Interfaith Worker Justice was founded in 1996 with the mission of engaging the religious community in low-wage worker campaigns and rebuilding partnerships with the labor movement.
Despite the oft-repeated claim that the previous decade's economic boom lifted all boats, IWJ bears witness to another America. The majority of new jobs created in the society are low-wage jobs. Department of Labor industry surveys, 100 percent of poultry plants, 60 percent of nursing homes, 50 percent of restaurants and 90 percent of farms employing farm labor were found to be violating wage-and-hour laws. Sweatshops aren't just in other countries. They are in our backyards.
It was against this backdrop that Kim Bobo, IWJ Executive Director, founded the organization using her bedroom as an office and a $5,000 bequest left to her by her grandmother as the initial budget. Despite these humble origins, she had mighty helpers as part of her original Board of Directors. This founding group included Rabbi Robert Marx, Bishop Jesse DeWitt, Monsignor George Higgins, Monsignor Jack Egan, Rev. James Lawson, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Michael Rouse, Rev. Addie Wyatt, Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Monsignor Phil Murnion, Rev. Wayne Stumme, Bishop James Malone, Sr. Nancy Sylvester, Rev. Jim Sessions, Ms. Evely Laser-Shlensky, Mr. Thomas Shellabarger and Mr. J. Chris Sanders.
In just eleven years, IWJ has organized a national network of more than 70 interfaith committees, workers' centers and student groups, making it the leading national organization working to strengthen the religious community's involvement in issues of workplace justice.