Clerk backs public employees’ collective bargaining rights
Parsons: Dignity of labor theologically
connected to doctrine of vocation
by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News
[posted here 3-5-11]
LOUISVILLE – The Rev. Gradye Parsons, General
Assembly stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has
written a letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, urging him
to call off a plan to balance the state budget in part by
de-unionizing state workers.
Parsons’ letter backs a Feb. 19 call from the
Presbytery of John Knox ? based in Madison, Wisc. — for Walker
“and Wisconsin’s other elected representatives to enter into
good-faith negotiations with Wisconsin’s public employee unions
to deal with Wisconsin’s current budget issues and to respect
the rights of all workers to collectively bargain for wages and
Parsons and other religious leaders are also
appealing to President Obama “to take measures to preserve the
integrity of government promises and the health of local and
The full text of Parsons’ letter to Walker,
dated Feb. 28:
I am writing on behalf of the General Assembly of
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on the matter of collective
bargaining by public employees of state governments. The
policies of our General Assembly, the highest governing council
of our church, have repeatedly addressed matters of unionization
and collective bargaining. We fully support the urgent
communication you have received from the John Knox Presbytery of
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), our regional judicatory based
in Madison, Wisconsin, and repeat what they have quoted for
you-a portion of our long-standing commitment to the right of
workers to bargain collectively:
The 1995 General Assembly statement ("God's Work
in Our Hands") specifically provides: "Justice demands that
social institutions guarantee all persons the opportunity to
participate actively in economic decision making that affects
them. All workers ... have the right to choose to organize for
the purposes of collective bargaining."
Therefore, The Presbytery of John Knox, meeting
on February 19,2011 in Muscoda, Wisconsin, caleds upon Governor
Scott Walker and Wisconsin's other elected representatives to
enter into good-faith negotiations with Wisconsin's public
employee unions to deal with Wisconsin's current budget issues
and to respect the rights of all workers to collectively bargain
for wages and benefits.
As Presbyterians we base the rights of all
workers, corporations and governments in a doctrine of covenant
or mutual accountability that undergirds all contracts and
includes our social contract in the United States. We share with
many people of faith the conviction that collective bargaining
is a concrete measure by which burdens and benefits are shared
in a manner deeply consistent with both our faith and our
democratic values. Our doctrine of vocation affirms that all
human beings have a calling from God to serve the common good.
It is our understanding that your state workers
have already agreed to significant sacrifices as an appropriate
part of the overall effort to reduce expenses. To take away
their future right to collective bargaining is an attack on a
basic principle, rather than simply a cost-cutting measure. We
challenge your administration to embody fairness and the sharing
of burdens in your tax and wage policies, and to lead by your
To learn more about the PC(USA)’s historic
understanding of collective bargaining, unions and labor
relations, read the Advisory Committee on Social Witness
compilation of related General Assembly actions.
To read this story on the PC(USA) website >>
More on the Express
Scripts vs. its labor union
In the Fall
2010 issue of Network News we reported on the SEIU
Healthcare Pennsylvania challenges to a plan by Express Scripts
(which handles prescription orders for the Presbyterian Board of
Pensions, among others) to close its facility of Bensalem,
Pennsylvania. Their plan was to move that work to a non-union
plant in the St. Louis area.
We were happy to report on our website in
December that members of the union in Bensalem had voted
overwhelmingly to approve a settlement that will preserve
approximately 400 jobs at the Street Road facility, reversing
the Company’s announcement of plans to shutter all of its
Bensalem operations. It also provides a substantial severance
package to approximately 500 workers facing layoff as a result
of the closure of the Marshall Lane facility and some downsizing
at Street Road. (Click here
for more on the struggle of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania to
gain just treatment from Express Scripts.)
PVJ member Dennis Maher, of Lake Luzerne, NY,
provides the latest update:
Here is a recent follow up story on Express Scripts:
Earlier we learned that Express Scripts was
consolidating its operations in the St. Louis area where its
employees are not unionized. This article describes company
celebrations for many millions of dollars of state and local tax
incentives to help them expand. Expansion includes more layoffs
and moving an undisclosed number of jobs perhaps to India or the
Workers at Bensalem settled in December with
good results, ONLY because they were unionized. I raised the
labor issues at Bensalem with the Board of Pensions in November
and received this answer:
|Dear Dr. Maher,
Thank you for your recent email
regarding Express Scripts. The Board of Pensions of
the PCUSA has no comment.
Please do not hesitate to contact
us if you have any further questions.
Johnson, Mary [unsigned]
So the PCUSA has no comment about labor issues
with its contractor for prescription drugs. Also, the PCUSA
nowhere has any comment that I can find on the labor issues in
Wisconsin and other states, where collective bargaining itself
[NOTE from your WebWeaver: Since Dr.
Miller sent this note, Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons has
written a letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, urging
him to call off a plan to balance the state budget in part
by de-unionizing state workers.
I am thinking how far we have come since the
days when social consciousness was institutionalized in the late
’60s and early ’70s. Few today are interested in witness, but
only in new gimmicks to save a church that may be declining
because it has little integrity in its witness.
