"I feel so honored to receive this award from Interfaith Worker Justice.
"I want to thank my coworkers and the organizers who worked with me to form a union at Georgetown University because I didn't do it alone.
"In fact, I found the strength to stand up after talking with a Georgetown student. I was having a rough day when she approached me and asked what was happening. I had seen her around campus before, she was the activist type. When I told her what I was going through, she told me, "If you stand up, I'll stand with you."
"As our struggle continued, I found strength in that statement and in the idea that faith without works is dead. I believe that if you have faith in something you have to fight for it. The bible teaches that you don't have to be afraid. You can stand up. And so I organized because I wanted to help my coworkers and I wanted to help myself.
"I am so proud of the work that I am able to do. I'm proud that I get to stand by other food service workers today and tell them, 'If you stand up, I'll stand with you.'
We want to recognize Tarshea Smith, like Antonio Vanegas, for the tremendous courage she demonstrated in her workplace at Georgetown University.
Tarshea worked for the dining services at Georgetown University for 20 years. A mother of two boys and a DC native, she was one of the first workers in the dining service to begin organizing a union with UNITEHERE local 23. Tarshea knew that through community comes strength. She talked with her co-workers. She talked with the priests at Georgetown about their faith. She talked with Georgetown students. She learned about the important teachings of Catholic Social Teaching and she persevered in organizing out of her own faith underpinnings.
I wish I could tell you tonight that all religious institutions are eager to support workers when they organize. Tarshea didn’t really know what she would face. But leaders at Georgetown – workers and students, faculty and administrators – recognized that a Catholic institution is best served when it respects its workers and their right to organize. Georgetown’s community supported Tarshea and her colleagues. They now have a good contract and Tarshea is continuing to organize, both in workplaces and her community. Tarshea, please accept this Award for Workplace Bravery.
I also want to take this opportunity to give a shout out to UNITE HERE and its fabulous support of Hyatt workers. Interfaith Worker Justice affiliates around the nation have partnered with you on the boycott and actions. We are so pleased that workers, like in Baltimore, can now have the benefit of union representation.
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