Marya Axner* and David Seligman**
The Kolot Project (or the “Voices Project”) is a forum for New England’s Jewish community to think, discuss, and advocate for workers' rights and empowerment.
For nearly a century, the Jewish Labor Committee has served as the “Jewish voice in the labor movement and the labor voice in the Jewish community.” But this task is much different -- and much more complicated -- than it once was. The low- and middle-wage workforce is spread across increasingly diverse industries and faces increasingly complex challenges -- wage theft, immigration difficulties, student loans, and long term underemployment, to name just a few. Meanwhile, the Jewish community is more dispersed and diverse than it has ever been. We confront workplace issues as workers, consumers, employers, and community leaders.
The Kolot Project will ensure that these voices come into conversation to build awareness and spur action. New England’s Jewish community has often been at the forefront in the fight for a fair and just workplace, and we want to make sure that this community maintains and builds on this history.
The Kolot Project will be comprised of bi-weekly “guest posts” from a variety of people who provide a unique and important voice on issues at the intersection of Judaism and worker’s rights. We expect posts from workers, employers, labor organizers, and political and religious leaders.
In terms of content, our posters will have broad discretion to craft their own messages. We will merely direct them to speak from the heart about their Judaism and workers’ rights, either in an abstract sense or with concrete references to current developments in the labor or Jewish worlds. Some of these voices are likely to make specific “asks” or calls to action, while others may ask us to ponder an injustice in our community through the lens of Jewish culture and beliefs. Our New England Jewish Labor Committee community, and our New England labor community more generally, are full of thoughtful and compelling voices, and we hope that compiling these voices in a single place will lead to conversations within the Kolot Project forum and in synagogues and community centers around the region.
We encourage you to share our link with friends and family, sign up for an RSS feed, and follow us on twitter. Many of us think and work on social justice issues, but it’s rare that we have an opportunity to focus, in particular, on workers’ issues. This hasn’t always been the case. Labor and workers’ rights have been the focus of our tikkun olam, and whether or not you’ve thought about these issues before, we encourage you to be part of our conversation.
*Mary Axner is the Regional Director of the New England Jewish Labor Committee
**David Seligman is a public-interest lawyer working on behalf of low-income consumers and workers. He is a New England Jewish Labor Committee volunteer.