Jewish Communal Statement Denouncing White Supremacy

October 7, 2020 - The Jewish Labor Committee joins with more than two dozen Jewish communal organizations in the joint statement, below, urging U.S. political leaders and Americans more generally to clearly and forcefully denounce domestic extremists.


White supremacy is a public safety emergency, a threat to American democracy and a global crisis. When white supremacists are encouraged by our own administration on the national debate stage, the security of the 2020 U.S. election is at stake as are the lives and safety of those routinely targeted by those groups. And the problematic impact of white supremacy in America exists both on the ground and online. Social media companies allow white supremacist groups to grow their membership. Algorithms and engagement metrics augment their voices. Troll storms torment their victims. Platforms are a mechanism for white supremacists to plan their attacks and even broadcast their violence.

We urge all our political leaders and all our fellow Americans to unequivocally and explicitly denounce white supremacy, white supremacist organizations, and the individuals and groups who adopt and act on white supremacist and right-wing extremist ideologies.

Jews as a people have a long history of being singled out, stigmatized, and blamed without basis during times of societal crisis. The Jewish community is not alone in experiencing these stigma. In times of great fear, uncertainty and unrest, the demonization of the other has had the capacity to encourage extreme violence fueled by bigotry, racism, hatred and antisemitism. Knowing the perilous reality of incitement compels us to call on all people and particularly all leaders to reject white supremacy and right-wing extremism.


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Rosh Hashana: A New Year's Appeal from the JLC

Wishing you a
Sweet and Good New Year
L'Shana Tova u'Mtukah
Gut Yuntif, Gut Yohr

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All of us at the Jewish Labor Committee
wish you, your family, relatives,
co-workers, friends and neighbors
a safe, good and sweet year - a more peaceful,
more just, fairer and better year.

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, a time for self-examination and renewal, is upon us. For people around the world, this has been a terrifying, saddening, and challenging time. As the season changes, and as we approach a New Year, the world has changed in ways that we never contemplated or even believed possible. The death toll from COVID-19 is staggering. The pandemic has raised the curtain on inequalities and injustices that have always existed but have now been exacerbated: the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color and those with less means is starkly visible. And the number of people who have lost their jobs is shocking. We are challenged by the health and healthcare crisis, a terrible economic crisis, and, at the same time, an unprecedented political crisis.

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A tune for our times, and for USA's Labor Day Weekend, 2020

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September 4, 2020 - Here is a thoroughly modern English and Yiddish "March of The Jobless Corps" - an adaptation of "Arbetlose Marsch - Song of the Unemployed*," originally by Mordechai Gebertig**, an amazing and now-underappreciated Jewish / Yiddish poet and songwriter.* This version is by Daniel Kahn and `the Painted Bird' -

* The original's lyrics are online here:
** (1877–1942), Yiddish poet and songwriter. Mordkhe Gebirtig (Bertig) was a native of Kraków ... In April 1942, the Gebirtig family was transported to the ghetto, where Mordkhe still continued to write. On 4 June 1942, while being marched to the Kraków train station on the way to the Bełżec death camp, Gebirtig was murdered by random Nazi fire. Source:

Philly Demo: Save the U.S. Postal Service!

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Photograph courtesy Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee

August 25, 2020: Philadelphia, PA - Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee Director Michael Hersch rallying with a group of local activists outside of the Roosevelt Mall Post Office in Northeast Philadelphia. The action was coordinated in several places concurrently by the 215 People’s Alliance.

Hersch noted that "the U.S. Postal Service is one of the largest employers in the United States and 40 percent of its employees are minorities," adding that the controversial Postmaster General, Louis Dejoy, "doesn’t know the cost of a stamp."

You can find information on how you can help save the U.S. Postal Service by reaching out to the American Postal Workers Union (also see here), the National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and The US Mail Not for Sale.

Online Memorial Event for Workers Killed by COVID-19

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Click here to watch.

July 28, 2020 - The Jewish Labor Committee held an online memorial in honor of those workers who have died from COVID-19. We remembered those we have lost, and paused to honor them and their fellow front-line workers still in danger.

