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On May 1, most of the world will celebrate May Day, dedicated to worker rights, protections, and power.
Unions are in the spotlight in the United States as employees fight, and win, to organize at Starbucks, Amazon, and news publications across the country. Farmworkers have continued their movements to ensure fair food practices, and studies found that unionized nursing facilities protected workers and residents better from COVID-19.
To commemorate, Sojourners’ editors compiled 10 of our best pieces covering the intersection of labor rights, faith, and justice. Through the years, we’ve written about the ways churches can help workers — and the way workers can help the church.
These stories remind us that our faith follows the life of Jesus, a poor carpenter in Judea who told the rich to sell their possessions (Matthew 19:21), inspired tax collectors to leave greed behind (Luke 19), and whose followers warned the rich that the “wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (James 5:4).
1. Wage Against the Machine
Employers say there’s a ‘labor shortage.’ The Bible says workers deserve fair wages. By Matt Bernico, 2021.
2. The Recent Amazon Union Effort Failed — Churches Can Help
Organizers and Christians in Bessemer wonder what went wrong — and how future attempts at unionizing the Amazon facility could be different. By Dean Dettloff, 2021.
3. From the Church to the Union Hall
Working people have given rise to a body of songs and ballads that constitute one of the country’s richest cultural treasures. Margaret Hoven and David Earle Anderson, 1996.
4. Blessed Are the Blue-collar Workers, for They Can Save Creation
The American Jobs Plan is an equitable infrastructure plan that prioritizes clean energy and environmental justice. By Susan Hendershot, 2021.
5. Short Takes: Julia de la Cruz
Five Questions for Julia de la Cruz, a farmworker, an organizer, and a member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). By Betsy Shirley, 2016.
6. How Priests Are Helping Workers Unionize
The Catholic Labor Network has trained priests to serve as a trusted third party in performing “card checks” for workers looking to unionize. By Madison Muller, 2021.
7. Why Pastors Should Preach About Labor Unions
Organized labor can help create God's kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” By Tony Campolo, 2018.
8. War on Workers
Anti-labor laws undermine unions in the Midwest. Will faith communities rise to the challenge? By Phil Haslanger, 2013.
9. The History Behind Labor Sunday
Starting in the 1890s, churches began to set aside the Sunday before labor day as a time for lifting up working people’s voices and experiences. By Heath W. Carter, 2018.
10. Recent Union Wins Mean It’s Time for More Organized Religion
It’s time for Christians — including laypeople — to show up en masse for poor and low-income workers. By Matt Bernico, 2022.