Interfaith Worker Justice to Close
We are saddened to announce that the IWJ national organization has decided to close down permanently. All faiths believe in justice. And the role of faith and faith leaders has never been more important to the struggle for justice than it is today. Contact the CIWC today to help us explore ways to keep the fight for workers alive in our local faith communities.
Cincinnati Language Services Cooperative Is Seeking New Members
Cincinnati Language Services Cooperative was founded as a project of the CIWC to provide high quality translation and interpretation services for legal, civil rights, labor, business, and religious organizations – at a fair, living wage for language justice workers. Contact the co-op at 513-621-1250 or email@example.com for your language service needs.
Unite for Justice – The New Committee on Political Education
Throughout the pandemic the CIWC led an amazing series of online book discussions. Over 100 readers have participated. Books discussed include: There is Power in a Union: the Epic Story of Labor in America (Dray); Hammer and Hoe: The Alabama Communist Party During the Great Depression (Kelley). Upcoming books include: Left Behind: The Democrats Failed Attempt to Solve Inequality (Geismer), I Rigoberta Menchu – an Indigenous Woman in Guatemala. This online book club called Unite for Justice is becoming a new committee on political education. The Committee’s agenda is simple: political education for all working people. Book discussions and committee meetings are conducted in English and Spanish.
We want to thank new board members for agreeing to serve as leaders here: Abraham Gadji, Nora Hernandez, Jaime Lutes, Marjorie Aaron, Randy Freking. We also want to recognize the life and spirit of Elia Gomez, who passed from COVID-19 while visiting with her mother in Honduras. Here she is “the boss” loving life at the AFL-CIO Coney Island picnic with some guy named Bill.
Drivers’ License Campaign
As of April 2022, 16 states provide universal access to driver’s licenses, including for undocumented workers. Ohio isn’t one of them. CIWC has been working to identify a network of immigrant leaders and organizations in our region and across Ohio who are prepared to take up a campaign for transportation justice. If that sounds like you or someone you know, contact CIWC today to get active on this campaign. As Manuel Pérez says, “it may be a five or even ten year journey, but we will never get there if we don’t get started today.
Hamilton County Establishes Due Process for Immigrant Workers
In 2021 the new Sheriff of Hamilton County signed a fully revised Foreign Nationals policy. In a victory for workers Hamilton County this policy prohibits ICE without a judicial warrant. It also recognizes the MARCC Identification card for all law enforcement purposes. The CIWC fought for six years for these changes. Learn more about how you and your co-workers can use these new rights for self-protection. Contact the CIWC for a community training session.
Human Rights Ambassadors
In 2020 Miguel Amezcua Peregrina, a Mexican engineer working in Ohio was fired unjustly. Miguel stood up for himself and fought against a deceptive and international recruitment ring that lied to and cheated other Mexican workers here in Ohio. Miguel’s employer used a “lawful” visa process to do so. The immigration and visa process is broken. Many employers take this broken system and use it to beat down working people and their unions. CIWC knows that we need immigration reform now. We also know that some employers will exploit any system, even one that’s reformed. CIWC has a new plan to fight back: Human Rights Ambassadors. Workers who help labor unions and labor agencies enforce international human rights standards should have access to Human Rights Ambassador status, receiving expedited work authorization from the Attorney General of the U.S. This is the only way to deter abuses is to create solidarity across borders. The only way to foster that solidarity is by encouraging workers who come forward to work as Human Rights Ambassadors without fear of deportation.
Throughout 2021 Personal Protective Equipment or PPE became a household word as COVID-19 continued to spread. Your CIWC stepped up – distributing 20,000 free, high-quality masks in addition to its existing food distribution and infectious disease training program that’s reaching hundreds of immigrant and refugee families each week in Springdale, Westwood, and throughout the urban core.