Lake Luzerne NY
SB 1070, Immigration,
and Worker Rights:
From Arizona to Wisconsin and Beyond
by the Rev. Trina Zelle
The Rev. Trina
Zelle gave this keynote address on Thursday morning, Feb. 24,
for the Interfaith
Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin, on
the occasion of their Labor/Religion Breakfast. It obviously
comes at a critical time for the labor movement in Wisconsin,
when labor unions in general, and especially public employee
unions, are under attack by the state’s governor and the
Trina is the
Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona, and served as
co-moderator of the Witherspoon Society from 2006 to 2008.
Here's the full text of her talk, with
our thanks for her giving permission to post it here.
Good morning. It is an honor to be here
with you today. And let me begin by bringing you greetings of
solidarity from the 60% of Arizonans who aren’t – to use that
Texas phrase I am so fond of – a bubble off plumb. (I’ll leave
that to the carpenters and construction folks among you to
figure that out!) That is to say, the good people of Arizona who
get up and fight every day for the working families of Arizona.
I am here to tell
you that what has been going on in Arizona, and what is going on
here in Wisconsin is linked. Literally. One of the most
draconian anti-immigrant bills ever to be written and the
attempts of Governor Walker to eviscerate the union movement in
Wisconsin are of a piece. Both in terms of a dystopian world
view that sees working people as commodities to be manipulated
and in terms of the actual behind-the-scene players. Both part
of a larger effort to turn back the clock to the Robber Baron
era or the England of Charles Dickens. Both constituting a grave
threat, not only to the people of our respective states, but all
working Americans, the union movement, and the Union – as in
these 50 United States – itself.
Where to begin in
such a complicated and ugly story? When SB 1070 was signed into
law last April 23, it was a culmination of increasingly vicious
anti-immigrant bills in Arizona; including the denial of bail
for the most petty misdemeanor to the denial of workers
compensation for injured undocumented workers. But SB1070 outdid
them all. It has as its stated goal, and I quote directly from
the legislation itself, “enforced attrition.” Translation, we
are going to make things so miserable for you here, you will
leave on your own.
No matter what
meme is put out there by apologists for this legislation, this
means that you are subject to questioning, arrest, and
deportation if the grass on your front lawn is too long, or if
someone is of the opinion that there are too many people living
in your house. Although some of the more egregious aspects of
the bill have been temporarily set aside by a federal judge (who
had to go under police protection following her ruling), I could
still have my car impounded if someone who is riding with me is
found to be out of status. Given the mixed immigrant status of
many Latino families, this means that you could be arrested for
taking Grandma to the doctor.
But what’s this
all about? Where did this desire to inflict misery on a once
tolerated part of the population come from? And why has it
seemed to resonate with so many across the nation that now,
states are vying with each other to out Arizona, Arizona?
There are a
number of reasons. Among them, well-documented nativist racism
and the aggressive lobbying of a private prison industry with
cells to fill, but the reason that carries all the others along
is as old as the first contractual arrangement between human
beings – the drive to control labor. More accurately, to
disenfranchise labor and thereby maximize profits on the backs
of workers. To so demonize one group of people that the rest of
us won’t notice that we’re being taken to the cleaners too –
just less obviously – for now. Not all that different from what
you’re seeing at work here in Wisconsin – you see, not only does
Walker’s “budget repair bill” gut public sector unions, it gives
him the authority to award Wisconsin’s public utilities to
anyone he sees fit to do so on a no-bid basis. Can you say,
At this point,
I’d like to step back for a moment and give you a brief history
of this most current “immigration crisis” – both in the state of
Arizona and nationwide – from my own personal experience and
In the Fall of
1993 I had barely unpacked from our family’s move to El Paso,
Texas, when the North American Free Trade Agreement was passed
by Congress and signed by President Clinton. Concurrent with
these events the El Paso Sector Border Patrol established a
border blockade, called “Operation Hold the Line,” which
abruptly cut off the free flow of traffic between Ciudad Juarez
and El Paso. On January 1, 1994, NAFTA was implemented. By the
end of 1994, the Mexican peso was devalued, going from 3 pesos
to the US dollar to 10 pesos to the US dollar.
The result of
this was a Mexico plunged into severe economic crisis. Property
values dropped and unemployment soared, but since NAFTA is only
about the free movement of goods, Mexican workers had limited
options. The traditional journey to the United States to find
temporary work was met with border fences, which were an
extension of the initial 1993 blockade. This not only stopped
these new workers, it disrupted the circular migration that had
characterized the US/Mexico labor exchange for generations.
Unable to risk going back to Mexico to visit family, people who
had managed to cross over, stopped going home. Some families
migrated north for the first time.
In an attempt to
control what was imagined to be a flood of desperate workers
coming across the border, our federal government, in 1996, made
the strategic decision to block the border in such a way that
border crossers would be funneled through the extreme conditions
of the Sonoran desert into southern Arizona. The rationale was
that no one would be crazy enough to attempt to cross such
rugged terrain. But desperate people will and desperate people
did and they started dying, and continue to do so. To date, more
than 5,000 men, women, and children have died excruciating and
lonely deaths in the desert.
Then came 9/11
and brown skin attained the status of “probable cause.”
