Yesterday, I was arrested. My teenage son asked, "Why’d you get arrested mom?" Technically, I was refusing to move out of the street in front of the St. Louis federal court house.
But the "real" reason I was arrested was to publicly demonstrate support for the United Mine Workers struggle against Peabody Energy’s stealing of retired miners’ health care and pensions.
The United Mine Workers are locked in a David and Goliath struggle to protect 22,000 miners and their families. In 2007, Peabody Energy, the Goliath of the coal world, set up another company. Patriot Coal, the new company, took on some of Peabody's operations east of the Mississippi River and nearly all of Peabody's retiree health and pension obligations. The company was structured to function in the good times, but not to survive the bad times and coal has historically had good years and bad. As predicted by the UMWA, in 2012 Patriot Coal filed for bankruptcy. In the bankruptcy reorganization, Patriot is seeking to offload all these so-called "legacy costs" (the health and pensions for retirees, widowers and kids).
Yesterday, I sat through several hours of a hearing in bankruptcy court. Patriot Coal wants to offer $6.9 million in retention and incentive pay to approximately 225 staffers, despite seeking to cut all its health care and pensions for retirees.
Retirees are confused. They worked all their lives for Peabody Energy. Today, Peabody is making record profits. But they are being told that Patriot is now their employer and it is going bankrupt. This is a plotting of evil if I’ve ever seen it. In Psalm 64, David lamented similar practices. He wrote:
"They encourage each other in evil plans, they talk about hiding their snares; they say, ‘Who will see them?’ The plot injustice and say, ‘We have devised a perfect plan!’ Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning."
Indeed, surely the mind and heart of Peabody Energy is cunning. Shame on this company for abandoning its responsibilities for workers. Shame on Patriot Coal for furthering this evil.
We need people of faith across the country to support the these mine workers in their herculean struggle. If you can come out in support, join us at the rally in Charleston, W.Va. on April 1, or the rallies in St. Louis on April 28 and 29.
On behalf of the board and staff of Interfaith Worker Justice, I am honored to celebrate Roz Pelles, Vice President of IWJ's Board of Directors and the now retired Director of Civil Rights, Human and Women's Rights for the AFL-CIO. I first got to know Roz when she joined the IWJ Board of Directors nine years ago. My respect and admiration for her has grown steadily over time.
On International Women's Day, we celebrate women. Lots of people in our nation talk about their faith. Roz lives her faith, and recently retired from her work at the AFL-CIO. Today we'd like to honor Roz as a strong faithful leader in our work.
Perhaps the longest passage in the bible about women comes from Proverbs 31.
The passage is a mother telling her son what he should look for in a wife. But whether a wife, a husband, a partner, or most especially a co-worker, the values exalted in Scripture are reflected in Roz.
(Note: none of these values mention anything explicitly about church or synagogue attendance or outside trappings of religiosity.)
The passage begins: “A woman of noble character, who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Ah yes, that is Roz. On this International Women’s Day, let’s just call her Ruby Roz.
The text says, “She sets about her work vigorously.” Roz works hard and does what she says she will do.
“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” Roz believes in unions because she cares about people. Her commitment to people drives her work.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Indeed, Roz is clothed with strength and dignity. She carries herself and her values so clearly. But, she can laugh at herself and situations in which we find ourselves.
“She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Whenever I’ve sought Roz’s guidance, she has offered wise council that is honest, yet kind. Roz reminds us to stay focused on our work.
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” This world is full of amazing women (and men) who do fabulous noble things. Roz is among them, a doer of justice, a speaker of the truth, and an example to us all.
The passage ends by saying, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise.” We are not sure what all the rewards Roz deserves, but we want them all for her, a faithful advocate for justice. She has shown us what it means to live with passion and humility. You have been a true witness of your faith.
We are all better for having known and worked with Roz. And we look forward to new ways to continue the struggle together. I just know our dear sister will continue to be blessed and be a blessing in the next phase of her journey.
Thank you for all your good work, Ruby Roz. I salute you.
In the comment section below, share stories of other strong women of faith who are advocates for workers and women every day!
I just learned that Hilda Solis has submitted her resignation letter to the president. She has been a tireless champion for low-wage and immigrant workers. We thank her for her work, dedication and passion. She will be deeply missed by faith and worker advocates around the country.
