Tuesday, January 29, 2013

First Annual Meeting of IWJ-Kansas at Newman University

After months of careful planning and organizing, Interfaith Worker Justice of Kansas, a new chapter of the national Interfaith Worker Justice organization, held its first annual meeting on January 12, 2013 at Newman University. The 25 attendees at the meeting included leaders from labor groups, churches, immigrant-rights organizations, and educational institutions in Kansas and Oklahoma, all of whom embraced the IWJ core mission to “mobilize people of faith and work advocates in support of economic justice and worker rights and the local, state, and national levels.”

Reverend Michael Livingston 
The meeting was held under the direction of Rev. David Hansen, Ph.D. the Director of IWJ Wichita, who addressed participants at the beginning of the meeting and introduced the keynote speaker, Rev. Michael Livingston, a national leader in the Interfaith Worker Justice Policy Department. In his address, Reverend Livingston highlighted the challenges that labor advocates face by turning a spotlight on New Labor, an IWJ affiliate organization that is creating worker’s centers in New York and New Jersey.

The New Labor Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Livingston reported, “is 2000 warehouse workers, mostly Latino and Haitian, who work for Wal-Mart but don’t work for Wal-Mart. . . . They are hired by temporary agencies as contract workers, but all they do is load and deliver and unload goods for Wal-Mart. Low pay, no health care benefits, unsafe working conditions, irregular hours, no paid sick days, no vacation time, no overtime, wages stolen, and don’t even think about trying to organize.”

Rev. Tim Lytle with Sister Mary Ellen Loch, CSJ    
The New Labor Center, he concluded, “is a lifeline for these workers, they are pulling themselves in from deep waters. Finding their voices, and standing up for themselves.” Reverend Livingston continued to lay out the IWJ legislative agenda, which includes comprehensive immigration reform, minimum-wage increases, and wage-theft regulation. On the local and the national level, IWJ chapters can help to move this agenda forward by bringing members of faith communities together with other community resources to support the rights and the dignity of labor.

Rev. Lytle with Sister JoAnn Mark, ASC          
Following Reverend Livingston’s address, IWJK board member, Rev. Tim Lytle of Unity Church, Wichita, presented  awards honoring the International Aerospace and Machinists Workers, Local 639 for their support of worker’s rights and to two orders of Catholic Sisters—The Adorers of the Blood of Christ and the Sisters of Saint Joseph—for their work with immigrant workers in the Wichita Community.

Meeting participants also heard an address from Ms. Sulma Arias, the Executive Director of Sunflower Community Action. Arias explained the connection between her own church-building experience and her current work for worker and immigrant justice, and she outlined the Sunflower Center’s vision for a Worker’s Center to assist immigrant workers in the Wichita area.

Ms. Sulma Arias, Executive Director of Sunflower  
Community Action, Wichita
“It’s a huge task,” Arias acknowledged, “If we are going to build it and make it a place where we can have conversations about how we are going to create strategies that will win rights for workers, we will have to look at the challenges from the eyes of immigrants through the eyes of labor, activists—it’s going to take all of us, because each one of us brings to the work an experience that is needed to make it happen.”

The meeting ended with the words of two local ministers, Lytle, who looked at the road ahead for IWJ-Kansas, and Rev. Charles Claycomb, University Methodist Church, who offered the Benediction. 

After the meeting, Rev. Hansen articulated his satisfaction with the results. “Our first annual gathering prepared the way for our next celebration on April 4 when we will bring members of the faith community and labor together to honor the life and ministry of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who, as we remember, was killed in Memphis as he stood in solidarity with the sanitation workers who were fighting for worker justice. This celebration will be held at University United Methodist Church at 7:00 PM. It is time to build a new coalition for hope and justice. It will take all of us, but we can do it.”

Participants in the first annual meeting of Interstate Workers Justice of Kansas

HB 2023 Needs You Now

Governor Sam Brownback and his conservative GOP legislators are stepping up their attacks on Kansas teachers - using teachers' paychecks for partisan political gain.

This week, the legislature will be voting on a measure, HB 2023, that will stop public employees, including all public teachers, from having control over their own paychecks. Instead, Brownback and his GOP allies want to dictate how public employees spend their own wages by stopping employees from directing funds to professional organizations.

We have seen this before in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana. The Kansas GOP's goal is to silence teachers so they can more easily undercut school funding and teachers' wages.
But don't take our word for it - listen to what supporters of this government interference have to say. Eric Stafford, senior director of government affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, told the committee, “I need this bill passed so we can get rid of public sector unions.”

And Republican Rep. Peggy Mast even went so far as to call unionized teachers "bullies". It's not enough that the GOP has cut education funding for Kansas kids - they're now personally going after public educators.

It's clear - Kansas teachers and all public employees are under attack and we must act now! Contact your state representative and tell them you support workers' rights!