On June 27, 2003,
Anthony Tangeman, Director of Homeland Security’s Office for
Detention and Removal released a forty-five page memorandum that
he had begun working on in September of 2001. This nine year
strategic plan starting in 2003 and scheduled to end in 2012 was
titled “Endgame.” The stated goal of Endgame is the removal of
every “removable alien from the United States” by 2012. As far
as I am aware, Endgame is still very much with us, being played
out in programs like “Safe Communities” and the 287g arrangement
between immigration and local law enforcement. And every time I
hear someone scoff and say, ‘no one’s going to try to deport 12
million people,’ I think about Endgame.
As all of this
was happening, the economy began to tank, in large part because
of Wall Street’s bad behavior, and our long-simmering American
ambivalence about immigrants came to a full anti-immigrant boil.
Its flames were fanned by organizations like the Federation for
American Immigration Reform and its even less savory affiliate
entities, founded by a man who is on record as saying that he
fears the destruction of the white race. This group proudly
admits to drafting Arizona’s legislation and has been designated
as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Even so, its
offshoot organization – the Center for Immigration Reform, or
CIR – is often uncritically quoted by such illustrious news
outlets as NPR with no reference to its ties.
surrounding “the immigration debate” is hard to argue against,
partly because it is replete with plausible characters – working
class whites, angry at the disappearance of their jobs;
immigrant criminals; a weak federal government, failing to pass
much needed immigration reform. That’s why SB 1070 passed, we
are told. And why there’s so much support in other states for
But that’s the
narrative for public consumption. What’s really going on?
As Deep Throat
tells the young Watergate reporter, “Follow the money.”
Corporation of America – or CCA. Now the fastest growing
industry in Arizona, it’s hard to remember that at the end of
the nineties, private prisons had become a losing proposition.
But then the scapegoating of immigrants exponentially increased
and there was CCA, ready to fill the void. Finally, there were
bodies to fill those beds and cells. Even better, bodies with
few rights and fewer resources
surprise. Suddenly, the private prison industry was booming
interests of Arizona’s major political players with regard to
private prisons and the passage of SB 1070 are well-documented,
so I won’t revisit them here. In a nutshell, hunting, arresting,
warehousing, and transporting immigrants is big business and as
a result, a lot of folks in Arizona are doing quite well.
incarceration as a cash crop is only the lead in. The rest is
about worker disenfranchisement. Most of the cases we see at our
worker rights center – as with yours I’m sure – involves wage
theft. The withholding of payment for work that has already been
done. Since SB 1070 was signed into law last April we have
witnessed increasing brazenness on the parts of many employers –
who are quite upfront with their threats: leave me alone or I’ll
call Sheriff Joe! Standing up for one’s rights could very easily
end in arrest and deportation.
and intimidation of workers isn’t really new – just the old bad
behavior on steroids. And it represents an attitude that dates
back at least 160 years to the end of the Civil War. Obviously,
the abolition of slavery in 1865 ruined a sweet set-up for a lot
of folks not to mention the entire southern economy which was
based on unpaid labor. Suddenly, former slaves were supposed to
be paid. But former slave owners were not deterred – where
there’s a will, there’s a way and while the Thirteenth Amendment
of the Constitution ended slavery in general, it specifically
excluded prisoners from the abolition of slavery and indentured
And thus was born
the “hiring out of prisoners” system made possible by a justice
system that had nothing to do with justice.
All too often,
freed slaves in the south found themselves charged with such
crimes as “shirking their sharecropping duties” or “petty
theft,” automatically convicted and, once again without
freedom,“hired out” by the local powers that be for cotton
picking, working in mines and building railroads. According to
Vicky Pelaez writing for “Global Research” in 2008, fully 88% of
Georgia’s “hired out” convicts from 1870 to 1910 were African
American. In Alabama, 93% of the hired out miners were African
Americans. In Mississippi, prison farms functioned in the same
way with the same population until 1972.
This legacy of
exploitation extended up to and through the New Deal, when the
Fair Labor Standards Act excluded from coverage jobs that had
been traditionally carried out by slaves. Initially, southern
legislators had objected to this legislation, arguing that
southern employers should be allowed to pay lower wages than in
the north, but with so many “slave jobs” excluded from
protection, the Act got their vote.
Which brings me
back to SB 1070 and the forces behind it. We know that the
nativist Taunton network folks had a large hand in its drafting,
but other groups actively lobbied for its passage as well,
including the American Legislative Exchange Council – or ALEC.
ALEC exists to bring its member corporations (including the Koch
Brothers) together with federal and state legislators to write
business friendly legislation. It proudly acknowledges being
behind the enactment of laws authorizing and increasing the use
of prison contract labor throughout industry.
agriculture, which is why ALEC has vigorously lobbied for tough,
anti-immigrant laws, including SB 1070. With traditional
immigrant farm workers replaced by inmates, the profit margin
for agribusinesses greatly increases. Using prison labor means
that there’s no danger of a twenty-first century Cesar Chavez
emerging. Today, female prisoners from Colorado pick crops once
picked by immigrant labor and the same thing is happening in
But it doesn’t
stop with agribusiness. ALEC often serves as a broker between
government and multiple industries to put prisoners to work. As
of 2008, 37 states had legalized the contracting out of prison
labor by private corporations. The list of corporations
utilizing prison labor ranges from IBM and Verizon to Target,
Intel, Nordstrom’s and Dell. Inmates in state penitentiaries
usually receive minimum wage – although DOJ rules stipulate
“prevailing wage.” But private prisons? That’s another matter.
