Pastors, rabbis, imams and other religious activists across the country are urging devotees to give up fast food this month -- but not for health reasons.
Instead they're using Lent, the 40-day period of abstention many Christians observe in preparation for Easter, as an opportunity to encourage participation in the Fast from Fast Food campaign as a show of support for fast food workers who earn minimum wage or slightly more.
The fast aims to draw attention to "Fight for 15" movement, which is advocating for a union and a minimum wage of $15 an hour for fast food workers. Religious leaders involved with the fast are asking people of all faiths to take a pledge not to eat burgers and fries between Feb. 18 and April 4. Interfaith Worker Justice, the advocacy group that's organizing the fast, is also offering an online program of daily reflections and prayers that relate to the push for higher wages. So far, 1,500 people have signed the online pledge to participate, according to IWJ.
Fifty years ago, thousands marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. They were led by an eye-catching row of marchers, including a bearded rabbi, an unidentified nun in flowing habit, and Martin Luther King Jr. The third Selma-to-Montgomery march, which began on March 21, 1965, is rightly remembered as a watershed in the struggle for civil rights. Less known is how Selma refocused the lives of many, black and white, who gave the march its spiritual hue.
The trek to Montgomery began with more than 3,000 of the civil rights faithful, whose ranks swelled by the thousands along the way. In that initial vanguard were several hundred clergy and untold numbers of lay religious activists from around the country. Voting rights became law five months later, just as many who had marched were letting loose their faith in a wider field of activism, taking on a host of social wrongs.
They and others forged a new style of advocacy eventually known as the “prophetic style.” Such challenges invite a theological perspective—and a prophetic one. It’s not hard to find people acting on that impulse—people like Kim Bobo of Chicago-based Interfaith Worker Justice, who has crusaded against wage theft while invoking Nehemiah’s censure of plundering the poor. She and many others breathe life into a far-flung movement that hit its stride 50 years ago on a bridge in Selma.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that we have to remind this nation that it's a crime to live in a rich nation and receive starvation wages.
By risking their jobs and going on strike for $15, better working conditions and union rights, tens of thousands of brave fast-food workers have offered just such a reminder. They've put a face on poverty and forced the public to grapple with an unsustainable economic reality in which corporations and CEOs rake in billions of dollars, but the employees on who's backs these fortunes are made are left with scraps.
On Ash Wednesday, we supported faith leaders around the country who participated in Fast from Fast Food, a 40-day solidarity fast initiated by Interfaith Worker Justice in support of these workers, who struggle to provide for their families despite working hard.
In Boston, you’re never too far away from a Dunkin’ Donuts. In fact, the Massachusetts-based company inspires a fiery sense of loyalty in many Bostonians. It’s kind of hard to give up the city’s ubiquitous fast food staple, but Paul Drake is committed.
“As somebody who’s pretty poor at fasting, it’s been hard,” said Drake, executive director and lead organizer at Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice. “Here in Boston, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner…it’s easy to see the convenience that is fast food. But it’s actually been a really good teaching moment for me — I do this work every day, but the simple act of fasting reminds you how much hunger is a reality for many working people.”
Drake is among the many people nationwide participating in the Fast from Fast Food, a 40-day fast that coincides with the Christian season of Lent and is being organized in support of fast food workers. From Feb. 18 through April 4, faith leaders along with worker advocates and supporters are pledging to give up fast food to help bring attention to the struggles of working families and the impact of poverty wages. In particular, the fasting campaign is in support of Fight for $15, a growing movement of fast food workers nationwide who are taking to the streets to fight for living wages, better working conditions and the right to form a union without fear of retaliation.
Rudy López, executive director of the national office of Interfaith Worker Justice, said Lent — a time of sacrifice, reflection and prayer — was the perfect opportunity to elevate and highlight the struggles of workers. He emphasized that people of all faiths are encouraged to join the very first Fast from Fast Food.
Rudy López of Interfaith Worker Justice talks about the "Fast from Fast Food" campaign for Lent.
Rudy López (Interfaith Worker Justice) Rudy López (Interfaith Worker Justice) Rudy López is the newly appointed Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice. Born and raised in East Chicago, Indiana, he grew up with a migrant farmworker father who was a union member at Inland Steel Co. and an immigrant mother from Mexico. Mr. López studied political science at Indiana University and is an active member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.
On Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18, Interfaith Worker Justice will launch a “Fast from Fast Food” for Lent, raising awareness about the needs of low-income workers in the fast food industry. I interviewed Mr. López by email about his new job and this project on Feb. 10.
You know the statistic. We incarcerate a higher proportion of the population than any other country does. Russia and South Africa rank respectively second and third.
Hundreds of thousands of young, now aging, men, are doing hard time for possession of small amounts of drugs. More and more people find themselves in jail because they got caught with bench warrants for their arrest for exorbitant fines they could not afford to pay. More than a century after debtors prisons were abolished, thousands are again behind bars because of debts. But one category of felon is free on the street. I refer, of course, to corporate criminals.
Every year, workers are cheated out of tens of billions of dollars of pay -- more than larceny, robbery and burglary combined. Until the incomparable Kim Bobo gave the practice its rightful name, wage theft, most people didn't equate cheating workers of their rightful pay with simple thievery.
Last year was a time of dynamic engagement for social justice, and progressive faith leaders and religious communities spearheaded much of the action. They tackled the crisis in our immigration system, poverty, climate change, threats to religious freedom and women’s reproductive rights, criminal justice, voting rights, and more. From houses of worship offering prayer vigils around the country to faith-based groups leading rallies outside the U.S. Supreme Court, people of faith are giving public witness to the moral values embedded in our nation’s policies.
Working strategically at the local, state, and national levels, religious leaders and faith advocates remind us how important faith voices are as we work together to create a more just and equitable nation. This year promises to be filled with more vibrant faith engagement. As we look ahead, the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative has crafted a list of 15 progressive faith leaders and groups to watch in 2015 as they work to bring about enduring change.
11. Rudy Lopez. Lopez is the incoming executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, or IWJ. A former senior organizer for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement with the Center for Community Change, Lopez has more than a decade of experience in grassroots organizing, leadership development, and education and outreach in disenfranchised communities. That, along with a commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, led him to join last year’sFast for Families bus tour, as well as the board of NETWORK Education Program, the education arm of the national Catholic social justice lobby behind Nuns on the Bus. With increased visibility and strong connections in the faith-based advocacy community and grassroots networks, Lopez is the right person to build on IWJ’s successes organizing people of faith andraising the profile of labor issues such as increasing the minimum wage and preventing wage theft.
Advent is a time of hopeful anticipation for the birth of Christ and the coming of God’s kingdom — a kingdom of love, peace, and justice.
Across the country, candles of hope, joy, and peace burn bright inside homes and churches, reminding us to make space for God in our lives.
During Advent, we wait in darkness, reflecting each week on the ways we can ready ourselves for God. It is this same active waiting we must practice as we build the Kingdom. It’s been a dark year for working people, those struggling through poverty, and communities of color in our country.
There are strikes today in 190 cities with fast food workers demanding $15 an hour and the right to unionize. At the same time low-wage federal contract workers are demanding Presidential action to win $15 and a union.
Good Jobs Nation is leading the effort to get the President to require federal contractors to pay $15 and allow unions.
Good Jobs Nation is an organization of low-wage workers employed by government contractors who are joining together to call on the President to use Executive Orders to give them a living wage of $15 an hour, good benefits and a voice on the job. The Good Jobs Nation campaign is supported by a coalition of national faith and advocacy organizations, including Demos, Interfaith Worker Justice, and Change to Win.