Sara Nelson, President, Association of Flight Attendants, moderated the program. Speakers included Jean Ross, RN, President, National Nurses United; Mona Darby, Wayne Farms (Decatur, AL) poultry processing worker, RWDSU Mid-South Council member and & union shop steward; Gladys Betancourt, apartment cleaner, represented by SEIU Local 32BJ, whose coworker passed away from COVID-19 in March; Rabbi Barbara Penzner, Temple Hillel B’nai Torah of West Roxbury, MA and Co-Chair of the New England Jewish Labor Committee, and Stuart Appelbaum, President, RWDSU and President, Jewish Labor Committee.

One day before Tisha B'Av - a Jewish holiday, traditionally set aside to reflect on historical catastrophes that occurred on this date - we focused on those bearing the brunt of COVID-19: front-line workers, those who work in hospitals, nursing homes, supermarkets, public transportation, warehouses, meatpacking plants, or other settings, who are dying because of where they work. Front-line workers deserve not only recognition and thanks, but safe work-spaces, along with adequate wages and benefits – and hazard pay. Click here to watch this online memorial event, to mourn the many front-line workers we have lost this year, and to honor those who have been put to the test by the COVID-19 crisis.

The JLC will continue to fight for safer work-spaces and a just reopening/recovery. May the memory of those we have lost be an inspiration.

JLC Joins in Outrage against the Murder of George Floyd; Calls for Change against Systemic Racism in the U.S.

June 2, 2020: New York, NY - Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, has issued the following statement on behalf of the organization:

We join in the overwhelming outrage against the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, and express our deepest condolences to Mr. Floyd’s family. Nothing can make up for their loss, but bringing to justice the police officer who killed him, and his three fellow officers who stood by without intervening, will, we hope, provide a bit of solace in their mourning.
We stand in solidarity with African Americans who have for centuries lived with the realities of racism in this society, and its many manifestations from the most brutal and violent, as in the murder of Mr. Floyd, to persistent racially-based housing, education, income, wealth, employment and health care inequities.
We join with the labor movement and the Jewish community in the many heartfelt and thoughtful messages of condemnation, sadness, and solidarity, and the calls for systemic change. And we stand with our African-American sisters and brothers in the Jewish community, and in the labor movement, whose insights are invaluable to all who are working for meaningful change.
We support the vast majority of those who, even in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, are peacefully yet forcefully demonstrating against the murder of Mr. Floyd, and the long history of brutality against Black men and women at the hands of police officers and others, and standing up against systemic racism in the United States.
We deplore those on the fringes of these demonstrations who are engaging in violence and looting. As a bridge linking the Jewish community and the labor movement, the JLC condemns those who have spray-painted anti-Semitic slogans and committed anti-Semitic acts against Jewish communal institutions, and, most recently, those who vandalized the headquarters of the AFL-CIO.
All of these violent acts not only deflect attention from the just concerns of these many demonstrations against racist violence and racial inequity, but also allow some of our top political leaders, including President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr, to turn this tragic moment into an excuse to ignore the urgent need for reform, especially in this country’s criminal justice system, in the name of “law and order.”

Yom HaShoa, Labor and the Holocaust

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Poster by Mitchell Loeb, 1934. The Jewish Labor Committee, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, the Labor Chest to Combat Nazism and Fascism, and others made use of it in outreach campaigns.

April 21, 2020: New York, NY - On this day of commemoration of the Holocaust, we remember the origins of the Jewish Labor Committee, founded on February. 25, 1934, on Manhattan's Lower East Side, to provide a presence for the activists of the mostly Yiddish-speaking, mostly immigrant Jewish labor movement, in the American labor movement and in the mainstream Jewish community. The JLC's aim was to mobilize labor in the struggle against the rising threat of Nazism in Germany, and, more generally, of fascism in Europe.

You can learn about the JLC's Holocaust-era history at this online exhibition, prepared by the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, Tamiment Library, NYU. The exhibit is based on "Labor and the Holocaust: the Jewish Labor Committee and the Anti-Nazi Struggle," by Gail Malmgreen.

Health Care Workers Need Personal Protective Equipment!

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(Photo by James L. Miller)

Both the American Federation of Teachers Nurses and Health Professionals and National Nurses United, representing many of these workers, have asked for the public's help.

Here are two petitions you can sign onto!

Healthcare Workers Need Protective Equipment Now,” [AFT],


Tell Congress: We demand nurses are protected during COVID-19,” [NNU].

