaza on Second Avenue, brought together more than a thousand delegates representing the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, United Hebrew Trades, Workmen's Circle, Jewish Daily Forward Association, and a number of smaller groups. Baruch Charney Vladeck, general manager of the Forward, was chosen president; David Dubinsky of the ILGWU, treasurer; Joseph Baskin of the Workmen's Circle, secretary; and Benjamin Gebiner, also of the Workmen's Circle, executive secretary. Holding that only a broad-based workers' movement could overthrow Hitlerism, the JLC emphasized its labor orientation and nonsectarian philosophy. Its aims were to support Jewish rights everywhere, support all progressive and democratic anti-fascist groups, aid refugees, and educate the American labor movement (and the general public) about the Nazi threat.

Back in 1985, some 850 boxes of historical records of the JLC were deposited at the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, part of the Tamiment Library at New York University. This vast collection contained more than three million pages of documentation and ten thousand photographs, posters, and graphics, recording the work of the Committee from its founding in 1934 through the early 1980s.

Continue reading "Today's JLC's 82nd anniversary" »

"How to Become a Labor Lawyer"

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Bruce Gitlin and Bennet Zurofsky speak with students at Rutgers Newark Photo by Arieh Lebowitz

February 24, 2016: Newark, NJ - Students at Rutgers School of Law-Newark heard from two labor and employment law attorneys at the third of an ongoing series of campus-based programs bringing together Jewish and non-Jewish law students and labor lawyers. These discussions are designed to expose law students to the field of labor-side law and work as lawyers in defense of workers' rights. The spirited discussion was cosponsored by the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC), Rutgers Newark's Jewish Law Student Association (JLSA), and Rutgers Newark's Labor and Employment Law Society (LELS). This is the third such program cosponsored by the Jewish Labor Committee: in January, law students met with four attorneys at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark, New Jersey at an event sponsored with the Seton Hall Law School's JLSA and the school's Employment Law Forum; last December, law students met in Manhattan at New York University's Law School with two labor attorneys at a program cosponsored by NYU Law School's JLSA and Law Students for Economic Justice (LSEJ). The Jewish Labor Committee is working on expanding this program to other law schools across the United States.

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From a graphic by Brittney Willis

MLK, Jr., JLC and Marching for Workers' Rights

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(l-r: Marya Axner, Regional DIrector, New England Jewish Labor Committee; Lily Sieradzki, Program DIrector, NE JLC; Aliza Levine, board member, NE JLC; Members of Mass Interfaith Worker Justice, including Paul Drake) Photo courtesy Marya Axner

January 18, 2016: Boston, MA and New York, NY – Honoring the commitment of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to working men and women struggling for better conditions at the workplace and a measure of dignity and justice, the Jewish Labor Committee continues in 2016 - no matter what the weather is outside.

Snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures didn’t stop our passion for economic justice during this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

In Boston [above], the New England Jewish Labor Committee marched with Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice to support airport workers at Boston Logan International Airport. They’ve been on strike since November, trying to secure better wages, health insurance, the right to unionize, job stability, and full-time work weeks.

In New York [below] on the same day, the JLC joined with hundreds of others in Harlem, and marched from 145th Street down to 125th Street with 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East, the National Action Network, RWDSU, the Workmen's Circle, the West End Synagogue, T'ruah, Habonim Dror North America, Fast Food Forward and others in support of raising the New York State minimum wage to $15 an hour. A small klezmer band, part of the Workmen’s Circle-organized Jewish Contingent, warmed things up as people were waiting in the freezing windy street for the march to start; they accompanied us from one end of the demo to the other. Together, we stood shoulder to shoulder with low-wage workers, fighting to make Dr. King’s dream of economic equality a reality.

(JLC placards held by l-r: Tara Bognar; Brittney Willis, JLC intern; Arieh Lebowitz, Associate Director, JLC) Photo courtesy The Workmen's Circle, by Avia Moore

JLC: in Support of Fair Share Fees in Public Sector Jobs

January 14, 2016: New York , NY – Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee’ issued the following statement earlier today:

The right to form and join unions in both the public and private sectors has been and is still critically important to working men and women in the United States as well as to our democratic way of life. Unions provide a voice for workers in the economic and political spheres. They help build and sustain a strong middle class, mitigate income inequality, which, if it grows too wide, can destabilize our society. That right, now under threat, is essential to a fair and equitable workplace.

Public sector unions, of teachers, firefighters, social workers, police and other jobs, work to help ensure that these public employees have decent pay, fair working conditions, and a range of benefits -- whether or not they are a part of the union that negotiates on their behalf -- something the union is legally obligated to do. All who labor in workplaces where there is a union representing the workers benefit from the union’s representation - and should therefore pay a fair share fee, representing the union’s work on their behalf. Otherwise, they are getting a free ride, reaping the benefits that others pay for.

In the 1977 case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court clearly ruled that it is constitutional for public sector unions to collect fair share fees from those employees who chose not to join a union but are still legally required to be represented by that union. The fee is only for costs involved in negotiating for bread and butter issues, not political activities. The most recent case before the court, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, threatens to change that 1977 ruling, eliminating fair share fees; this will lead to the deterioration of public sector unions.

Overturning Abood v. Detroit Board of Education will go far beyond public school teachers in California , affecting all public employees throughout the country. Without the fair share fee, unions will have fewer resources to handle negotiations and grievances, and adversely affect all of the workers in the places that the unions have members. It may also impede state and local governments’ ability to recruit and hold onto highly skilled employees: if public sector workers earn less, and have more precarious work situations, than their private sector counterparts, more will be inclined to work in the private sector.

Stating the obvious, union membership would shrink because more people will attempt to gain the benefits of the work of unions without paying for their fair share of the cost of securing those services.

The Jewish Labor Committee stands with public sector unions, and the decision of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. We are firmly opposed to this most recent attack on workers' rights and unions. Those behind the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case are the most recent manifestation of an ongoing multifaceted campaign to tear down not just fair share fees in California public schools, but more generally to reverse over a century’s worth of the hard-won gains of workers in the United States to have strong unions defending their interests, in the public as well as the private sectors of our society.

Confronting Poverty: Affordable High-Quality Early Childhood Care and Education


Our most recent issue paper, Confronting Poverty: Affordable High-Quality Early Childhood Care and Education for Ages Zero Through Five, is online - for a printable copy, just click here.

Recently added to the Website