In private prisons, inmates receive as little of 17 cents an
hour although some CCA prisons pay as much as 50 cents an hour
for highly skilled work.
And did I mention
that ALEC and its member organizations are also behind many of
the mandatory sentencing laws that keep non-violent,
disproportionately African American, prisoners incarcerated and
available to the prison industrial complex for contract labor?
You might call it their own workforce readiness program.
So here’s the
deal. Or the New Deal as rewritten by the hard right of our
country. In order to maximize their profits, labor costs have to
be minimized even further. What can’t be outsourced to countries
with weak labor protections can be in-sourced using prison
labor. Immigrants are no longer an important part of the mix –
at least the ones who aren’t incarcerated – because like
immigrants throughout the history of the United States they have
an annoying tendency to organize and demand their rights. With
the vitality of immigrant labor under assault, all that remains
to be done n order to completely disenfranchise labor is to
break the unions, beginning with the most powerful ones and
symbolically in a state with deep roots in the labor movement.
And now let’s
talk about Governor Walker’s relationship with some of the
aforementioned businesses and business associations. To wit,
ALEC and the Koch Brothers. Walker’s bill stripping public
sector unions of their collective bargaining rights was, as
reporter Ezra Klein explains, “cooked up by ALEC.” As we know,
similar bills are being introduced in Ohio and Indiana, and
threaten to overtake the nation in the same kind of mindless
firestorm that SB 1070 has. Walker had originally intended to
de-certify the unions by executive order but learned that he
couldn’t do that, hence his “Shock Doctrine” declaration of
budget crisis – even though there had been a surplus until his
tax give-aways to business.
One of Walker’s
fellow governors-in-crime is in the process of setting the stage
for similar union-busting actions by citing the notion of the
“new normal.” Meaning that we’d all better get used to being
deprived of our hard earned rights and lower our expectations
for ourselves and our children. Meaning that we should accept
the migration of our white collar jobs to other nations with
well educated, but low wage workforces, and our blue collar jobs
to our domestic Prison Industrial Complex which holds a
limitless supply of the kind of workers corporate America wants.
In this “new normal” we’re supposed to be grateful for whatever
crumbs we are thrown – even though we’re the ones baking the
And yes these
corporations understand that this is destroying families and
destabilizing communities across the United States. They don’t
care. Why should they? Their “new normal” is bringing them
profits beyond their wildest dreams.
In the book
Deep Survival, Laurence Gonzalez describes the experiences
of several seasoned hikers who got so lost in the wilderness
that they had to be rescued. Virtually all of them report having
had maps. After being rescued, the hikers realized that they had
been guilty of “map bending:” trying to forcibly reconcile the
actual unfamiliar terrain where they found themselves onto the
no longer relevant map in their hands.
I think that some
of us in the faith community, and to a lesser degree, in the
labor community are guilty of map bending. We refuse to believe
that what is transpiring in front of our eyes is really
happening. We tell ourselves, oh it couldn’t be that bad or
these people are so ridiculous they are going to over reach and
discredit themselves. We undervalue solidarity and forget who
our real friends are.
I’m here to tell
you that the terrain has changed. The situation is dire. The
stakes are high. We need to draw ourselves a new map that
accurately reflects the hostile terrain where we find ourselves.
That’s the only way we’re ever going to get to higher ground
safe and whole.
One place that
map is being drawn is here in Madison, Wisconsin. In the Capitol
Rotunda where people are coming together. Where people are
supporting each other with resolve and the kind of joy that
emerges in the presence of love and respect and gratitude for
the opportunity to stand together for what is good and right in
this state and in this nation. Where people from all walks of
life look at each other with brimming eyes and say, if not now
when, if not here, where; if not us, who?
I thank God for
you and all of the good working people of Wisconsin. Who have
told the governor and his handlers and the rest of them: “This
stops here and now. We will hold the line. And we will not be
Immokalee farmworkers’ agreement with Florida Tomato Growers
This comes to us
from the Presbyterian Campaign for Fair Food
Saturday's New York Times begins:
"Fair trade is
finally coming to the tomato fields of Florida, where
farmworkers have won a remarkable victory in a 15-year struggle
for better pay and working conditions. Last month, they struck a
deal with growers to raise workers’ pay and to create an
industry code of conduct, a health and safety program and a
system to resolve worker complaints..."
goes on to give a brief primer on the history of the campaign,
reminds the reader that the supermarket industry has yet to do
its part to support the Fair Food movement, and concludes, "The
Immokalee victory won’t impose fairness overnight, but after
generations of exploitation, part of the farm industry is
pointing in the right direction."
the CIW website to see
the editorial and all the latest news from the Campaign for Fair
something big is happening when events in Immokalee make it into
the pages of, first, the Wall Street Journal and, now,
the "Old Gray Lady", so stay tuned!
