In 2005, JUFJ partnered with DC Jobs with Justice, ACORN, the DC Employment Justice Center, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and other community groups to successfully pass living wage legislation. This legislation requires employers who contract with the city to pay their workers a living wage, which is currently set at $13.40 an hour.
As part of the 8th annual ‘Labor on the Bimah’ program, several hundred Jews at 32 congregations across the Metro Washington area discussed workers’ rights and economic justice during Labor Day weekend. Several congregations featured area workers speaking about their experiences in the hotel and security guard industry; other congregations featured organizers, activists, lay leaders or their own Rabbi delivering a special d’var torah focusing on labor issues. The program kicked off officially at Adas Israel Congregation in DC, when Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block of PANIM represented Jewish views on a Living Wage on a panel of Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders.
“I believe that not paying a living wage is exploiting an oppressed laborer, which is prohibited by Jewish law and tradition,” said Rabbi Gerry Serotta, of Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, specifically referring to Deuteronomy 21:14. “The Reform Movement is also clear – we support living wage policies here and around the country,” said Serotta, referring to the Union of Reform Judaism’s formal resolution in support of living wage ordinances.
JUFJ also organized canvasses to collect over 700 post-cards to city hall, and sponsored a class at the Jewish Study Center titled: “Judaism and the Right to a Living Wage.”
JUFJ was previously a leader in the campaign for a living wage in Montgomery County, a policy that eventually passed the county council in 2002.