Now we need the President to appoint another worker rights champion to follow in her footsteps –and quickly. There is so much work to be done and the Department of Labor needs someone with Secretary Solis’ passion and vision. We need a fighter and a prophet. We need someone who will push forward regulations designed to bring the nation’s labor laws into the current century, like the caregivers regulation that provides minimum wage and overtime coverage to professional home care workers. IWJ would also like to see the paystub transparency regulation moved forward quickly. This would require every employer to provide a paystub explaining clearly (yes, clearly) how workers are paid. This would help workers who are routinely cheated by their employers who pay in cash, offer direct deposit with no accounting for hours or take unusual (and illegal) deductions without explanations.
We need a Secretary who will fight for resources for enforcement. In the current budget-cutting frenzy, there is bound to be efforts to cut enforcement. With only one enforcement staff person for every 135,000 workers, we can’t afford any cuts.
We need a Secretary who will push for job creation. Job training is good, but it isn’t enough. We need investment in job creation. Despite the declining unemployment figures, for which we are grateful, there are still millions of workers without jobs and millions more who’ve given up looking for jobs. We can do better as a nation and the Secretary must lead us in finding ways to invest in and create new jobs.
We need a Secretary who will champion immigration reform. Every worker in the country is affected when 11 million workers do not have the protection of citizenship. Employers know they can exploit workers without documents, and too many unethical employers do so, driving down wages and standards for all workers in the nation.
And, we need a Secretary who will keep the concerns of working men and women on the front of the public dialogue. There are many advocates of corporate interests in the Cabinet and Congress. Not nearly as many advocates for workers. We need a Secretary who recognizes the power of and is not afraid to use the bully pulpit.
Today, we give thanks for all Secretary Hilda Solis has done. Tomorrow, we pray for a new leader who will champion the nation’s workers.
What characteristics are you looking for in the new Secretary of Labor? What policy should the new Secretary of Labor push? Who should fill the position? What advances made by Sec. Solis are you most thankful?
Most Black Fridays, I avoid retail stores like the plague. I prefer to enjoy the day with family and friends. This year, I’m venturing out – not in search of that “good deal,” but in support of justice for Walmart workers.
We Americans love our deals. I do my share of bargain shopping and coupon clipping. But we also want workers to be paid fairly and treated decently. Companies can make large profits, but we expect them to share their prosperity with workers.
Walmart is the world’s largest retailer. As the nation’s largest private employer with 1.4 million workers, Walmart is the largest employer of women, African Americans and Latinos. Because of its size, Walmart sets the standard for retail work in the nation. Walmart’s standard is bargain basement. In our faith communities, we believe that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” We expect more from Walmart.
Walmart pays low wages ($8.81 starting rate). They also schedule workers who want and need full time work and benefits part time hours. Thousands of workers can’t work the hours they need to support their families, and they aren’t eligible for company-provided (although expensive) health care benefits. Walmart claims to serve low-income people by setting cheap prices, but it often pushes workers to poverty with its erratic, insufficient scheduling and low wages.
Walmart workers have formed an organization call OUR Walmart pushing the company to be better. The OUR Walmart leaders I’ve met enjoy working in retail and want Walmart to prosper, but also they want to share in the prosperity. They want better wages, full-time hours and family affordable benefits. They want to be treated with respect and dignity. They want to know that those who work in Walmart’s warehouses, and produce products for Walmart are also treated fairly.
This Black Friday, people of faith around the country are standing with Walmart workers. Some of us will be offering prayers outside the stores. Some of us will be talking with managers inside the stores. Others will be organizing flash mobs inside and outside the stores.
We won’t stop anyone from shopping, but we do want to get Walmart’s attention. And based on Walmart’s filing charges at the National Labor Relations Board attempting to stop the actions, it appears that we’ve already gotten Walmart’s attention.
Walmart could be a more successful company and raise the standards in the retail industry if it embraces workers and pay middle-class wages and benefits, create and implement ethical sourcing and community benefit policies.
So this Black Friday, I’ll be outside Walmart. Perhaps next year, I can be inside shopping.