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
our PC(USA) supporting union busting?
For some time now, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania,
a branch of the Service Employees International Union, has been
calling on Express Scripts to cancel its plan to close its
prescription shipping facility in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, which
would put 365 people out of work, many of whom are low wage
workers with families.
prepared by Doug King [11-13-10]
The union workers
have offered $8 million in wage and benefit concessions to help
keep the plant open. Even though these concessions included
giving in to the company’s demand that workers give up their
pension plan, so far the company management has been unwilling
with the union, which unites 20,000 health care workers from all
areas of the health care industry in Pennsylvania.
Now the union is approaching a number of
organizations that have sizable contracts with Express Scripts
for mail-order prescription medicine, asking their support. One
of those customers just happens to be the Presbyterian Church
(USA). So a few days ago, a delegation of Express Scripts
workers, who are union members, went to the main office of the
Presbyterian Board of Pensions, seeking to make the church aware
of the issue. No one at the Board of Pensions would meet
with them, and no one has responded to their letters.
We’re one of Express Scripts’ clients, since
over 120,000 people with medical coverage under the Board of
Presbyterians have their prescriptions filled by the company.
The union believes this puts the Board of Pensions among the top
25% of Express Scripts’ largest clients.
Our church’s social policies clearly support
workers’ rights, just wages, and the principle of labor unions
as a means to achieving justice.
So ... how might the PC(USA) respond to this
conflict between management and labor? What does God's
call to "do justice" mean for us in this situation?
more of the story, and the questions and possibilities for us >>
Recipe for Slavery: Take US farm labor relations, add "guestworker"
visas, and voila... Forced labor!
Federal prosecutors in Honolulu unseal indictment charging
forced labor ring active in 13 states including – yet again –
Multi-state operation involves guestworker recruiting giant
Global Horizons in what prosecutors are calling "the largest
human trafficking case in US history"...
Labor Day weekend will be celebrated with a little more meaning
this year by 400 farmworkers from around the country whose
bosses were charged yesterday by Justice Department officials in
Hawaii with "conspiracy to commit human trafficking."
The image above is from an excellent video by Honolulu's KITV on
the news of yesterday's indictment. You can watch the video by
Six people in the US were charged in the case, including four
employees of Global Horizons Manpower, Inc, a labor recruiting
company that specializes in the overseas recruitment of "guestworkers,"
foreign workers brought to the US to work in agriculture under
an H2A visa for temporary employment in agriculture...
For more on this story, go to the CIW website today, http://www.ciw-online.org
Thanks, and happy Labor Day!
video by Honolulu's KITV, on the news of yesterday's
be viewed by clicking
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Recipe for Slavery: Take US farm labor relations, add "guestworker"
visas, and voila... Forced labor!
Federal prosecutors in Honolulu unseal indictment
charging forced labor ring active in 13 states including -- yet again --
Multi-state operation involves
guestworker recruiting giant Global Horizons in what prosecutors
are calling "the
largest human trafficking case in US history"...
Labor Day weekend will be
celebrated with a little more meaning this year by 400
farmworkers from around the country whose bosses were charged
yesterday by Justice Department officials in Hawaii with
"conspiracy to commit human trafficking."
Six people in the US were charged in the case,
including four employees of Global
Horizons Manpower, Inc, a labor recruiting company
that specializes in the overseas recruitment of "guestworkers,"
foreign workers brought to the US to work in agriculture under
an H2A visa for temporary employment in agriculture...
Thanks, and happy Labor Day!
Coalition of Immokalee
Throw Glenn Beck
some social justice this Labor Day!
comes to us from Interfaith Worker Justice
Glenn Beck recently
attacked churches that embraced social justice. In the wake of
his rant, Labor in the Pulpits gives us an opportunity to share
the real meaning of social justice and its intersection with
workers and the faith community.
The dream of justice
for working families is a dream shared by the labor movement and
the faith community. From the earliest struggles for worker
justice, allies from the faith community have stood side by side
with workers, to provide the moral framework in the efforts to
This Labor Day
weekend, join Interfaith Worker Justice in celebrating the link
between the faith community and worker justice. Interfaith
Worker Justice has worked with faith leaders to develop
faith-based resources that can be used in services. These
prayers, hymns, reflections and bulletin inserts can be used in
a service to celebrate the religious community's efforts to
support workers' struggles. Click
here for more information and many resources.
In peace and
Communications Director, Interfaith Worker Justice
Pass the Word: Sweatshop-Free T-shirts
From Melanie Hardison, Enough for Everyone, PC(USA)
Do you know a congregation, camp, youth group or Vacation Bible School
that’s planning to print T-shirts? Please share with them the
good news of
Sweat-Free Ts – shirts made by a cooperative, not a
sweatshop – available from the PC(USA).
come from the
Nueva Vida sewing cooperative in Nicaragua, which began as
an economic development initiative in the wake of Hurricane
Mitch. In 1998 the Presbyterian Hunger Program provided seed
money, and in 2003 was proud to come full circle with our
support by also becoming a customer. Since that time, support
from groups across the church has made it possible for us to
purchase over 133,000 T-shirts from the cooperative! (And this
figure does not include special orders for Presbyterian Women,
Presbyterian Youth Triennium and Presbyterian Disaster
Shirts can be
ordered from Presbyterian Distribution Service
online or by phone. They come blank with only the
Sweat-Free T logo printed in black on the sleeve; groups are
free to screen print, tie-dye or otherwise creatively imprint
the shirts with their own logo or design.
available in 100%
organic cotton that feels great. Colors are White, Natural
and Presbyterian Blue. Sizes range from Child Small to Adult
Get educational materials.
helping spread the Good News!
