Washington – Interfaith Worker Justice announced on December 31 that it was shutting down at the end of the day.
The announcement came from Kim Bobo, who founded the organization in 1996.
“It’s sad,” Bobo told Catholic News Service in a January 4 telephone interview.
Interfaith Worker Justice records and resources will be transferred to the Interfaith Network for Worker Solidarity, a project of Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, supported by a $ 100,000 contribution from the reserves of Interfaith Worker Justice.
Interfaith Worker Justice can list several accomplishments over its 25 years.
Perhaps the most important of them was to put the term “salary theft” in the American lexicon. Bobo wrote “Wage Theft in America” in 2008, and it sparked a wave of complaints from other workers who had also been wronged by their bosses.
“We have literally thousands of believers who realize that this is a huge problem in the country,” said Bobo, “standing alongside the worker centers both in terms of direct action. but also by adopting laws across the country to strengthen enforcement. “
In addition, “we have engaged thousands of people of faith and their faiths to make worker justice part of the social justice scene,” said Bobo. “I thought to myself, ‘If I can make workers’ justice part of the social justice fabric of the faith community, then I will have done my job.” It happened. We have people – members of religious communities – and seminaries who teach this stuff. “
This led, she added, to another achievement: “very good relations between unions and faith communities. before.”
Interfaith Worker Justice has also built a network of worker centers in cities across the United States. The remaining $ 200,000 from his reserves will be distributed to some of the individual worker centers and the network that has been formed on his behalf.
Bobo described the issues that led to the demise of Interfaith Worker Justice.
“They went through four directors after me in two years,” she told CNS. “It was probably the biggest problem. Nonprofits are too fragile to go through four directors in two years. You can’t stand it, can you? In the process, they lost a lot of long-term staff.
“I think problem number two was that they ended up, frankly, having some pretty bad-tempered people on the board and it kind of became a war between the board members at the center. workers and board members of religious leaders. It was a mess. I wasn’t there; that’s what I heard, “she said.
Bobo is now the director of the Richmond-based Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
“When the staff is messy and the board messy, it’s hard to move forward,” she said. “The clerics on the council felt it was the best thing to do to shut it down.”
In her message of December 31, she acknowledged the help of “giants” who encouraged her, including two of the greatest worker priests of the American church, Msgr. George Higgins and Mgr. John Egan.
Formed in 2020, the Interfaith Network for Workers’ Solidarity has two Catholic organizations among its members: the Catholic Labor Network and the Association of US Catholic Priests.
Bobo’s New Years Eve message read: “Organizations and structures can come and go. The work of justice continues.”
In a 2009 address to the Catholic Labor Network’s annual meeting, shortly after the publication of “Wage Theft in America,” Bobo recalled a time when she was eating at one of her favorite restaurants. in her hometown of Chicago and realized she didn’t have enough money. to pay the bill.
When she showed the waiter a credit card and asked, “If I put this (tip) on the bill, will you get it?” The server replied “No”.
“I had the same experience a week ago in a restaurant while on vacation,” Bobo told CNS on Jan.4. This one said, ‘No, it would be better if you gave it in cash. “”