The following is a reflection by IWJ's executive director, Kim Bobo, on the Wisconsin recall election and IWJ's annual staff retreat.
I woke up this morning to the news about Governor Scott Walker “surviving” the recall vote in Wisconsin. Although IWJ could not legally (and did not) work on the recall, the organization stands firmly against his policy attacks against workers and thus I was troubled by the outcome and horrified by the amount of money spent in the race.
Nonetheless, I remain optimistic that the American people fundamentally believe in fairness and that we can work together to raise standards for workers and restore workers' rights to organize and engage in collective bargaining.
This morning was not only the day after the Wisconsin election, it was also the day after the IWJ annual staff retreat where we review our priority directions—analyzing what’s working and what isn’t—and collectively think about how we might be more effective. Despite the challenges IWJ faces in fulfilling our mission, I’m basking in the glow of the retreat, reflecting on all the talented and deeply committed IWJ staff who are drawn to the work.
Like many nonprofits in this economy, we are grappling with how to get the resources to do the job, how to use more technology more efficiently, and how to handle workloads that are bigger than most of us can do. And as an organization with a founding director (me), we are trying to make sure that the relationships with and identity of IWJ is broader and deeper than just me. But the IWJ staff has solid plans, great vision and a spirit of camaraderie about the work. I am blessed to work with such a great group of folks.
So the day after the Wisconsin election, I think I’ll focus on the IWJ staff retreat!
A reflection on Wednesday's action at General Electric's shareholders meeting in Detroit by IWJ's Executive Director Kim Bobo.
I was prepared to get arrested yesterday, but those in leadership decided we would peacefully disrupt (and not do civil disobedience at) General Electric’s shareholders meeting in Detroit. And so we did.
We waited for almost three hours for the meeting to begin. We met at a staging area at 7 a.m. Organizers reminded and updated us going inside on "the plan.” I rode over to the Renaissance Center in the clergy van. Once parked, we joined hands and prayed in the parking lot before going inside. Two Detroit pastors were the designated speakers (preachers) for the inside group. The rest of us in our van were to surround the two pastors to delay their escorts out of the meeting.
We arrived at the meeting check in spot by 8:30 a.m., but they wouldn’t let us go through security until 9:00 a.m. I’m used to security guards — I go through O’Hare airport almost weekly, but this was ridiculous. There were guards and GE staffers everywhere. They confiscated cameras and cellphones, searched our bags, marched us through metal detectors and wanded us all over.
We were finally allowed into the actual meeting room around 9:30 a.m., and the entire front section was already filled up. Somewhere, there was another entrance regular folks weren’t told about.
What a symbol for life. Regular folks have to struggle through all this stuff and meanwhile those in power go through another door and get the front seats!
When the meeting officially opened, one of the pastors, with a serious preacher voice, started scolding the company about paying its fair share. After he was led out, another pastor stood up and began his sermonette. Once he was hauled away, we all chanted, "pay your fair share," and marched out. We were out the door in less than ten minutes.
Outside, there were nearly 1500 protestors and a ridiculous number of guards, police and mounted police. We marched around the building chanting.
Did it matter? In the short-term, absolutely. Immediately after we left, GE’s treasurer defended its tax payment policies and pledged itself in favor of tax reform. There is awesome media coverage about corporations paying their fair share. In the long-term, the event will matter if we continue to use is to insist on programs, jobs, investments and tax policies that serve the 99 percent.
The Apostle Paul, in II Timothy 4:7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Rev. Addie Wyatt, who died in Chicago on March 28, 2012, left her mark on Chicago and the nation.
Born in Mississippi, Rev. Wyatt’s family moved to Chicago during the Great Depression. As a teenager in 1941, she applied for a typing job in a meat-packing factory. After being told that Black people need not apply for the office jobs, she went to work on the factory floor, where she earned more than she would have as a typist due to the union contract between Armour and United Packinghouse Workers. Rev. Wyatt jumped right into activism with the union and eventually became the President of her local in the 1950's.
At the same time that she was leading her union, she and her husband, Rev. Claude Wyatt, started the Vernon Park Church of God, initially operating out of a garage. In the 1960's, she became a prominent civil rights leader, actively supporting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and helping him connect with the labor movement.