Melanie Hardison, Enough for Everyone,
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
(888) 728-7228 x5626
Unemployment and COBRA Now!
This call for action comes from Interfaith Worker Justice
unemployed? Do you know someone who is? Urgent action is needed
TODAY to make sure that Congress extends the lifeline for
workers by extending unemployment and COBRA coverage before the
end of the month
Interfaith Worker Justice has stood with workers in times of
economic prosperity and continues to stand with them in this
time of economic crisis. Your response will help someone put
food on the table, keep their lights on and of course, enable
them to live with some dignity during this harsh economic
Here to take action now!
Director of Union and Congregational Outreach
U.S. Labor Dept. reinstates decades-old farm worker
protections rules [2-12-10]
UFW applauds return to bi-partisan farm worker
news release from United Farm Workers
Washington – 02/11/2010 – U.S. Secretary of
Labor Hilda Solis announced today reinstatement of protections
for imported farm workers that were slashed from the nation's
agricultural guest worker program during the last days of the
Bush administration in early 2009.
The Bush administration's changes to the H-2A
agricultural guest worker program, which took effect on January
17, 2009, dramatically impacted wages and working conditions for
foreign agricultural workers. Under the Bush rules, agricultural
employers could more easily access cheap foreign labor with
little government oversight.
"The United Farm Workers applauds Secretary
Solis for restoring protections for imported farm workers that
had been in effect since the Reagan administration. This is a
great victory for all farm workers," said Arturo S. Rodriguez,
Campaign against Wage Theft National Day of Action
November 19th, agencies, organizations, and
individuals will join together in taking action to fight Wage
Theft. Some will join in delegations to unethical employers,
while others will participate in demonstrations and other
actions to raise awareness and support for those who have had
If interested in joining in the National Day
of Action or more information on the National Day of Action,
please contact Cara Gold at
or (773)728-8400 x 34.
Click here for more
information on local actions around the nation >>
From Kim Bobo, Interfaith Worker Justice:
According to a
National Employment Law Project
study of more than 4,000 low-wage workers, the average worker
had $51 stolen out of average weekly earnings of $399 or 15
percent of his or her pay. That's money that could have bought a
turkey and sides.
We know wage
theft hurts workers and their families. I'm sure we all agree
that like any crime, wage theft is a problem which must be
On November 19,
my colleagues and I will join wage theft victims as they share
their stories before religious leaders, politicians and members
of the press who will gather in Washington D.C. and 30 cities
around the country for the National Day of Action to Stop Wage
Here are some of
the things we're asking Congress, the Department of Labor,
workers advocates, and the business community to do to stop wage
raise public consciousness of the crisis of wage theft;
meaningful wage theft prevention and enforcement
partnerships between government agencies and community
Pass a national
mandate requiring employers to provide workers with pay
investigations of industries and companies the DOL and
community organizations have identified as willful, repeat
meaningful penalties that would deter wage theft.
Together, we can
Farm Worker Ministry urges opposition to nomination of
chemical lobbyist as U.S
Chief Agricultural Negotiator.
This call for action comes to us from National
Farm Worker Ministry. We present it here in slightly edited
The Farmworker Association of Florida has
asked the National Farm Worker Ministry to alert our supporters
to the White House's nomination of Islam Siddiqui, current vice
president for science and regulatory affairs, and formerly a
lobbyist, with CropLife America, which represents the chemical
pesticide industry. He is being nominated to the critical post
of U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator. Farmworker groups
fighting for years to regulate pesticide use are disappointed by
the White House’s action.
The Farmworker Association of Florida, which
represents 6,700 farm worker families working in the tomato and
citrus industries, remains disturbed by the appointment. "Siddiqui's
role at USTR will not be about promoting organic products, but
eliminating trade barriers for developing countries to accept
toxic chemicals and pesticides," said Tirso Moreno, general
coordinator for FWAF. "That is CropLife America's agenda. They
continue to try to stop any international attempts to help us
regulate pesticide uses. Farmworkers have the highest rate of
chemical-related illnesses of any occupational group. Our
community suffers from nausea, liver damage, birth defects, and
cancer as a result of exposure to these poisons. For the health
of farmworkers around the world, we urge that his nomination be
Click HERE to sign the petition to President Obama
urging that he withdraw the nomination of Siddiqui.
