American Jews have stood at the forefront of labor rights reform for decades, beginning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Jewish garment workers organized themselves into unions, and Jewish labor activists like Samuel Gompers called for higher wages and safer working conditions for all. The successes of these early advocates in fighting for labor rights, and encouraging tradesmen to organize on their own behalf was rather remarkable. Many of the rights they fought for have become the normative standards for ethical labor practices today.
Today, migrant workers in America still tend to end up in some of the lowest-paid and most dangerous occupations. And all too often, these workers are exploited and not allowed a fair say in their working conditions.
Jewish tradition is clear on its stance on labor rights. The Torah states, “you shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer.” The Jewish commitment to labor rights issues continues today through the efforts of organizations like Jewish Funds for Justice, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Uri L’Tzedek and Magen Tzedek.
Ways to Serve Now
- Advocate for fair labor conditions for all citizens.
- Donate to a business advisory organization.
- Purchase fair trade certified goods.
- Ask the restaurants you go to about their labor policies.
- Organize a text study around Judaism and labor issues.
Find more opportunities at Repair the World’s service opportunities page.
Labor Textual Sources Jewish Funds for Justice
PJA, the Progressive Jewish Alliance
The Living Wage: A Jewish Approach Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Jewish Funds for Justice
Ritual and Jewish Sources on Labor, Jews United for Justice
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