[Note, on some of these sign-ons, you can uncheck any of the boxes that are pre-checked, or unsubscribe, to avoid getting additional email from the organizers of this petition or the group that is hosting it online.]

You can find out how to aid health care professionals, and other workers and their families affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic, in your community by reaching out to your local central labor council. You can find them here.

109th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

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In the April 5th, 1911 funeral procession for seven unidentified Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire victims, members of the United Hebrew Trades of New York and the Ladies Waist and Dressmakers Union Local 25 of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union - the local that had tried to organize Triangle Waist Company workers* - carry banners proclaiming "We Mourn Our Loss."

March 25, 2020, New York, NY -- The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, which occurred in Manhattan's Lower East Side on March 25, 1911, just east of Washington Square Park, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the city's history. 146 garment workers, mostly Jewish and Italian women, died as a result of this fire, either by being burned or as a result of jumping to their deaths. Most of the workers could not escape because factory managers locked the doors to the stairwells and exits to keep them from leaving early. Fire trucks' ladders could only reach the sixth floor - the those who perished were on the eighth, ninth and tenth floors.

Occurring in the midst of five years of labor organizing in the clothing industry in a number of cities across the United States, the fire shocked the city, the country and the world. Legislation requiring improved factory safety standards was passed in the immediate aftermath of the fire. Unions and their allies have been fighting ever since for better and safer working conditions for working men and women wherever they labor.

Each year, we've marked the anniversary of the tragic fire. Today, frontline healthcare workers are imperiled. National Nurses United notes that "nurses across the country report that they are not receiving the proper staffing, personal protective equipment (PPE), education, and communication from their employers, or isolation rooms they need to safely care for COVID-19 patients." We ask you to sign this petition to the U.S. Congress to do everything in their power to ensure that nurses are protected from COVID-19, because all of our lives depend on it.

Below are a number of resources to learn about, and teach about, this tragedy and its relevance to today's struggle for decent and safe workplaces, in New York, across the United States, and around the globe.

Continue reading "109th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire" »

Call your Senators NOW re Emergency Stimulus Bill.


March 24, 2020 -- Congress is trying to put together what some call an emergency stimulus bill to mitigate the disastrous impact the Coronavirus is wreaking on workers and their workplaces, and, more generally, the U.S. economy.
Earlier this week, Senate Democrats blocked a proposal from the Republicans that put corporate interests first, providing far too little help for those most in need of assistance, while creating a $500 billion slush-fund for major corporations with little oversight and accountability.
The JLC strongly believes that the people employed in these industries, as well as those workers in retail stores, restaurants, and a whole range of affected workplaces need help first - help to be able to cover essential expenses, so they can keep a place to live, and food on the table. Literally.
Health care workers - those on the front lines of combating COVID-19 - need to be protected and provided with the tools they need to do their job without risking their own lives.
What can you - what can we - do? Make two phone calls. Now.
The Jewish Labor Committee URGES you to CALL YOUR SENATORS RIGHT NOW!!
You can call your senators directly or reach their office through the AFL-CIO ’ s Legislative Hotline at 866-832-1560
* Any stimulus bill MUST put workers first and protect their wages, benefits and well-being;
* Direct cash assistance to working families must be equitable and sufficient to provide for basic needs on an on-going basis until the economy regains its footing;
* Eligibility for unemployment benefits must be broadened and benefit levels increased;
* A minimum of 14 days paid sick days as well as 12 weeks family leave must be provided for all workers;
* Funding must be increased and restrictions removed on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and school lunch programs;
- Assistance for mortgages, rent and student loans must be provided;
- A moratorium on foreclosures, evictions and student loan defaults must be implemented;
* Free testing and treatment for the Coronavirus, regardless of income, location, disability, or immigration status must be made accessible;
* Special care and attention must be given to individuals at increased risk of infection, including individuals in prison, immigrants and children in detention, in long-term care facilities, and those who are homeless;
* Any bail-out funds to large corporations must be transparent and not be used for executive pay and stock buy-backs, nor should these corporations be allowed to engage in mass layoffs.

Note: non-profit organizations - providing essential services especially during this crisis - are finding themselves especially hard hit. They must be included in any assistance package for small businesses, and qualify for new, emergency small business loans by removing the Medicaid exclusion and 500 employee caps on nonprofits. Charitable nonprofits should be provided with $60B in any emergency funding proposals.

