FAITH AND JUSTICE WORKER CENTER
Faith and Justice Worker Center exists because we believe everyone should have a safe and healthy workplace, and we believe in working-class people’s collective power to create change.
FJWC has been the premier worker rights community organization in Houston for more than fourteen years. We are dedicated to creating positive change with and for low-wage workers by providing services, building peer support networks, and mobilizing campaigns.
Our model is one of empowerment that ensures a sustainable and growing impact. All our efforts, whether to educate the public, to provide case resolution services, or to lead advocacy campaigns, are driven by members: low-wage workers who become leaders in realizing the mission and exercising governance of the FJWC.
The Corporation's mission is to provide a safe space for low-wage workers to gather and learn about their rights in the workplace, network for various social services, file complaints with government agencies, meet with attorneys and connect with community allies. The Corporation also organizes low-wage workers to improve conditions on the job and mobilizes workers and the general and religious communities on issues and campaigns to improve wages, benefits and working conditions for low-wage workers.
ALL THINGS WORKERS
WHO ARE WORKERS?
Low-wage workers are people who perform work that does not provide economic security. That includes:
workers whose wages would not place them above the poverty line if they worked full time,
workers who receive few or no benefits and often work irregular hours in unregulated conditions,
people whose work is not recognized or compensated, and
people who are trapped in poverty because they are excluded from the labor market, whether due to their immigration status, their criminal records, a disability, or other forms of discrimination.
IT ALL POSSIBLE
Low-wage workers perform important tasks. The fact that our society underpays them has nothing to do with the value of their work: Construction workers build all the safe spaces we have access to.
Domestic workers take care of homes and loved ones –– our children, our elderly. Farm workers, truck drivers, fishers, cooks, dishwashers, waitstaff, and grocery store staff feed us. Janitors sanitize our workplaces and public areas.
All these functions are necessary for a society. Workers who perform them have low incomes because of economic forces, not the merit of their labor, and structures like classism, sexism, racism, and xenophobia contribute to their receiving differential and pejorative treatment.
WORKER RIGHTS IMPACT EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE
Worker rights set the bar for working conditions, which determine quality of life for low-wage workers and everyone else. On average, American adults spend nearly half of their waking hours at work.
Our occupations expose us to physical conditions that have health effects. In addition, the nature of the work we do and how it is organized can affect our mental health. Furthermore, for most people, employment is the primary source of income, giving us the means to live healthy lives –– or not.
We see the negligent enforcement and deficient definitions of worker rights in Texas as major determinants of social inequalities, and we seek to change these.
JESSICA LORENA DIAZ
Community Consultation Legal & Support Center Manager
Worker Justice Outreach Coordinator
Organizer Of Justice for Essential Workers
Community Consultation Legal & Support Legal Assistant
Information Center Manager
MONICA TREVINO DIAZ
Worker Justice Assistant
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
REV. SIMON BAUTISTA
ILSE GRISELDA HERNÁNDEZ
NEW BOARD OF ADVISORS
Faith and Justice Worker Center is the premier worker rights community organization in Houston. For the past fourteen years, we have provided educational workshops to the public, leadership trainings for low wage workers, provided wage theft case resolution services and lead advocacy campaigns for worker rights. FJWC exists because we believe everyone should have a safe and healthy workplace, and we believe in working-class people’s collective power to create change. In the wake of the pandemic, FJWC has created a Board of Advisors to take initiative in creating programs, providing financial and legal support.
Workers in Houston routinely experience wage theft, unsafe workplaces resulting in injuries and deaths, discrimination, threats, sexual and other violence at work, and labor trafficking. All these issues are decisively prevalent and most frequently met with impunity, and we see them as violence against working class people.
Even the most “simple” case of wage theft can result in a worker and their family being evicted, eating fewer and less nutritious meals, or having their car taken away from them. We see the negligent enforcement and outright lack of worker rights in Texas as major determinants of social inequalities, and we see workers’ collective power as the key to not only achieve better working conditions, but also to address the current immigration and democratic crisis.
To achieve this social change Fe Y Justicia Worker Center has created Board of Advisors, a group of individuals who will offer new insights to our organization. We are all looking forward to working with them on a one on one basis with hopes of developing further goals that will be of great benefit to our communities.