Workers Rights Project clients and law student fellows: Mallory Perazzo, Kim Crew and Kate Clemmons, Ethan Schuh
Beginning in 2021 the CIWC added a legal services clinic to its operation by partnering with the Worker Rights Project, founded by Randy Freking and Paul Tobias. Now housed within the CIWC the Worker Rights Project is a non-profit legal services organization specializing in low wage workers’ claims. The Worker Rights Project employs a team of law clerks and contract attorneys to litigate cases for workers at no cost to the worker. Currently the Project is representing nine women in state and federal courts: the Southern District of Ohio (Title VII and FMLA), Hamilton County Small Claims Division (wage theft, breach of contract, theft of tips), and Municipal Court (wage theft). If your claims are just, you will get your day in court. If local employers want to “nickel and dime” you, then you can fight for every nickel and contest every dime with the legal team at the Worker Rights Project.
Congratulations to Cincinnati’s own Jorge Lopez for receiving fellowship award from the Food Chain Workers Alliance. Jorge’s fellowship supports his effort to collect stories of injured workers. Jorge is listening to injured workers, especially workers at local food processing plants in the industrial belt around the northern tip of I-275 where he lives and works. Jorge will be sharing these stories with the community to educate workers about their rights to safety and to care when they get hurt on the job. If you or a co-worker has been injured, share your story with Jorge by calling the CIWC or contacting him on social media @cablecitotv on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
CIWC’s campaign for workplace safety – Seguridad para todos ahora – provides education and advice on safety in the workplace for Spanish and English speakers. This program produces OSHA certifications for hundreds of local workers who then help avoid workplace injuries and create a network of worker-to-worker support in the Latino/a community. Aid to injured workers by CIWC trainees and members is a critical feature of that support network. Ohio’s constitution guarantees injured workers the right to insured medical care and lost wage payments under the Workers’ Compensation system. Our members spread the word in the community that all workers including immigrant workers are entitled to Workers Comp. Often a call to the CIWC is enough to help workers get paid and cared for – but sometimes the boss will fight the worker’s claim. Over the years, dozens of injured workers have found legal support to fight back and enforce these claims by calling the CIWC hotline (513-621-5991). Since we started actively tracking these calls in 2020, CIWC has worked with legal partners like George Moeller and Timothy Byland to help seven workers recover $112,600 in lost wages and medical care.
Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh came to the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center to hear from workers about what is really happening here. CIWC leaders gathered at the table with him to share their stories.
Gandhi Merida a construction worker, restaurant cook, and small business owner talked about the many sacrifices he has made to help his family. He worked as a Rod Buster for R&R Steel in Cincinnati, a workplace that was a hotbed of safety violations, racism, and wage theft. Together with several co-workers, he went on strike to oppose these conditions. Working with the Iron Workers Union and the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, they blew the whistle and filed successful wage theft and OSHA charges with various Department of Labor enforcement agencies. The Secretary thanked Gandhi personally for his bravery.
Diane Uduebor, a life-long legal secretary, organized the “Staff Committee for Racial Justice” at her law firm. Diane’s committee won across-the-board wage increases for support staff and an independent racial equity audit. Diane told Walsh that she was thankful for the support and that she was not done fighting. She is working now to unionize her law firm.
Rossangela Raxon, a member of the CIWC Board of Directors and a Guatemalan immigrant living in Northern Kentucky for 17 years told Secretary Walsh: “I know that the Latino community is very, very exploited labor because a lot of the times companies will know about the immigration status of the worker and they will take advantage of that,” she said. “And on top of that, one of the risks women — a lot of us immigrant women — faced in the workplace is sexual assault and sexual harassment. So many of us — because we need the work, we need to continue working — are unable to leave the situation … and have to stay silent in the face of sexual harassment and assault on the job.”
Responding Walsh said: “I want you to know that you’re not alone in this, I want to thank you for your courage, and I want you to know that the more people that step up and tell the D.O.L. about the injustices that are happening to them on the job sites, the stronger we’ll all be. (…) You’re laying down a foundation for the future workers.” When asked about immigration reform, Walsh closed with an important message “America needs a stronger union movement and we can’t organize immigrant workers without immigration reform.”
Secretary Walsh, the former Mayor of Boston was member and leader at the Laborers’ Union aka LIUNA. CIWC thanks Justin Phillips and Nikki Crenshaw of LIUNA Local 265 in Cincinnati for helping welcome the Secretary.