You can find your elected officials by entering your home address here. Call and e-mail the people elected to represent Kansans and tell them to keep the state out of Kansans' paychecks.
Thank you!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Reflecting Back, Looking Forward

Reflecting on 2012, we give prayerful thought to the 12.2 million Americans who found themselves without a job at the year’s end. As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. While we are encouraged by the steady growth experienced over the past year, we remain particularly concerned for those individuals often left on the margins of the economic recovery. We also recognize that budgetary and deficit reduction decisions soon to be made by Congress may either enhance or repress this growth.

We began the year with a jobless rate of 8.3%, and ended the year with a decreased rate of 7.8%. The average unemployment rate for 2012 was 8.1%. Still, we continue to be deeply concerned about the long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), of which there were 4.8 million last month alone— 39.1% of the unemployed population. We were encouraged in December to see that Congress extended unemployment insurance through the end of the year, since this program is such a vital resource for the millions of people who are experiencing long-term unemployment.

Among specific worker groups the average unemployment rate in 2012 for adult men was 7.5%, adult women 7.4%, whites 7.2%, blacks 13.8%, Hispanics 10.3%, and Asians 6.0%. Charts with a month-by-month analysis of unemployment among specific worker groups can be found at the end of this statement.

Click here to read the full statement.

Congressional Update: Thank You! Thank You!

Because of your efforts and the effort of thousands of other Americans, two million long-term unemployed workers will not face an abrupt cut-off of all jobless aid and millions more workers who will run out of state unemployment insurance during the year can seek assistance. Congress, as part of the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ deal that rushed through Washington over New Year’s weekend, approved an extension the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program through 2013.  

We commend the President and congressional leaders, especially Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Sander Levin (D-MI) for their tireless efforts on behalf of the EUC program and the families so dependent on it. Without their prodding, insistence, and leadership, hardworking people who have fallen on difficult times would have gotten lost in the flurry and bluster of legislative activity.

Now we urge the new Congress to focus on putting all Americans back to work. While it’s all well and good that they preserved an essential safeguard against poverty and an important gateway to re-employment, we still need access to good jobs. Creating good jobs—with good wages and good benefits—is the only way to restore our economy and America’s failing middle class.

Thanks again to all who stood up for decent benefits for jobless workers.

Reverend Michael Livingston
Policy Director
Interfaith Worker Justice

Monday, January 7, 2013


Monday, January 14, 2013, 12:30 p.m.
East Steps, State Capitol, 300 Southwest 10th Avenue, Topeka, KS

Come to the state capitol for the opening session of the Kansas legislature.
Let your voice and concerns be heard about the “state” of our state.
At the rally, speakers representing a rainbow of working people’s organizations, will speak.
Bring banners and signs!

Education! Social Services! Healthcare! Labor! Women! Veterans! LGBTQ! Immigrant Rights!

Sponsored by MoveOn of Johnson County Kansas.  

For fliers and all  inquiries: Al Frisby, afrisbyii@kc.rr.com / 913-206-5354 or Jan Swartzendruber, janinkansas@cox.net.

Link to IWJ Kansas Facebook Page


Friday, January 4, 2013

Annual Meeting January 12, 2013

Annual Meeting
Saturday, January 12, 2013
8:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Dugan-Gorges Conference Center
Newman University
3100 W. McCormick Street
Public Invited
Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas is a partnership of faith communities, labor, business, community organizations, and community leaders working together to build a better future for all.
Our keynote speaker, the Reverend Michael Livingston, is a national leader in Interfaith Worker Justice’s Policy Department and a strong interfaith voice on national worker justice issues.Livingston is the former Director of the Poverty Initiative of the National Council of Churches and former Executive Director of the International Council of Community Churches. In Nov. 2010, the Rev. Livingston met with President Obama as a member of a delegation of heads of member denominations of the National Council of Churches for the 100th anniversary of the ecumenical movement to discuss a variety of issues. The Rev. Livingston is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles and received his Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Proposed Agenda
8:30  Gathering, coffee, rolls and fellowship
8:50  Welcoming by Dr. Michael Austin, Provost, Newman University
9:00   Introducing Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas, Rev. Dr. David Hansen, President/Organizer
9:15  Giving a national perspective, Rev. Michael Livingston
9:45   Honoring International Aerospace and Machinists Workers, Local 639
10:00 Honoring Sisters of St. Joseph and Adorers of the Precious Blood Sisters
10:15 Updating Kansas legislative 2013 agenda, Mr. Jake Lowen, Political Action Officer,
AFL-CIO   Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation
10:30 Introducing Sunflower Worker Center, Ms. Sulma Arias, Executive Director, Sunflower Community Action
10:45 Looking at the road ahead, Rev. Tim Lytle, Unity Church, Wichita
10:55 Benediction, Rev. Charles Claycomb, University United Methodist Church