As we approach the Passover holiday, it is ironic that many of us will not be holding large-family seders due to THIS “eleventh” plague, the Coronavirus. Now is not the time for members of the Senate to “harden their hearts”, but instead to negotiate in good faith, Republicans with Democrats, to pass a bill that will provide emergency help to the most vulnerable.
You can reach their office via the AFL-CIO’s Legislative Hotline at 866-832-1560

National Jewish Policy Agency Conference
Supports Government Workers’ Right to Unionize

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February 14, 2020 -- The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) worked with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) to pass a resolution supporting the right of U.S. government workers to unionize and bargain collectively at the state and local government level, and to protect this right under Federal law.

This resolution was passed on Feb. 10th, at the 2020 annual conference of the JCPA, the national umbrella agency of American Jewish communal organizations. (The Jewish Labor Committee is a founding member organization of the JCPA.)

The Jewish Labor Committee submitted the resolution and secured co-sponsorship of other national and local Jewish community relations agencies affiliated with the JCPA, including the National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Silicon Valley, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta.

This year's JCPA conference drew over 200 professionals and volunteers from across the United States. Sessions reflected the wide range of issues facing American Jews at the national and local level. JCPA, the national Jewish community relations network, represents 125 local Jewish community relations councils (JCRCs) and 17 national Jewish agencies, including organizations representing all four major Jewish religious denominations.

=== resolution reproduced below ===

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Supports Government Workers’ Right to Unionize
" »

Jewish Labor Committee Responds to Trump Plan

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Donald Trump, Jared Kushner and Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

January 30, 2020 - New York, NY: The Trump Plan is not a peace plan, but a cynical ploy which is likely to advance Israel's far right's annexation agenda and to bolster the election prospects of President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The Jewish Labor Committee has for decades supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  And we understand that only a negotiated, mutually agreed-upon accord  can be the basis for a meaningful, fair and just resolution of this decades-long conflict.

The plan released earlier this week by the Trump Administration is a heavy-handed attempt to bypass, rather than to resolve, this complicated conflict. We join the growing and diverse chorus of organizations, politicians and others who see in Trump’s plan nothing of real value, and the likelihood that it will make an equitable and mutually-acceptable solution less possible.  

This so-called “peace plan” appears to have been crafted in close consultation with the current Israeli government, that is, the Netanyahu administration, which has repeatedly put roadblocks in the way of substantial negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian representatives.  The plan codifies elements of the current reality which are core to the conflict, and envisions making permanent all Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line. After annexing the land that these West Bank settlements occupy, Israel would exercise sovereignty over nearly half of the West Bank , where more than 2.6 million Palestinians and over 400,000 Israeli Jews now live. Although U.S. Ambassador David Friedman asserted recently that Israel “did not have to wait at all” to move ahead with this annexation, the Israeli Democracy Institute said on Wednesday that such a move was unlikely to be approved by Israel’s Supreme Court. We earnestly hope that the IDI is correct.

The plan envisions what has been described as an eviscerated, Swiss-cheese-like Palestinian entity. From all reports, the plan was cobbled together without any consultations with  the Palestinians, whose leadership is rejecting it out of hand.  And although the plan envisions that Jordan will continue to ensure the status quo covering holy sites on the Temple Mount / al-Haram al-Sharif, the Jordanians have also condemned the plan, and which therefore jeopardizes Jordan’s highly valued strategic cooperation with Israel. Moreover, despite President Trump's assurances that the plan will be supported by others in the region, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have stated that there can be no peace plan without the inclusion of Palestinians in its formulation.

Timing is everything: this is not a peace plan, but a cynical attempt to deflect attention from both the current impeachment trial against President Donald Trump, and the legal and political troubles of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The plan comes just weeks after a resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives opposing the unilateral Israeli annexation of territory in the West Bank, and reaffirming U.S. opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements there – positions the Jewish Labor Committee supports.

The Jewish Labor Committee knows that negotiating difficult and apparently unresolvable conflicts is not easy.  However, the Trump Plan, not a serious proposal, runs counter to the real political and security needs of both Israel and the Palestinians, the two parties to the conflict. The JLC joins the many supporters of Israel who have studied the conflict and have worked for a peaceful resolution for decades in condemning the plan in the strongest terms.

