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My Pilgrimage with Warehouse Workers

by Helene Slessarev-Jamir 06-05-2013
Immigration reform must include protection of workers' rights.

(Champiofoto / Shutterstock)

EVERY TIME I fly into Ontario, Calif., I see neat blocks of gleaming, low-rise warehouses surrounded by well-manicured trees and shrubbery. I now know that what goes on inside those buildings is not nearly so pretty.

As a board member of People of Faith United for Worker Justice, a local faith-rooted worker justice organization, I have seen the dismal working conditions inside several of these warehouses and have heard the testimonies of workers who have been seriously injured on the job. Eighty-five percent of the warehouse workers in Southern California earn minimum wage and receive no health benefits, even though their jobs entail unloading and reloading heavy boxes.

Since many of these workers are hired through temp agencies, which are often located inside the warehouses, workers’ rights are routinely abused. When someone is injured, instead of being cared for, he or she is simply not called back to work the next day. When workers complain about poor working conditions—such as a lack of breaks, access to bathrooms, or having to lift heavy boxes into freight trucks in 108-degree temperatures—the managers tell them it’s not their responsibility because the workers are employed by the temp agency. The temp agencies in turn claim they are not responsible for conditions in the warehouses because the agencies are separate companies.

Invisible Children: Using Film and Social Media to Advance Global Justice Advocacy

by Helene Slessarev-Jamir 03-13-2012
Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/via Getty Images.

"KONY 2012" filmmaker Jason Russell in an appearance on the "Today Show" March 9. Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/via Getty Images.

After returning to the U.S., they produced a film titled Invisible Children and then set up a non-profit organization by the same name as the vehicle through which they could use the film to raise awareness of the child soldiers.

I believe that the centrality of film and social media to Invisible Children’s organizing strategy places it at the forefront of new innovative forms of global activism that have to capacity to create a degree of intimacy between people living on opposite sides of the globe that could not have been possible in the past. Social media as an organizing tool also opens up the possibility of creating extensive webs of interactions between activists across the globe. It allows story-telling to be a global enterprise.

 The use of social media also has the power to unleash much greater local initiative and innovation by enabling direct communication between activists in different geographic locations across the global, without information first needing to flow up through traditional hierarchical organizational structures to a national staff that perhaps sends it back down again to activists in other local areas. 

Rethinking Our Approach to Immigration Reform

by Helene Slessarev-Jamir 03-29-2011
It is time for those of us who have been advocating for comprehensive immigration reform to rethink our strategies.

Looking for Welcome

by Helene Slessarev-Jamir 04-01-2006

Fearful of harsh border enforcement legislation and trapped in poverty, many immigrants turn to churches for help.

Where There is Despair...

by Helene Slessarev-Jamir 09-01-2005
The incarnational work of filmmaker Gerard Straub.