We asked Western Mass Jobs with Justice to share their thoughts on the new economy and how it intersects with their work. WMJwJ works to improve working people’s standard of living, fight for job security, and protect workers’ right to organize.
Here’s what they had to say.
By Rose Bookbinder
We are striving to build an economy that puts people before profits. Building coalitions amongst likely allies we are creating a society that is just, sustainable, and ensures that workers’ rights are protected and expanded. We bring together labor, community, student, and faith to create innovative solutions to the problems that workers face.
Four out of five jobs in the U.S are in the service industry, making it the fastest growing part of our economy. Western Mass Jobs with Justice is working on two exciting campaigns empowering workers to fight for dignity, respect, and better working conditions in the service sector. We are working to find ways to raise standards in this traditionally low wage and non-benefited sector of our economy.
The first project is “Change Walmart, Change the Economy.” Walmart is the largest employer in the country. And with that it gets to not only set the standards for the retail and service industry but for the entire economy as a whole. According to JwJ national:
“Walmart’s poor labor practices and standards put pressure on many other businesses to lower wages and benefits in order to compete. The result is a Walmart economy where our jobs, health care, and labor standards have all downgraded. But if we can change Walmart, we can improve the lives of all working people.”
Our second project is building the Western Massachusetts Worker Center. The center seeks to build power for working, low-wage, and immigrant members in the Western Massachusetts community. Through innovative and creative worker-driven organizing strategies, the Center will seek to unite likely allies in order to build power for workers in the Pioneer Valley. The center will strive to build coalitions and partnerships with unions, community groups, cooperatives, and individuals and draw attention to the common struggles of people across Western Massachusetts. By building these coalitions the Center will expand our political power in the Pioneer Valley and strengthen the voice of vulnerable workers in the political process.
The first organizing project of the Worker Center is expanding upon the traditional work around our food system. The Pioneer Valley prides itself in being a hub of the local food movement, which values sustainability, buying local, and fair trade. This organizing project seeks to expand our local communities’ shared understanding of a sustainable food system to include improved wages and working conditions for all workers in the food chain.
Drawing on the principles laid out by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, the Western Mass. Worker Center’s restaurant workers organizing initiative seeks to build a more sustainable food system that respects workers’ rights, based on the principles of social, environmental, and racial justice, in which everyone has access to healthy and affordable food. We will strive for a community where workers benefit from the fruits of their labor and build toward an economy where no one is working poor. This project will open the door to further organizing in the food chain that includes workers who plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, and sell food.
Jobs with Justice has created a national coalition and a network of local coalitions that connect labor, community, student, and faith-based organizations and activists on workplace and community social justice campaigns. You can find WMJwJ on Twitter and Facebook.