JLC Calls for Solidarity & Inter-communal Cooperation Against Anti-Semitism

The most recent attack against Jews celebrating Hanukkah at the home of a rabbi in Monsey, NY, is just the most recent of a wave of anti-Semitic attacks against Jews, taking place in Jersey City, NJ, Brooklyn, NY, Poway, CA, and elsewhere. All of us must stand in solidarity with these communities in their time of need.
We know from our own history as an organization and our experience in more recent years that there is an urgent need for Jewish communities to have enough protection so that they are able to walk on the street, attend religious services, and go to and from school free from fear. The same is true, of course, for other minorities who have experienced acts of hatred because of their faith, immigrant status, race or ethnicity.
While it is challenging to understand why this is happening, and happening now, there are no justifications for, and we reject simple explanations of, such attacks.
Attacks against Jews, and others, based on their religious, ethnic, racial or cultural appearance are becoming more and more frequent. This is a difficult time not only for those in Hasidic communities but for all Jews, and for the larger community as well.
We understand that this is not a simple matter of ideological- or religious-based hatred. We must be on guard against demagogues exploiting a terrible and tragic situation for their own ends. We must work with others in our communities on vigorous and innovative efforts at deep and meaningful community relations, especially among communities that live in close proximity, and often experience inter-communal misunderstandings and tension.

JLC Joins 12 other U.S. Organizations in Call to Israeli Political Leadership to Oppose Support for Annexation


Wednesday, November 6, 2019 - New York, NY: Earlier today, thirteen organizations – the coalition members of the Progressive Israel Network (PIN), as well as the Israel Policy Forum, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association – sent a letter to the heads of Israel’s political parties calling on them to refuse any kind of unilateral annexation of the West Bank or parts of it. The Jewish Labor Committee is a member of this coalition.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, noted that: “Working men and women on both sides of the Green Line will not have their lives improved by annexation of land by the State of Israel - on the contrary, such moves will embitter many of those most directly affected, and make any fair, just, and mutually agreed-upon resolution all the more difficult. Bold steps towards peace and security, not short-term political maneuvering, must be the priority of all Israeli leaders and their supporters in that country and abroad.”


Letter to Israeli Political Leadership Opposing Annexation

As heads of American Jewish organizations who care deeply about the State of Israel and are committed to safeguarding its future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, we implore you to consider the costs of any unilateral annexations in the West Bank, and ask that you refuse to support annexation as a policy guideline for any government that your party may join.

We recognize that political parties are currently immersed in the process of negotiating the makeup of, and determining the policy guidelines for, Israel’s next governing coalition. We are also aware that in recent months, leading parties have proposed annexing parts of the West Bank as a possible policy of Israel’s next government. Our own government, under President Donald Trump, has broken with prior administrations from both major parties in signaling that it may endorse such unilateral actions by Israel.

Mistaking such a “green light” from the president for any type of consensus on the part of either US political party would be a dangerous error for Israel. Annexation, and any actions that pave the way toward annexation, threaten not only Israel’s security and its hopes for peace, but pose a grave threat to its democratic character and international standing. Many of the leaders of Israel’s own military and intelligence communities have warned of their likely ramifications. They would push Israel further down a path to endless conflict and permanent occupation -- a path that runs counter to the shared democratic values and commitment to the pursuit of peace that have long formed the heart of the US-Israel relationship. Simply put, the approach of this president does not represent the long-term interests and likely future policy of the United States.

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JLC in Solidarity with Temple Association of University Professionals

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October 15, 2019 - Philadelphia, PA: The Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee rallied in solidarity with Temple Association of University Professionals (TAUP) at its "ALL OUT: CONTRACT EXPIRATION RALLY" on the Temple University campus on October 15th, just hours before the labor contract for Temple University professionals, professors and adjuncts expired at midnight.
President of TAUP - and Philadelphia JLC Board member - Steve Newman addressed the crowd.

Best wishes for the New Year!

Wishing you a
Sweet and Good New Year
L'Shana Tova u'Mtukah
Gut Yuntif, Gut Yohr

2018 September Happy New Year.jpg

All of us at the Jewish Labor Committee
wish you, your family, relatives,
co-workers, friends and neighbors
a good and sweet year - a more peaceful,
more just, fairer and better year.

