Natural Born Allies

"I feel like I’m back in Selma," enthused the woman minister from New Haven, Connecticut.

"I haven’t seen anything like this for 30 years...I take it back—ever," exclaimed the union organizer from Orange County, California.

"I’m glad I lived long enough to see religious and labor movements so connected. I’ve never seen (AFL-CIO President) John Sweeney (above left) so enthusiastic over anything before," commented Monsignor George Higgins—who was described by Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony as "the bridge between the Catholic faith and labor for the past 60 years."

In an extraordinary gathering last October in Los Angeles, labor and religious leaders united to seek ways to bridge the widening gap between the over- and under-privileged classes in the United States. More than 300 participants were on hand for the three-day session called by the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice (NICWJ). AFL-CIO President John Sweeney addressed the group twice and announced that a comprehensive plan was being made at the grassroots and national level to ensure health care and a higher living wage for all workers.

"This is a natural alliance because labor and communities of faith share core values of basic decency and justice," Sweeney declared.

Kim Bobo, NICWJ executive director, convened the conference under the title, "Forging Partnerships for the New Millennium." She cited four immediate goals: passing living wage ordinances and obtaining health care and pension provisions; defending workers’ rights to be represented by a union; strengthening the Department of Labor and defending human rights here and abroad; and supporting immigrant and minority workers.

Sweeney stressed the third point, urging all those assembled "to make sure no nation sends its children to work and imprisons their parents for seeking union representation."

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2000
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