Social Justice & Activism
In the United States, the three richest individuals have as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the population. In New York City, income inequality and wealth inequality are especially rampant. At BJ, we are committed to dignity, equity, and justice for all. That includes fighting for economic justice in our community and beyond, whether supporting unions, raising the minimum wage, or strengthening labor rights. Our Economic Justice Hevra has organized for a citywide living wage, labor protections for farmworkers, and resources for those affected by poverty and homelessness.
Economic Justice Hevra
BJ Members who are interested in volunteer opportunities for promoting economic justice are welcome to join the Economic Justice Hevra. The Hevra, or committee, engages in community organizing and works in partnership with local advocacy groups and citywide campaigns.
For past campaigns, please look below. To get involved, please email our co-chairs.
Justice for Farmworkers
Our campaign focused on passing the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. In New York State, agriculture is a multi-billion dollar industry and it is essential part of a vital state economy. Behind that industry are 80,000-100,000 workers, who lack many protections that other employees in New York benefit from every day. The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act would grant agricultural workers essential labor protections, including the right to receive workers compensation, collective bargaining, fair pay for overtime, and a guaranteed day of rest.
In order to ensure fair labor rights and dignity for farmworkers in New York State, legislation must be passed by the State Senate and Assembly and signed by the Governor. We partnered with the NYS Justice for Farmworkers Coalition and with Rural and Migrant Ministry to bring together BJ members, advocates for farm worker labor rights, others, and NYS farmworkers in support of this legislation and to bring awareness to this issue. Through these relationships, and our support of this legislation, we are establishing a more full understanding of ethical consumption and how we can extend that definition to include the people bring us the food we consume.
Two of our nation’s most transformative federal labor laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) and the National Labor Relations Act (1935), both excluded domestic workers and agricultural workers from wage and hour laws, the right to collective bargaining and organize to improve working conditions, and many other basic protections.
Living Wage NYC
The Economic Justice Hevra, along with a large faith-based community, supported the successful Living Wage NYC Campaign that eventually passed the City Council. The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act ensured that any private development project directly accepting $1 million or more in taxpayer subsidies, with revenue of $5 million or more, must pay employees a “living wage.” We held an education event at BJ to inform the congregation of the impact of low wages on workers and to illustrate the need for legislation. We are proud to have been a part of this city-wide campaign and share in its success to benefit low wage earners in New York City.
Looking at who benefits when the State or City government gives subsidies to companies for “economic development” and “job creation,” the Hevra then held another community educational event focused on two case studies involving Fresh Direct and sports arenas. According to a Fiscal Policy Institute report in 2010, New York State and its local governments (including New York City) and local Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) provide approximately $8.2 billion annually in various business tax expenditures in the name of job creation. We asked the question, Are we getting what we pay for as taxpayers? Is the public or big business benefiting?