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a little plug for the work on the ground

February 5, 2007

I’ve been an active member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) for the past year. It’s been an incredibly fulfilling experience, and not only because it provided me with a Jewish community when I first moved to New York but also because it gives me an opportunity to play a part in making concrete social change in this city. I’m especially proud to share some information about an event coming up this week – the community organizing we have been doing with the Shalom Bayit: Justice for Domestic Workers campaign, in conjunction with Domestic Workers United (DWU), is moving to new levels.

JFREJ has been advocating for change in employment practices of employers of domestic workers (nannies, housekeepers, and elder-care givers) on personal, communal, and legislative levels. Through community organizing in several synagogues and secular communities around New York City, JFREJ has begun a conversation in NYC Jewish communities about the status of domestic workers in our communities.

Next Friday, February 9th, two of those synagogue communities, Park Slope Jewish Center (PSJC) and Kolot Chayeinu, will host an event following Kabbalat Shabbat to launch these communities’ collaboration on the Shalom Bayit campaign. Join PSJC, Kolot, and JFREJ for a Shabbat evening of education and advocacy. Learn about the history of the campaign, the work of DWU, some context around the domestic work industry, and a chance to hear from both an employer and employee.

From the press release:

The more than 200,000 nannies, eldercare givers, housecleaners, and other domestic workers in New York City are currently excluded

from most state and federal labor laws. A recent survey of domestic workers by the Datacenter and DWU found that: (full report here)

  • 41 percent of workers reported low wages; 26 percent earned wages below the poverty line or below minimum wage.
  • Half of the workers worked overtime, often more than 50 to 60 hours a week
  • 67 percent did not receive overtime pay for overtime hours worked.
  • 33 percent of workers experienced verbal or physical abuse or said they had been made to feel uncomfortable by their employers.

“Justice for Domestic Workers is not an option for us but an obligation. As Jews and as human beings, we are obligated to insure that all those who work in our community and especially in our homes are treated with dignity and respect,” says Rabbi Carie Carter of the Park Slope Jewish Center. “Omissions in labor law allow domestic employers to ignore basic rights of workers, and we must change this. Workers rights cannot only be a distant demand we place on large companies. To make real change in our world, there is no place better to begin than in our own homes and in our own lives.”

The program will be hosted at PSJC (8th Avenue at 14th street in Park Slope). Kabbalat Shabbat will begin at 6:15 and the program will begin at 8:30. All are welcome! Email danielle at jfrej.org (or me! saltyfemme at gmail) for more information.

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