Jewish Labor Committee's Fight for $15 - Labor Day 2015

My Jewish History and the Fight for $15

[pullquote align=right] Raising wages directly addresses income inequality
[/pullquote]As Labor Day rolls around, I reflect the choices I have made about how I spend my time and energies in retirement. In recent years since my retirement as vice-president of planning for the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, my volunteer work with the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) has become a significant focus in my life. So what brings a 75-year-old middle-class retiree from a professional career in the Jewish community to the JLC as an activist and modest financial supporter? The Fight for $15 helps explain why.
The Fight for $15—one of JLC’s major campaigns in coalition with other partners—is a movement to raise the wages of low wage workers and improve their working conditions, whether in food services, healthcare, car washes, airports, or in other low wage jobs. People who have full-time jobs in these sectors are unable to pay for the basics like food, rent or transportation. Shamefully, many have to apply for some form of public assistance, despite working full-time. Raising wages directly addresses income inequality, helping low wage workers attain self-sufficiency, and in the process turning recipients of public assistance into taxpayers.
As a member of the Boston Jewish community, and as an activist with JLC New England, I strongly support this call for a living wage for the working people of our state and across the nation, and ask for the support of others in the Jewish community.
[pullquote align=left] I owe my very existence to the fact that my father survived the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
[/pullquote]Why is this so important to me? I am in part acknowledging my 1940’s roots in working-class Jewish Brooklyn, where I was the child of a labor “intermarriage”: Rose sewed labels on men’s ties, which made her a member of the “Amalgamated” Clothing Workers Union of America, while Isidore cut patterns for women’s dresses, as a charter member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. That Isidore, at age 18, had been on site at—and lived to testify about—the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, further underscored my feeling of responsibility for the well-being of working people. I’ve always felt that I owe my very existence to the fact that my father survived this terrible industrial tragedy only by random luck. Working on the Fight for $15 campaign is therefore a way of honoring my parents’ memory.
But why work on this campaign—seemingly not a “Jewish issue”—through the Jewish Labor Committee? Because I am so grateful that JLC gives me the chance to put my name behind a Jewish commitment to fairness for workers which is rooted in Jewish tradition of social justice and the values with which I was raised, and which signals to the larger community that Boston’s Jews–and America’s–have not forgotten where we came from.
[pullquote align=left] Let us be a strong, audible, Jewish voice for a fair shake for all the working people of our community. Click here for the petition.
[/pullquote]So, on Labor Day 2015, I hope that you will take the opportunity to reflect on your own family’s Jewish American story and how that has shaped your life today. The stands we take on issues of fairness in our community shape the values of our children—as Jews and as Americans. Let us be a strong, audible, Jewish voice for a fair shake for all the working people of our community.
Our legislators need to hear from us in the Jewish community. Please take a moment to sign JLC’s petition to the U.S. Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

This post is an adaptation of an earlier piece posted on

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