Working of Faith: A Labor Law Enforcement Report

Source: Ted Smukler, Interfaith Worker Justice

The Department of Labor and State Departments of Labor are important allies for working people. The Department of Labor and State Departments are responsible for enforcing the nation’s labor laws, and educating both workers and employers about the nation’s labor laws.

In the past few years, the Interfaith Worker Justice and local interfaith committees have been building partnerships with local, state, and national Department of Labor (DOL) staff. These partnerships have sought to:

• Inform workers, especially low-wage and immigrant workers, of their rights in the workplace. At the national level, bulletin inserts were jointly created in nine languages that have been and continue to be distributed to workers through congregations. In local communities, DOL staff have provided educational workshops to workers.

• Train advocates to better support workers in seeking justice in the workplace. Because many worker advocates—pastors, social workers, immigrant advocates, and community organizers— are unfamiliar with the basic labor laws, they often don’t recognize basic law law violations that workers experience. Local DOL staff have partnered with local interfaith groups to train advocates about labor laws, so they can be more effective advocates.

• Create safe spaces and ways for workers to file complaints with DOL offices. Many workers, especially immigrant workers, are fearful of government agencies. And no one would suggest that the DOL procedures are particularly user-friendly. Thus, many concerned DOL staff and religious advocates have partnered to find new ways to support workers in filing complaints. Some groups are testing new simplified complaint forms. Other groups are forming workers’ centers, where workers can drop in for help. Others are looking to revive parish-based labor schools that create a safe space for workers to both file complaints and learn to organize.

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