Unitarian Universalist Congregations Support Living Wage Days
Every month the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has been implementing robust action campaigns that aim to engage Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations and individuals. These "Actions of the Month" focus on accomplishing concrete objectives that reflect our faith values.
The Unitarian Universalist Association and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee are members of the interfaith Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, a nonpartisan coalition of more than 90 faith, community, labor and business organizations working towards a just minimum wage. The Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign achieved a huge success in July 2007, when the minimum wage was raised for the first time in years. However, more is still needed. Thus, January's Action of the month is Living Wage Days.
Support from Unitarian Universalist congregations has been strong, with several congregations have already signed-up to hold services and events during the month.
Rev. William G. Sinkford, President of the UUA, preached at the UU Church of Nashua, NH, for their Living Wage Service on January 25, 2009. His sermon, "Living Faithfully: Working for Living Wages" (PDF), is excerpted.
Other congregations include:
- Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, CA, held an MLK Jr. Living Wage Weekend Service on Jan 18th. Rev. Aaron McEmrys, the congregation’s minister, offered his sermon 'Inherit the Spirit.' About 300 worshippers attended the well received multi-generational service with everyone from 6th grade and up staying for the whole service. At the end of the sermon worshippers were asked to open their Orders of Service and sign the ‘$10 in 10’ commitment cards inside. This was hugely successful and many people reported how good it felt to be able to “do something” right there in worship. After the service the Social Justice table in the garden was crowded with people getting more information and learning more about what they could do to make a living wage a reality.
The Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara is proud to compensate all their program staff in keeping with UUA Fair Compensation Guidelines and all our contract staff (gardeners, custodians, etc.) in keeping with Santa Barbara’s Living Wage Ordinance. The Ordinance does not require the congregation to pay a living wage, however they do it by choice, because “we feel this is one tangible way they can live out our Unitarian Universalist values in the world.”
On January 21st, the congregation’s new young adult group launched their first big event—an Inaugural Party called Bring the Change. They replayed President Obama’s speech, and had a DJ spinning, along with a performance art group doing a Wizard of Oz-inspired look at the state of the nation. They are looking forward to participating in more of the UUA’s Action Campaigns to bring our UU social justice values and your legislative objectives into being. Along with advocacy to end poverty they answered the new president’s call for service. Participants brought food for the local food bank and were asked to donate time and money as well.
Rev. Mc Emrys will be participating on a panel with Michael Lerner and others in the Bay area on Feb. 2nd about the Employee Free Choice Act—legislation guaranteeing the rights of workers to organize.
Rev. McEmrys serves on the national board of Interfaith Worker Justice. He is the author of "There is Power in Union: A UU Guide to Worker Justice" (PDF, 18 pages) and a former labor organizer. Read his recent blog post about witnessing with the Republic Window workers.
- Jefferson Unitarian Church (JUC), in Golden, CO, held services on January 11th and on January 18th, MLK Jr. Weekend, with sermons by the congregation’s Social Justice Minister Rev. Nathan Woodliff- Stanley and Intern Minister Margret O'Neall, that included the need to continue Dr. Martin Luther King’s work for living wages. Motivated to answer their call to a Pledge of Commitment, over 200 faith activists at Jefferson Unitarian signed the Let Justice Roll Letter to Congress to support a $10.00 federal minimum wage in 2010. JUC’s Peace Liberty and Justice Task Force hosted a table with a display and petitions and four people with clipboards and petitions circulated around from 10:00am to 12:30pm. on both Sundays.
In addition to advocating for economic justice, JUC is very active in a local food bank, providing housing for the homeless, and providing meals at a local homeless shelter. All task forces at JUC take turns cooking a meal.
JUC was very active in the 2006 efforts in CO to win passage of a ballot initiative raising the state minimum wage. When legislation for $10 in 10 in introduced members at JUC will be well-positioned to support it and the movement for a living wage.
- First UU Church of Nashville, TN held a November 23 Living Wage Service in support of the Nashville Movement Living Wage Campaign as part of the UUSC Guest at Your Table Program. On January 11th as part of the Let Justice Roll Living Wage $10 in 10 Campaign, minister Rev. Gail Seavey gave a testimonial in support of the campaign, and a Pledge to Support $10 in 10 was inserted in the Order of Service. The congregation has found several ways to integrate their work for economic justice into all aspects of congregational life. Robin Hood has been the theme of the children’s choir. The congregation’s ministerial intern is working with Jobs for Justice in Nashville. The adult RE night has been using Let Justice Roll and Jobs with Justice study materials. The congregation is supporting a campaign on a local car washing business that was taking advantage of homeless employees.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday the congregation participated in a joint service with Corinthians Baptist Church, an African American congregation. Low-wage workers offered testimonials and postcards for the various economic justice campaigns were signed and collected. See the congregation’s president’s blog post about the joint service.
On the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, a contingent from the congregation marched with an interfaith coalition in the annual Martin Luther King Day parade with signs reading "Living Wage Was Part of His Dream" and "Let Justice Roll."
- UU Congregation of Atlanta (UUCA), GA, held a January 25 service with Rev. Marti Keller preaching on Moral Imagination, closing out 'King Week' in Atlanta with a look at his courageous and imaginative work, especially for economic justice and peace. Of the two services offered, more than 500 people attended, and the service was streamed live on their website. UUCA sponsored the 2008 General Assembly Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) to Support the Let Justice Roll $10 in 2010 Living Wage Campaign and organizer of the AIW Barbara Burnham, Chair of UUCA’s Racial and Ethnic Concerns Committee, was recognized for her hard work. Rev. Keller, a signatory of the Let Justice Roll Faith Leaders Sign On Letter, called for the congregation to sign on to the letter as well and signatures will be gathered throughout the month.
