I wear garments touched by hands from all over the world

35% cotton, 65% polyester, the journey begins in Central America

In the cotton fields of El Salvador

In a province soaked in blood,

Pesticide-sprayed workers toil in a broiling sun...

Third world women toil doing piece work to Sears specifications

For three dollars a day...

And I go to the Sears department store where I buy my blouse

On sale for 20% discount

Are my hands clean? — Bernice Reagon

Some Unitarian Universalists work in professional occupations, such as teacher, physician, attorney, engineer or social worker. Others work in factories; in service roles such as waiter, custodian or repair person; on farms; or at telephone or computer desk jobs. Still others may own their own businesses or earn a living in the arts. We all make choices about our jobs based on our interests, abilities, opportunities and needs.

Our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people tells us everyone has the right to dignity of work—that is, the ability to earn a decent livelihood; a work environment that supports one's safety, health and self-respect; and appreciation for the value one's work brings to us all. Yet, as a society we tend to value some jobs more than others—even though we know that when a person's work is disrespected, undervalued or taken for granted, both they and their community suffer.

This session teaches the concept of dignity of work and makes children aware of their own work, whatever it consists of. They hear a story, "Beautiful Hands," about a child ashamed of her work-worn hands until a teacher articulates how her hands show the beauty of physical work. Children refine their understanding of dignity of work by examining and discussing photographs of children at labor. In Faith in Action, they engage in an advocacy project that promotes a fair minimum wage and universal dignity of work.

Goals

This session will:

  • Affirm that all kinds of work that contribute to society deserve appreciation and respect, that is, dignity of work
  • Connect our first Unitarian Universalist Principle with the dignity of work we believe all people deserve
  • Guide participants to conceive of themselves as workers, articulate what their work is and reflect on how they want their work to be supported and received.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Identify the work they do at this time in their lives
  • Learn the phrase "dignity of work" and identify its components, which include safe working conditions, others' respect and fair compensation
  • Explore ways child labor is antithetical to dignity of work and learn about anti-child labor protests at the start of the 20th century
  • Understand the guidance of our first Unitarian Universalist Principle to consider all individuals' work as equally valuable and deserving of respect.

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.