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Kim Bobo: 2010-11 Visiting Social Activist
Kim Bobo (March 2011)
Kim Bobo founded and directs Interfaith Worker Justice, an organization representing more than 70 interfaith committees, workers' centers and student groups across the United States. Since 1996, IWJ has educated and mobilized the religious community on issues and campaigns that will improve wages, benefits, and conditions for workers.
While Ms. Bobo was in town, she met with Professor Leseliey Welch's "Women in the Community" class to talk about the everyday life of an activist. Students asked questions about her path from student to community organizer. She shared with them her personal tips for sustainable activism. She also met with students and clergy from local religious groups to inform them about wage theft and how their organizations could fight it.
For her Visiting Social Activist project, Bobo revised and updated her 2008 book
Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid – And What We Can Do About It. Wage Theft includes violations of minimum wage laws; not paying overtime pay or forcing workers to work off the clock; denying workers their final paychecks; misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage, overtime, and the employers' share of FICA tax; and not paying workers at all.
Order the new edition of Wage Theft in America and start addressing the problem in your own community. The Micah Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, organized book groups to read Wage Theft, then helped establish a Mayoral Task Force on the topic. Task force members surveyed low-wage workers to demonstrate the extent of the problem and invited Kim Bobo to join local community leaders in proposing a change in city contracting practices before the City Commission. For more details, read this story on MLive.com. Unfortunately, Grand Rapids in not unique in having wage theft problems, but this example shows how a small group of committed people can make a positive change in their community.