Law and Politics

Fighting A Modern Day Plague

April 3, 2015
By Ann Toback, Executive Director of the Workmen’s Circle

Passover is the ultimate story of oppression, collective action, and redemption. Today in the United States we face a widespread modern day plague:  working poverty—workers who earn wages so low that they can’t afford to take care of their basic needs of life. 

Workers who are frequently exploited by their employers, who often find their job conditions hazardous to their health and welfare.   In the United States right now, there are 10 million people who fall into this category of working poor.

Recent headlines have been full of reports of an OSHA complaint filed against McDonald’s for their gross neglect of their workers on the job, specifically relating to the safety of hot grills.  With four out of five fast-food workers reporting that they have been burned on the job, McDonald’s routinely fails to provide any burn protection to its employees, andto make matters worse, many of their restaurants don't even have a properly equipped and accessible first-aid kit.  The complaint states that frequently, McDonald’s management suggests that workers treat their burns with mustard or mayonnaise instead of getting them the medical attention they need.

More evidence of this modern plague can be found here in New York State, where, annually, over a million households are at risk of losing their electricity. Each year over a quarter million New York households have their utilities shut off for failure to make timely payments.  Families forced to choose between their lights and other essentials of life.  Often these families pay their utilities by taking high interest loans, and make even harder choices the next month.

The good news today is that collectively we can effect change for these 10 million Americans.  There are many problems in our world that we can’t change—but here is an opportunity where our activism can make a difference.

Workmen’s Circle activists are proud to connect with our historic union and community partners by joining one of the most important causes of our time: the Fight for $15, a nationwide movement organized and led by workers fighting for a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour. This is a fight we first waged over a hundred years ago, and it is a fight we can and must win today.

On April 15th the Fight for $15 coalition is planning a National Day of Action to raise awareness of the plight of low wage workers. At 5pm on Wednesday, April 15th we will meet at Columbus Circle and march together to Times Square in support of low wage workers.

Just days before the National Day of Action, Jews across America will celebrate Passover—the 3,000 year-old story of 600,000 Jews who rose up against their oppressors and began an exodus to their “Promised Land.” The United States is truly the 21st century “promised land,” but there are 10 million “working poor” who need our help to make that ideal into a reality. Today, we are all charged to work to make this a land of opportunity and equality for us all. 

The Workmen’s Circle is a 100+ year old non-profit organization with headquarters in New York and communities across the U.S. Through social justice campaigns, festivals, holiday celebrations, educational programs, and more, we connect Jewish adults, kids and families of all affiliations with their cultural heritage.

To learn more, visit call (212) 889-6800 ext. 808.

April 2, 2015

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