In 1976, Rev. Wyatt became the first female international vice president in the history of her union, which eventually became the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). She was a founder of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and served on several national and state commissions on women and labor.
I didn’t meet Rev. Wyatt until the early 1990's. Even though she had officially retired from the union in 1984, she was still active in labor struggles. I don’t even remember how I first heard of her, but I immediately wanted to meet her. I was beginning to try to build ties between the religious community and the labor community and here was a woman who epitomized the connection between faith and work. She was gracious and generous with her time and wisdom, helping me, a complete novice in the partnership work. When we started Interfaith Worker Justice in 1996, Rev. Wyatt agreed to serve as an advisor to the organization.
Rev. Wyatt was truly a woman of God who used her gifts and talents to bring good news to the poor. She stood for justice at work, in the church and in the community. In 2005, when she was 81 years old, she gave a talk in which she declared, “although I’m hopping, I’m not stopping.”
As I think of her life and legacy, here are seven things she taught us:
1) When God calls, you must respond. Rev. Wyatt had a sense of her own calling by God, but she truly believed that we all are called. And when we are called, we have a choice whether or not to respond.
2) Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Rev. Wyatt did not waste time and energy focusing on what people might say she couldn’t do. She focused entirely on what needed to be done and what she could do. In the process, she broke down racial and gender barriers.
3) Standing for justice can be done kindly. Rev. Wyatt fought against injustice, but she was always kind, gracious and poised. She cared for people and her love for them showed through in how she dealt with them. She showed love and kindness to those in power as well as those in struggle. As a woman in leadership operating in both the religious and labor worlds, sectors often dominated by men, she demonstrated how to operate effectively and powerfully and yet distinctly in her own style.
4) Unions and religious organizations are key partners. Rev. Wyatt talked about how people need the union in the workplace to achieve justice and fairness, but the church (and I’d say synagogue and mosque as well) to achieve wholeness and fulfillment in life. She recognized the power and importance of both institutions working together.
5) Poetry and music can teach us lessons. Rev. Wyatt was known for her singing and her use of poetic language. She often quoted great poets or songs in her sermons and presentations. She recognized the ability of poetry and music to reach to us in ways that traditional words cannot.
6) Strong family relationships enable powerful community work. Rev. Wyatt and her husband Claude were married for 70 years. They worked together and ministered together. They had a beautiful home to which they regularly invited people.
7) Give generously of your time, especially to young people. Rev. Wyatt gave willingly of her time, especially when asked to train or talk with young people. Until her health prevented her, Rev. Wyatt would regularly meet with our seminary interns and talk about how her career had unfolded and offer advice for connecting faith and labor.
In recent years, Rev. Wyatt was appalled to see what was happening to workers and unions. Unfortunately, she is no longer with us. She fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. Now it is our turn. We must learn her lessons and jump into the fight.
Indeed, we face a fight – a good fight – for the core values of justice and dignity in the workplace. Let us remember Rev. Wyatt by following her path to justice.
When my mother became ill a few years ago, she began to need assistance with basic living tasks. My sister and I debated how best to help her. She desperately wanted to remain in her own apartment. We hired a caregiver through an agency to help her, so we could be assured of regular care and we wouldn't have to handle all the payroll issues. Matilda worked long hours, doing tasks that were often both back breaking and heart breaking, and was a blessing to my mother in the last days of her life.
The Department of Labor has proposed a new rule to extend Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) coverage – basically minimum wage and overtime coverage – to home care workers employed by agencies. That rule should be enacted without delay.
As my mom's health declined, we gradually added more hours. Sometimes there were two women who cared for her, but my mom really preferred Matilda, and so did we. Matilda was smart, caring and funny. She and my mom would joke with one another, and occasionally fuss at one another.
The caregiving work for a frail elderly person with dementia is difficult. The weekends I cared for mom were physically and mentally exhausting. My mom was a large woman and moving her in and out of the bed, bath and wheelchair was hard. She loved to read and do crossword puzzles and was angry about losing her ability to do both, which she sometimes took out on those of us around her. Keeping track of her pills required charts for all of us. I learned incredible admiration for the skills of good caregivers.