For more on this problematic nomination >>
important step for stopping and deterring wage theft
Interfaith Worker Justice applauds legislative action
News release from
Interfaith Worker Justice
Justice applauds leading House Democrats, who today introduced a
critical piece of legislation to ensure that workers do not lose
their wages while the U.S. Department of Labor investigates wage
theft by employers who drag the process out. The legislation is a
welcome response to a stinging Government Accountability Office
(GAO) investigation that revealed the federal government's abysmal
failure to enforce the nation's wage and hour laws.
The Wage Theft
Prevention Act (H.R. 3303) is based on a GAO recommendation made in
a report released this week. The bill would ensure that delays in
investigating claims of wage theft will not result in a permanent
loss of back pay for workers. The GAO found many investigations of
wage theft were inadequately handled by the Bush administration's
Wage and Hour Division and were dropped because the statute of
limitations is too short and investigations took too long. To ensure
that workers do not lose their hard-earned wages, the bill would
freeze the statute of limitations from the date an employer is
informed of an investigation until the agency notifies the employer
that the investigation has concluded.
The elections are over and the nation has elected Barack Obama.
Regardless of whom you voted for, the willingness of the American
public to elect its first African American president is an historic
breakthrough in a nation still struggling with racism and the
remnants of slavery. We also saw unprecedented engagement of
Americans in the electoral process, demonstrating the vitality of
our democracy. These are signs of such hope in the society.
Nonetheless, the challenges facing our new president and his team
are enormous. Employment figures that came out last week show that
employers cut 240,000 jobs in October. More than ten million
Americans are looking for jobs and can't find them, giving us an
unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, the highest in 14 years. Working
families are scared knowing they have few reserves and supports in
times of economic crisis.
But given the working families platform outlined by the
president-elect and Interfaith Worker Justice's mission to involve
the religious community in these critical issues, the election
offers opportunities for Interfaith Worker Justice to move forward
an agenda that can help workers now and put in place structures that
can support workers in coming decades.
With your help, we will:
1) Pass the Employee Free Choice Act. We have an opportunity
early in the new Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. This
important, although strikingly simple, bill would make it easier for
workers to join unions and get first contracts. We will be asking
you to contact your Senators in the New Year. To learn more, click
2) Stop Wage Theft. Interfaith Worker Justice is putting the
issue of wage theft on the national agenda, both through the
incredible work done by workers centers, the policy work in
Washington, D.C. and my new book, Wage Theft in America. We'll send
order information about the book next week, but you can begin
talking with your congregation about a Spring congregational study
using the book. A congregational study guide is included with the
book and available on line
here. It is critical that we support a reinvigorated Department
of Labor that will aggressively enforce labor laws and deter wage
3) Stop the Workplace Raids. We are calling upon the Bush
administration to stop the workplace immigration raids -
immediately. Send a letter to Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the
Department of Homeland Security, and cc Nicolas J. Smith, Chief of
Staff of Immigration and Customs Enforcement: 245 Murray Lane
Building, Washington DC 20528; Fax # 202-282-8401. When
President-elect Obama has chosen his team, we will ask you to
contact them as well. Click
here to read the Interfaith Worker Justice Board of Director's
statement condemning workplace immigration raids
4) Create and support Living Wage Jobs. It has been so long
since the federal government played a visible role in helping create
and support living wage jobs that we've almost forgotten that this
is an appropriate role for the federal government - to support,
encourage and enable job creation and a raising of standards
throughout the society.
We need your financial support for moving all these issues.
Give now and watch your contribution help us move important
justice work forward.
It feels like the best of times and the worst of times. It is an
exciting time in terms of new opportunities and new leadership. It
is also a scary time in terms of overall conditions for working
families. Our work is more important than ever.
Let us pray for our nation's new (and old) leadership and do our
share to lift up the concerns of working families.
Praying for the future,
Interfaith Worker Justice
Interfaith Worker Justice
Waste Management workers deserve the
right to organize!
Forty years after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
stood with workers in their historic strike in Memphis, sanitation
workers in the solid waste industry are still fighting for decent
wages, safe working conditions and respect.
Waste Management workers across the country are
seeking to improve their working condition and wages by organizing
with the Teamsters union. Workers are facing Waste Management's
fierce anti-union tactics, including captive audience meetings,
letters and firings.
Sanitation workers at Waste Management deserve the
right to organize in an environment free from intimidation and
threats of job loss. A huge proportion of sanitation workers are
Latino and African American, just as in Dr. King’s day.
As people of faith, we stand in support of these
workers and encourage Waste Management to immediately stop these
practices. Our religious teachings say that we are to treat others
as we wish to be treated, and that laborers deserve their just
Interfaith Worker Justice urges: Please add your
name to the list of religious leaders and people of faith who stand
with workers at Waste Management by signing the petition.
Click here and scroll down a bit.
Interfaith Worker Justice 2007 National Conference
Sunday, June 17 - Tuesday, June 19
This event is planned for
"clergy, labor activists, seminarians and
Cost, registration and lodging information will be
available on-line at
www.iwj.org by late February 2007.
New film visits
The Feb. 12, 2007 issue of The Nation has a review by Stuart
Klawans of a film, "China Blue," based on a visit to a Chinese sweatshop
where garments are sewn for high-class American labels. It shows the reality
of sweatshop life, and also gives the perspective of the factory owner, who
feels that he is constantly being squeezed by the garment retailers.
