January 23, 2009

Worker wage theft topic of discussion during event

Posted: January 23, 2009
January 30, 2009
1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

A leading activist for workers’ rights will visit Arizona State University’s West campus on Friday, Jan. 30, for an event that is free and open to the public.

Kim Bobo, executive director and founder of the national nonprofit group Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), will speak on “Wage Theft in America” from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. in the La Sala ballroom of the University Center Building at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road. Bobo’s appearance is sponsored by ASU’s Master of Arts in Social Justice and Human Rights (MASJHR) degree program and co-sponsored by Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona/Worker Rights Center.

“Wage theft is a huge issue, and it’s underreported. Sixty percent of people who come to our center have experienced wage theft,” says the Rev. Trina Zelle, director of the Arizona branch of Interfaith Worker Justice. As a response to such findings discovered by IWJ’s 21 workers’ rights centers around the country, Bobo authored the book “Wage Theft In America: Why Millions Of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid – And What We Can Do About It,” from which she will draw during her Friday afternoon talk, Zelle says.

“We know that workers’ rights are human rights, and having the opportunity to host such a dedicated and determined labor rights activist on campus is such an exciting and significant experience for us and anyone interested in, or being affected by, these issues,” says William Simmons, director of the semester-old MASJHR program. “A major part of our curriculum is to have students interact with community members, and to have such a leading expert on campus to talk about such an important issue is just the kind of event that this program embraces.”

The public lecture is part of a weekend visit to Phoenix by Bobo, whose organization calls upon religious values in order to educate, organize, and mobilize the religious community in the United States on issues and campaigns that will improve wages, benefits, and conditions for workers, and to give voice to workers, especially workers in low-wage jobs.

“Billions of dollars in wages are being stolen from millions of workers each and every year. The employers range from small neighborhood businesses to some of the nation’s largest employers,” Bobo writes in her new book. “Wage theft occurs when workers are not paid all their wages, workers are denied overtime when they should be paid it, or workers aren’t paid at all for work they’ve performed. Wage theft is when an employer violates the law and deprives a worker of legally mandated wages. Wage theft is widespread and pervasive across all types of companies.”

Bobo’s book will be available for sale at the Jan. 30 function. Following her appearance at ASU’s West campus, Bobo will give a faith-based talk on the Employee Free Choice Act from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona, 331 E. Willetta St., in downtown Phoenix.

Bobo founded Interfaith Worker Justice in 1996. Before the organization’s founding, Bobo worked as a trainer for Midwest Academy, and was the director of organizing for Bread for the World. She currently contributes articles to the online forum, Religion Dispatches, and is the choir director at Good News Community Church in Chicago. In addition to writing “Wage Theft in America,” she also penned “Lives Matter: A Handbook for Christian Organizing,” and co-authored “Organizing for Social Change,” the best-selling organizing manual in the country.

For more information about Bobo’s visit to ASU’s West campus, contact Simmons at 623-543-6089 or William.Simmons@asu.edu, or the Rev. Zelle at 602-254-5452 or tzelle@iwj.org. Additional information can be found online at www.iwj.org, www.iwjarizona.com, and www.wagetheft.org.