In the last few months of her life, mom really was way too frail to be living in her own apartment, but she had previously made my sister and me promise that we wouldn’t move her into a nursing home. She also wanted to remain near her friends. Matilda said she would like to pick up more hours.
By this point, we realized that mom needed more than 40 hours per week of care. I called the homecare agency and explained that we wanted to pay overtime for the hours over 40. The caregiver agency, based in Virginia, carefully explained to me that the law did not require overtime premiums for more than 40 hours. Because we were asking Matilda to be away from her own family to care for our mom, it only seemed fair to us that Matilda should be paid a premium for working more than 40 hours per week.
The owner of the agency seemed a bit surprised. He claimed he’d never had anyone offer to pay more, but he in turn said that he would not charge us any additional agency fee for the hours over 40. We readily accepted his offer.
A few months later, when my mom passed away, Matilda joined us in weeping. She attended the family funeral. On the first anniversary of my mom’s death, she called me. For the last year of mom’s life, she had become part of our family.
She deserved overtime for her work.
Most, but not all, home care workers, receive minimum wage or a bit higher, but seldom enough to get them out of poverty. Most do not receive overtime pay.
The new rule being proposed by the Department of Labor would extend Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) coverage – ensuring at least minimum wage and overtime coverage – to home care workers employed by agencies. This long overdue rule would protect hardworking employees like Matilda.
The multi-billion dollar home care industry is waging a full-scale campaign against the common sense rule, claiming the sky will fall if this rule is enacted. The industry claims seniors will be left unattended and jobs will be lost. Most home care companies are “for profit” firms. They are profiting by charging high and paying workers low. Large employment firms like home care agencies should be required to abide by the nation’s core standards. These scare tactics should be ignored and common sense should prevail.
Home care workers are an important and growing segment of the workforce. They do difficult and critically important work for families and the society. There is no good reason for them to be exempt from either minimum wage or overtime regulations.
Kim Bobo is the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice and author of Wage Theft in America: Why millions of working Americans are not getting paid and what we can do about it.
Listen to an audio recording of the call here:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 18, 2011
Kristin Ford, Faith in Public Life, email@example.com, 202-459-8625
Kim Bobo, Interfaith Worker Justice, firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-391-8844
Religious Leaders Offer Sanctuary to WI Legislators Fighting for Public Employees' Rights
Protestant, Catholic, Jewish clergy: Protecting workers' rights is a moral priority
As over tens of thousands of people protest Wisconsin Governor Walker's attempt to take away collective bargaining rights from nurses, teachers, and other public employees, faith leaders are speaking out and offering sanctuary to Wisconsin legislators who fled Madison in an effort to prevent a vote to strip workers of the right to negotiate for fair wages, benefits and working conditions.
Speaking on press teleconference call Friday afternoon, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergy from Illinois and Wisconsin stressed the faith community's commitment to workers' rights as a moral issue, offered their support to protecting Wisconsin public employees' collective bargaining rights, and extended invitations of sanctuary and hospitality to lawmakers.
"For these brave Senators who are seeking shelter from the storm, I say we welcome you and we offer you sanctuary and hospitality in the Christian tradition," said Rev. Jason Coulter, Pastor of Ravenswood United Church of Christ in Chicago. "My state of Illinois is facing a budget crisis much more severe than our neighbors to the north, yet we understand that punitive, family destroying measures are not the solution. We are coming together to solve problems without scapegoating public workers and their unions."
"I want to affirm that it is a moral issue to support workers, they have a right to negotiate issues which directly affect their lives. My wife, 2 sons, and 1 daughter-in-law and 5 grandchildren will all be affected. No one else has been asked to sacrifice in Wisconsin except public employees," said Rev. Curt Anderson, pastor of First Congregational Church in Madison, WI and a board member of the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin. "I implore Governor Walker to talk to people who are affected and not impose such an unfair solution. If our church can further that discussion by being a sanctuary we are happy to do that."
Faith leaders in Wisconsin have taken leading roles in rallies at the state capitol.
"In the past four days, we've had clergy speaking at all of the rallies at the capitol," said Rabbi Renee Bauer of Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin, from Madison. Bauer also stated that clergy in Madison had helped citizens prepare for lobbying visits and opened their doors to weary protestors, and the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin sent Governor Walker a letter from over 50 religious leaders voicing opposition to his plan. Read the letter here.