Note: This article is posted on The Nation's website, but
may be available only to subscribers.
Now's the time to act:
Overtime pay vote expected any day.
From Working Families e-Activist
September 2, 2003 [posted here on 9-3-03]
The Senate debate on President Bush's
overtime pay cuts will begin this week with a vote expected any day. This
is the most important chance we've had to block the overtime pay cuts
before they go into effect. We know you may have acted before, but PLEASE
ACT AGAIN TODAY by clicking on the link below and sending a message to
your U.S. senators asking them to support the Harkin Amendment that would
block the Bush overtime pay cuts. It will only take a minute and will make
a big difference.
The overtime pay cuts proposed by the
Bush administration could take away overtime pay from at least 8 million
workers. Overtime pay protections are the heart of the 40-hour
workweek--and even the weekend. Without them, employers would have no
reason to treat workers fairly--they could require longer and longer days
without paying workers extra for their overtime hours. Click below to take
action, or keep reading.
The Bush overtime pay take-away would
save employers billions--right from workers' paychecks. They would allow
employers to do almost anything they want by blurring the rules for
overtime eligibility. One congressional study of the Bush overtime changes
said they would allow employers to do almost anything.
The Bush administration changes could
make large numbers of workers who have job-related training ineligible for
overtime, for example. Health care, technical, computer, law enforcement,
firefighting and skilled trades training could cost workers their right to
overtime pay. This is completely outrageous and we need to stop it.
Send your fax:
Tell your friends, family and co-workers:
The overtime pay takeaway won't just hit
workers in the pocket. According to the Economic Policy Institute, "The
millions of employees who will see their pay reduced will, in all
likelihood, see their hours of work increase at the same time. Once
employers are not required to pay for overtime work, they will schedule
more of it."
Tens of millions of working families
depend on overtime pay. Please act today.
|Labor advocates urge "Leave
no jobless worker behind"
Original message from: "Working Families
e-Activist Network" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Next week, on Jan. 7, when Congress returns to work,
our representatives must vote immediately to help jobless workers such
as the more than 800,000 who lost their unemployment benefits when they
were CUT OFF three days after Christmas. House Republican leaders like
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) sent Congress home in November without voting
on a bipartisan Senate-approved measure to extend benefits. The
president stood by in silence until three weeks AFTER Congress
Because of public outcry, media attention and your
work on this issue, members of Congress and President Bush have realized
they must do something and began speaking out for extending and
restoring jobless benefits. We must make sure they do something REAL.
The current Republican proposal would mean that
hundreds of thousands of families would continue to go without the
already meager weekly unemployment check they need to survive. In
addition, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING would be done for an ADDITIONAL 1 MILLION
jobless workers whose benefits already expired before they found work.
No jobless worker should be left behind. You can help
by doing three things.
|First, send a fax to Rep. Tom DeLay with a copy to
President Bush and your representative by clicking on the link
below. Tell them to extend and restore unemployment benefits and
leave no jobless worker behind. http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/extendUI/s5xsz07b8j|
|Second, jobless families across the nation really
need your help by spreading this message to as many people as
possible. Please take one minute right now to tell your friends,
family and co-workers about this issue by clicking on the link
|Finally, if you know somebody who is unemployed,
tell him or her about AFL-CIO resources to help survive
unemployment. You can visit a special website with unemployment help
by clicking on the link below. http://www.unionvoice.org/ct/L1aC1S91A1zl/|
You can sign up for Working Families e-Activist
|Charleston five go to trial
Race seems one element in longshoremen's protest in
Five members of two predominantly African-American
locals of the Longshoremen in Charleston, SC, go on trial Nov. 13 for
protests in Jan. 2000 against a Danish ship's use of non-union labor,
charged with "incite to riot" -- a charge which seems wholly
unfounded. A statement by religious leaders is being prepared, and
you may want to join in on it.
In January of 2000, members of two predominantly
African-American locals of the Longshoremen in Charleston, SC, protested
a Danish ship's use of non-union labor to do work historically done by
union members. The ILA members had earlier used peaceful picket lines on
two different occasions, without incident. This time the 150 pickets
were met by 600 riot-equipped South Carolina highway patrol officers and
other police. Five union members were slapped with felony "incite
to riot" charges, punishable by up to five years in prison, by the
When a local magistrate dropped the charges, the
office of the Attorney General of South Carolina intervened and obtained
indictments from a grand jury. For nearly two years they have remained
under house arrest. When attorneys for the dock workers asked that
Attorney General Condon be disqualified for gross misconduct, he
withdrew and the case was transferred to a prosecutor in a nearby
county. On October 15 a judge released them from house arrest. The trial
begins on November 13.
It is implausible that these unarmed union members
planned to riot against heavily armed state police. Some of the
longshoremen were wounded by the police with rubber bullets, and Local
1422 President Ken Riley was clubbed on the head when he attempted to
Solidarity actions are scheduled for November 14. A
web site has been established at <http://www.charlestonfivedefense.org/>.
A statement by religious leaders (not on the web site)
has been prepared by Michael Szpak, (202) 637-5284, fax (202) 639-6210;
the deadline is November 7.
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!