ATTORNEY JAMES RODRIGUEZ
Before Attorney James Rodriguez began his legal studies and career, James Rodriguez earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Texas A&M University. After graduating from Texas A&M in 1989, Mr. Rodriguez was selected from a nationwide search to participate as a Fellow in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington D.C. While in D.C he worked as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill.
ATTORNEY OMAR O. VARGAZ
Attorney Omar O. Vargas has vast legal experience with expertise in immigration and criminal defense. He is originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, but has adopted Houston as his home. He graduated from the University of Houston-Downtown and studied at Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas. Attorney Omar O. Vargas is fluently bilingual.
SISTER CECILE "CEIL" ROEGER
Sister Cecile “Ceil” Roeger, O.P. has served the Dominican Community. From 1998-2001 she served as the Administrator at St. Dominic Villa. “This was an enriching experience that provided an opportunity to get to know the sisters along with the history of the community as I listened to their stories.” Sister Ceil returned to Houston in 2005 and assumed the role of Promoter of Justice, Peace and Care of Creation for the community. She still serves in this position today.
OFFICER RAFAEL PANTOJA
Rafael Pantoja is a police officer with the Houston Police Department with twenty-four years of experience. He worked in the Northeast Patrol Division for eleven years as a patrol officer and currently works in HPD’s Public Affairs Community Outreach Unit. Officer R.A. Pantoja holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas-Pan American and Master’s in Criminal Justice from the University of Houston-Downtown Campus. Officer Pantoja’s current responsibilities in the Community Outreach Unit (Public Affairs) are to establish and maintain a good working relationship with Hispanic community in order to open the lines of communication that will assist the H.P.D. and community as a whole in combating crime. He also participates in Worker’s Rights Forums that are organized by several NGOs, where he informs immigrants about their rights/responsibilities and policies/procedures of the Houston Police Department. Officer Pantoja also has a column in the magazine “Familias Latinas”.
ATTORNEY OMAR O. VARGAZ
Pancho is one of the founders of Fe y Justicia Worker Center, a community organization in Houston for low-wage immigrant workers, and he has worked tirelessly to grow the capacity of Living Hope Wheelchair Association, a grassroots organization of immigrants with spinal cord injuries. Since coming to the U.S. from Mexico in 1996, Pancho has served as a teacher and mentor in the immigrant rights movement to build institutions that empower and defend the most vulnerable coming to the U.S. In 2004 he co-authored an award-winning popular education curriculum, BRIDGE: Building a Race and immigration Dialogue in the Global Economy, which confronted issues of divisions and alliance building and has transformed organizing and empowerment in the growing immigrant rights movement. His commitment to modeling decision-making processes that engage the knowledge, experience and power of grassroots communities has inspired a new generation of immigrant rights leaders to challenge the status quo.
DR. FERNANDEZ - ESQUER
Dr. Fernandez-Esquer received her PhD in Psychology at the University of Arizona and then completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cancer Prevention at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She has conducted research in cancer and HIV prevention among different ethnic groups, but primarily among Latinos. She has participated in national, statewide, and local community intervention research projects for the prevention of breast and cervical cancer, including her most recent Houston-based education and navigation project among Vietnamese nail salon workers. In addition to cancer and HIV prevention, she has also conducted community-based research among Latino day laborers, exploring their work-related health risk behaviors, particularly those that expose them to hazardous conditions at work.
DR. CHRISTINE KOVIC
Dr. Christine Kovic, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, has conducted research in the area of human rights for the past twenty years. Her current research addresses the intersection of human rights, health, and immigration, with emphasis on the organizing efforts of Latina/os in the United States, Central American migrants crossing Mexico, the impact of enforcement and “security” policies on the U.S.-Mexico border.
ATTORNEY JOSEF "JOE" BUENKER
Attorney Josef (“Joe”) Buenker is a native Houstonian and first generation American. Joe’s parents immigrated to the United States from Germany and taught him an appreciation for this country and the blessings that living here gives to us. Joe attended Rice University, graduating in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree. In 1989, Joe received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.