"Our church is 1 mile from the capital and for 100 years, has considered its calling to provide hospitality," said Rev. Amanda Stein, Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Madison. "We offer this building as a safe and holy sanctuary for legislators of any persuasion, where true dialogue can happen. The state capitol right now is not a place where true public dialog is happening."
Clergy on the call also explained that the debate about workers' rights is rooted deeply in faith traditions.
"Like Christianity, Judaism has a long history of calling for two things: dignity for workers, and the right of workers to have a voice and for their voice to be heard," said Rabbi Bruce Elder, Congregation Hafaka in Glencoe, IL. "I have a great hope that Wisconsin will consider the ramifications across the border and across the country. We will support legislators who were brave enough to take a stand."
"The first right we have is the right to truth, so let's tell the truth," said Father G. Simon Harak, S.J., Director of the Center for Peacemaking at Marquette University in Milwaukee. "Our state is broke because we have pushed through funding for special interest groups rather than hard-working Wisconsinites. Catholic Social Teaching is consistent in that workers have the right to organize, right to bargain, right to insurance in old age, and health care."
The struggle in Wisconsin is only one of many attacks on workers' rights under way throughout the country.
"Religious leaders across the country are standing up to attacks on public workers under the guise of fiscal responsibility," said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice in Chicago. "Similar laws are being considered in 30 states and religious leaders are stepping up to the plate."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 16, 2011
Religious Leaders Condemn Attacks on Public Employees
Interfaith Worker Justice Defends Beleaguered State Workers amidst “Moral Crisis”
“February is shaping up as the cruelest month workers have known in decades,” columnist Harold Meyerson wrote in Wednesday’s Washington Post, referring to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights and cut pay and benefits without any negotiation – and his threat to call out the National Guard if the state’s public employees go on strike.
But the assault on public workers is under way in multiple states. Bills that would in one form or another roll back labor rights and wage standards have recently been (or will soon be) introduced in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
Amidst this onslaught, the Board of Directors of Interfaith Worker Justice today issued a statement that brings religious teachings to bear on the current national standoff. The statement,Stop Attacking Workers, reads:
Our religious traditions insist that workers, as human beings with inherent dignity, have the right to form associations to improve their conditions at work. Statements issued by a wide array of … faith bodies support the right of workers to organize and bargain with their employers over wages, benefits, and a voice on the job.
“Governor Walker’s bill is an affront to the human dignity of public sector workers,” said Rabbi Renée Bauer, Director of the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin. “As a religious leader I recognize this as a moral crisis. Jewish tradition makes protecting the weak from exploitation by the mighty, treating laborers fairly and recognizing their rights to organize a religious obligation.”
“My tradition is not alone in this call,” Rabbi Bauer said. “All religions believe in justice. Now is the time for all of us to live out our faith by raising our voices to protect the rights of workers in Wisconsin and throughout the country.”
Tennessee’s Legislature will soon consider bills that would curtail the rights of teachers and prohibit them from collective bargaining.
“Tennessee State Senators are trying to ram through legislation this week attacking school teachers,” said Rev. Jim Sessions of Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee and a member of IWJ’s national board of directors. “They want to turn the clock back 50 years, when teachers had no right to organize and salaries were so low because the mainly female workforce wasn’t supposed to need much money, as they were provided for by their husbands. Those times are gone, teachers have won dignity on the job, and we need to move forward, not backward,” said Sessions, a United Methodist minister.
“Rather than pushing down standards for public workers, all workers should be valued and achieve respect at the workplace,” reads the Interfaith Worker Justice board statement, which concludes:
Using the state budget crisis as a pretext for ramming through anti-worker “Right to Work” laws and prohibitions on state worker representation is an affront to workers and to the faith principles of justice and fairness. The people who take care of our children and our elderly, build our roads and schools, teach our children, serve our food, attend our houses of worship, and work in our hospitals and industries deserve better.
The full text of the statement is available at http://www.iwj.org/index.cfm/stop-attacking-workers. Also see IWJ’s resource “What Faith Groups Say About the Right to Organize” (PDF).