UUCA is a member of the Georgia Living Wage Coalition that has been at the center of efforts to raise the state minimum wage in Georgia and participates in the national Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign. UUA Joins Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign to Endorse "$10 in 2010" has information about their work.
- Chicago and Oak Park UU congregations—Third Unitarian, Unity Temple and People's Church—are working on a local living wage ordinance and gathering signatures for the $10 in 10 campaign throughout the month of January. On January 20th Unitarian Universalist ministers and social justice leaders from Oak Park, IL and Chicago testified at the Oak Park Township Board meeting in support of enactment of a Living Wage Ordinance.
Unity Temple UU Congregation, led by social mission committee Janet Holden, co-sponsored the ordinance, along with Third Unitarian Chicago Forum Committee leader Tom Broderick, and have gathered signatures on a petition to the board from both congregations and the community.
Their efforts led to getting a referendum on last November’s Oak Park Township ballot, asking the voters if the Village of Oak Park should enact a Living Wage Ordinance. The referendum passed 60% to 40%, even in these tough economic times. Fifty-four of fifty-eight precincts in Oak Park Township voted in favor of the ordinance, however the referendum is only advisory and the Board needs to act.
Broderick talked about the lack of response from five of the seven board members to their initial presentation in November. He lifted up President Obama’s call for respecting the rights and dignity of workers and handed out the precinct results showing the yes/no votes on the referendum, precinct by precinct.
Rev. Jean Darling, minister of People’s Church of Chicago (and a resident of Oak Park), talked about the UUA call for January to be a month dedicated to the living wage and the "$10 in 2010" campaign that the UUA is involved in. She spoke of the moral obligation to compensate workers fairly for their work. She testified about the immorality of people having to work two or even three jobs to make ends meet. She likened working for poverty wages to slavery and said we could not accept this.
Ron Chew, a member of the Social Action Committee of Third Unitarian Chicago spoke about the difficulty of living from wages that did not pay enough to live on and how unjust this is. He supported the "10 in 2010" campaign and asked the Trustees to step up and enact the ordinance. (Rev. Brian Covell, from Third Unitarian Church, had been prepared to speak but unable to attend due to a family medical emergency.)
The UUs worked with Ron Baiman, the economist who drafted the proposed ordinance, that was submitted to the Board in November. He reported that Chicago and Cook County are among more than 200 communities that have enacted living wage ordinances and expressed shame that Oak Park, a progressive community, does not have one. He also expressed concern that our elected officials do not appear to be doing anything on this issue.
The board has not yet made a decision. Meanwhile, UU leaders will continue to work to pass the living wage ordinance and will be making it an issue in the local election in April.
- UU Congregation of Smithton, PA. On Sunday January 11th, members and friends held a Living Wage Service and gathered to listen to member B.J. Searcy speak about why we need to work for a living wage and why we need to get organizing now for raising the federal minimum wage to $10 by the end of 2010. BJ reported that having the Let Justice Roll Resources for Living Wage Services & Community Events with a UU section included made it easy to pull together a service and a sermon. (See our Action of the Month page on Living Wage Days for this and other resources).
Rev. Rebecca Booher, the congregation's minister, writes: "The UUA is a small denomination.... Our size, however, has not prevented us from taking a leading role in responding to issues of peace and justice, environmental sanity, human rights, and other challenges. Smithton is a very small congregation. But, according to a UUA survey, congregations of less than 50 members make up 28% of our total membership! It seems size doesn't necessarily prevent UUs from tackling the big issues!"
Rev. Booher has signed on to the Let Justice Roll Faith Leaders Letter to Congress calling for $10 and 2010 on behalf of the congregation as an act of public witness that they will publicize. Many communities in Pennsylvania are suffering from the economic crisis and UUs in Smithton want to make sure that those who are already living on poverty wages don't bear the burden of our nation's economic recovery.
- First Parish Church UU of Duxbury, MA, held an MLK Jr. Weekend Service on January 18 with UU Service Committee Economic Justice Program Manger, Johanna Chao Kreilick. Ms. Chao Kreilick serves on the board of the national Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign. Her sermon was entitled: "Parterning for Economic Justice: Where do We Go from Here?" (PDF). The congregation's faith leaders have signed the Faith Leaders Letter to Congress for $10 in 10 and are gathering signatures from the congregation.
Following the sermon, Ms. Chao Kreilick, Rev. Catherine Cullen, minister, and Carie Johnsen, ministerial intern, participated in a radio program on economic justice that will be aired on Sunday, February 1, from 6:30-7 a.m. The show also will be available "live" on the station's website. Additionally, you will be able to hear the show from the church's website where it will be posted a few days after it is aired on the radio station.
- First Unitarian Church, Portland, OR, is conducting a campaign throughout the month of January to collect signatures on the "$10 in 10" Let Justice Roll Letter to Congress and is supporting the Jobs with Justice campaign to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (workers' right to organize) in the first 100 days of the new Congress.
- UU Fellowship of Sussex County in Newton, NJ, planned a Living Wage Service on January 11 with minister Rev. Mary Tiebout but it was was postponed due to snow. They are collecting signatures for the $10 in 10 Campaign.
- DuPage UU Church, Naperville, IL, is sponsoring a January 24 Film & Discussion on "Morgan Spurlock: 30 Days on Minimum Wage."
In addition to services and events, hundreds of Unitarian Universalists have already signed the Let Justice Roll Letter to Congress for $10 in 2010. Please join them!