Against the Nomination of Eugene Scalia as U.S. Secretary of Labor

September 25, 2019 - New York, NY: The Jewish Labor Committee opposes the nomination of Eugene Scalia as U.S. Secretary of Labor to replace Alexander Acosta, who resigned last July.

A partner in the Washington, DC, law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Eugene Scalia has a long career defending corporate interests against American workers:

  • He is most known for defending Walmart against a proposed Maryland State law that would have required the industry giant to pay a portion of its payroll toward health insurance for its employees or pay into the State’s Medicaid fund.

  • He led the opposition to OSHA ergonomic rules that would have protected an estimated one million workers, calling studies on MSD (Musculoskeletal Disorder) “junk science.”

  • Scalia is on the wrong side of the “wage theft” issue; he defended Wynn Las Vegas Casinos arguing that employers had the right to take employees’ tips and redistribute them to other workers, including supervisors.

  • He is anti-union: Scalia defended Boeing in a lawsuit brought by the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of its workers in Washington State who were threatened with the company leaving the state if the workers did not meet its demands.

  • When a trainer at Sea World was killed by an Orca whale, Scalia argued that the theme park was not required to follow Federal safety standards that might have prevented the tragic death.

  • He helped reverse stricter transparency regulations that the Obama Administration had required of financial advisors who recommend investments for retirees.

  • He lobbied against President Obama’s executive order requiring a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for Federal contract workers.

  • When President George W. Bush, in 2001, tried to appoint Eugene Scalia as the Labor Department official responsible for developing and implementing regulation procedures, the Senate refused to hold hearings due to his extreme anti-worker history. He was eventually made the Department of Labor’s chief lawyer via a recess appointment by President Bush, allowing him to serve in that position for one year.

Workers in the United States need a Secretary of Labor who will defend their rights and interests, not one who, as his resume indicates, will advocate on behalf of corporate interests. We therefore call on the Senate to oppose his appointment.

Have Jews Become Detached From Labor’s Goals?

by Michael Hersch

A central theme of the story of the Jewish people is liberation from slavery — the experience of being held against one’s will, forced to work in dehumanizing conditions, with no compensation for labor.

And, in many ways, history repeated itself when waves of Jewish immigrants arrived in the United States in the late 1800s.

Many found work in garment factories and workshops in large urban areas such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and elsewhere. The conditions there were deplorable and led to tragedies such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which took the lives of 146 workers on March 11, 1911.

Most of the victims were young women, and many of them were Jewish immigrants. Although it was a relatively modern workplace, it was unsafe, and the workers trying to join the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union were not successful in an organizing drive two years earlier. Insufficient means of escape, a workplace higher than the tallest fire ladders of the day, a spark — and it went up in flames.

Recounting the details of this story, and the way in which this tragedy served as a catalyst for the organized labor movement in the U.S., and Jewish workers’ role in that movement, has practically become another Haggadah for progressive Jews.

And perhaps it is something that has been told so many times that we have become desensitized to it, much in the same way our peoples’ time in bondage in Egypt feels more like ”just a story,” rather than lived experience that we carry in our collective DNA. “Remember you were once slaves in Egypt” could be replaced with “Remember you were once poor immigrants working in dangerous sweatshops with no rights.”

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Philadelphia JLC activists rallied alongside TAUP - Temple Association of University Professionals, outside of a meeting of Temple University’s Board of Trustees on June 9, 2019.

Continue reading "Have Jews Become Detached From Labor’s Goals?" »

This Labor Day, Jews Must Recommit To Workers’ Rights

by Ari Fertig

August 29, 2019 - Boston, MA: The fight for working people — for labor and against income inequality — is picking up steam.

Workers’ voices are being heard. Organized labor unions in the transportation sector are standing up. Teachers unions are being revitalized. Non-traditional walkouts at places like Google or Wayfair are increasingly common. Both the right and the left have strong populist movements and feel the need to appeal to working class voters.

If you keep your eyes open, the trend is clear. Now is the time for a revitalized labor movement — and Jews have to be a part of it. If Jews are to be true to their values, history, and law, then we must support labor rights for all.

