"It's up to us to save ourselves"

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Yesterday, Rabbi Jill Jacobs published an op-ed at ReligionDispatches.org that connects the labor struggles of the past with those of the present, using the words of labor organizer Rose Schneiderman to inspire us today.

An excerpt from "It's Up to Us to Save Ourselves": What Wisconsin is Teaching Us:

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is most often remembered as galvanizing the passage of a series of crucial laws regarding workplace health and safety. But the episode also points to the necessity of a strong union movement and the dangers of doing without a union.

For two years preceding the fire, shirtwaist workers, led by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), had been organizing for better wages and working conditions. The group had tried, unsuccessfully, to penetrate the Triangle factory. Who knows whether the disaster might have been averted if the workers there had been able to bargain collectively for safer conditions. Following the disaster, it was the ILGWU that led the charge to implement stronger safety legislation.

Now, 100 years later, public workers in Wisconsin and around the country are standing up to the largest-scale attack on American workers in recent history. Using the economic crisis as a pretext, and with financing from billionaire businessmen, Governor Scott Walker and others are trying to strip public unions of their collective bargaining power.

Read the rest at ReligionDispatches.org >>

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the director of Ma’aseh: The Center for Jewish Social Justice Education and the author of There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law and Tradition and the forthcoming Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community.

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