JUFJ has worked as part of the Coalition for a Worker Center in D.C. to educate the public about the challenges facing day laborers, reduce regulatory hurdles to protecting them from exploitation and wage theft, and build better relationships between day laborers and the rest of the community. We are not currently active in this campaign, but continue to support DC Jobs With Justice as they push forward.
What’s the problem?
In Washington D.C., homeowners and contractors have traditionally recruited day laborers at informal gathering points, such as outside of the Home Depot on Rhode Island Avenue NE. On a typical day, between 90 and 120 laborers congregate there in search of work. In such an informal hiring environment, day laborers are vulnerable to exploitation by employers, misunderstandings or confrontations with security officers, businesses, and neighbors, and even the elements. Day laborers, along with a number of other local stakeholders, including representatives from the faith, labor, legal and business communities have advocated for several years for the creation of a worker center as a long-term solution. JUFJ has joined that coalition of groups, and supports the struggle of day laborers for a center.
Faith communities have been a prominent voice for immigrants' and workers' rights in DC. Groups such as Interfaith Worker Justice and the Interfaith Sanctuary Network have been early and strong supporters of a worker center in DC. If Jewish leaders join their Christian counterparts, we will strengthen the interfaith voice calling for immigrant workers' rights in DC.
Many in the Jewish community are immigrants, or are just two or three generations removed from individuals who immigrated to this country. We often know firsthand and empathize with the challenges and hurtles that accompany immigration.
Many members of the DC Jewish community are homeowners or owners of buildings, who may hire contractors to do building, renovation, and maintenance work. The support of these "customers" of the worker center is critical as we advocate together for a center that will benefit workers, contractors, homeowners, and community members alike.
What can you do?
Spread the word: Let your congregation, friends, and family know about the vulnerability of day laborers in our own city.