To be true to ourselves, we have to remember where we came from. We must remember our Jewish history. In the mid-19th century, when many Jews started to arrive in the United States, most were workers. From the very beginning of the labor movement in America, Jews have played a pivotal role, be they in the garment industry, or in professions like cigar makers, bakers, printers, painters, or actors, or in labor leadership such as Samuel Gompers, a Jewish founder of the American Federation of Labor. The Forward was originally founded as a Yiddish-language daily socialist newspaper, and newspapers like these were critical to building the class consciousness of the Jewish people. The roots of the American-Jewish experience is tied to the fight for a better life—the fight for labor rights.

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New England JLC activists and over 100 fast food, airport and other low-wage workers, and a wide range of community partners, joined in a march to the Massachusetts State House on April 4, 2017, to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and to support the ultimately successful campaign for higher wages, specifically the Fight for $15 bill in the legislature would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and for racial and economic equality.

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56 Years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

by Stuart Appelbaum

On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., for a political rally known as the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."

Under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph and with the civil rights leader Bayard Rustin as its principal organizer, this march, organized by a broad coalition of civil rights, labor, and religious groups, was one of the largest political demonstrations for human rights in the history of United States. It was designed to put the political, economic, and social discrimination suffered by African Americans squarely on the national agenda. The massive turnout, the dignity and discipline of its nonviolent plea for justice, and the grandeur of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech made it a key moment in the long struggle for civil rights. Part of its legacy was passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Of the many Jewish organizations that participated in the March, none brought more people to the event that day than the Jewish Labor Committee.
Image from The American Prospect

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1936: Anti-Nazi World Labor Athletic Carnival Held in New York City

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(Jewish Labor Committee collection, Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives / Tamiment Library, New York University)

August 16, 2019 - 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 United States 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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Israeli Barring U.S. Representatives Omar and Tlaib is a Mistake

JLC Calls on Prime Minister Netanyahu to Reverse Israeli Government's Decision

August 15, 2019: New York, NY -- The Jewish Labor Committee regards the recent decision of the Israeli Government to bar U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib a mistake, and calls on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse this decision.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, said that “while we do not share many of the views of these two members of Congress regarding Israel, members of the Congress of the United States should not be forbidden from entering Israel. Doing so,” he added, “only reflects badly on Israeli democracy when it accepts or rejects visitors based on their political views. This will also harm U.S. – Israel relations, and make support for Israel in the United States increasingly partisan, while it is in Israel’s interest for this to be very much a non-partisan issue.”

"We are convinced that not allowing them to visit the State of Israel undermines its reputation as an open and tolerant society.”

JLC Stands with the Temple Association of University Professionals

Philadelphia JLC at July 9 2019 Rally for Temple Association of University Professionals.jpg

July 9, 2019: Philadelphia, PA - The Jewish Labor Committee rallied alongside TAUP - Temple Association of University Professionals, outside of a meeting of Temple University’s Board of Trustees. The Philadelphia JLC stands in solidarity with TAUP against:

* Decreasing numbers of tenured and tenure-track faculty;
* The removal of the grievability and arbitrability of discrimination from the contract;
* Merit-only raises;
* The administration setting the percentage rate for merit awards outside of the contract;
* Increases to healthcare premiums;
* Unprofessional working conditions for adjunct faculty;
* Unprofessional treatment of librarians;
* Unclear standards for merit;
* The administration’s lack of response to childcare and tuition remission proposals.

We Support Wayfair Workers Walkout

JLC Supports demands that Wayfair donate profits made by selling goods to operators of facilities running detention centers at the southern US border

June 26, 2019: New York, NY -- The Jewish Labor Committee supports the Wayfair workers who walked out of the company’s headquarters in Boston’s Copley Square today to protest the company’s decision to sell furniture to the operators of facilities for migrant children detained by the U.S. government at the southern border. Members of the New England JLC, led by Regional Director Ari Fertig, joined the walkout in solidarity with the Wayfair workers.

4 web 2 NE JLC Regional Director Ari Fertig at Wayfair workers walkout June 26 2019.jpg

The Wayfair employees, outraged about the conditions facing children at the migrant detention centers, had presented a letter signed by 547 employees, to the Wayfair management. The letter called on the U.S. government to end “the detention and mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking asylum in our country.” Further, the employees’ letter stated, “we also want to make sure that Wayfair has no part in enabling, supporting, and profiting from this practice.”

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