Who is SFIWJ?
South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice (SFIWJ) is an association of many diverse religious leaders throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties who respond to the crisis of the working poor. Established in 1998, SFIWJ is one of over 60 affiliates of the national Interfaith Worker Justice network based in Chicago. SFIWJ's volunteer Board of Directors is comprised of faith leaders from various religious and ethnic traditions.
The Rev. John Cox, OMI, comforts hunger strikers at the University of Miami.
What do we do?
SFIWJ provides a voice to educate, organize, and mobilize the religious community to serve low-wage workers in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. We dialogue with communities about religion’s historical roots and current policies for workers’ rights -- including the struggle for better wages, health benefits, working conditions, and the right to have a voice at work. We advocate for the rights of low-wage workers, the majority of whom are immigrants. Through our organizing efforts, workers’ struggles are transformed from just “bottom-line economics” into moral imperatives facing decision-makers. We also provide a spiritual uplift and moral foundation to workers in struggle.
Our successes include helping to pass and protect the first county-wide Wage Theft Ordinance in the country and organizing and leading a delegation of 15 faith leaders to the Continental Group’s Headquarters, to urge them to allow their workers to unionize free of intimidation and threats of firings. SFIWJ has also partnered with University of Miami (UM) workers, faculty, students, and local community leaders, resulting in 410 immigrant janitors gaining the choice to organize, to earn a living wage, health benefits, and a permanent voice on the job. Our actions on behalf of these workers received coverage in The New York Times, The National Catholic Reporter, and The Miami Herald.
Clergy pray for a change of heart for the management of Continental Property Services
Why do we do this?
According to the South Florida Business Journal, Miami is the least affordable city within which to live in the U.S. with 28.3% of its residents living in poverty - defined as earning less than $9,570 per individual or $19,500 for a family of four. This metropolitan city has the third-highest poverty rate in the nation.
The lack of health benefits among many low-wage workers not only results in poor quality of life, but an overburdened tax base for those who must seek emergency care. SFIWJ uses its moral, collective authority to speak on behalf of the working poor who deserve just wages and benefits, and a voice on the job.
Florida’s minimum wage of $8.05 per hour, or approximately $1288 gross income per month, does not go very far in South Florida. In a single family household, parents constantly struggle with the decision of whether to pay the rent or medical bills, whether to pay for utilities or medication. Based on our religious belief in the value of work as a contribution to society, no working person should have to choose which basic needs he or she can fulfill.