Good News and a Living Wage

The South has historically been hostile to organizing among workers, and overall the church there has not been a friend to labor either. The church often reflexively aligned with company owners in disputes. It was not uncommon for Paul’s words "if you don’t work, you don’t eat" to be misapplied from the pulpit to striking or unemployed workers.

But Chris Sanders, a Baptist lawyer in Louisville, Kentucky, who began his law career working for a union, believes that those who pray and those who organize for workers’ rights are natural allies. He has founded Workers’ Rights Outreach in an effort to help build relationships between people of faith and the workers’ rights movement in the South.

"Part of a new way of doing things in the labor movement is an understanding that workers’ rights need to be a part of the whole fabric of a community. It’s not just about the relationship between one company and one group of workers," explains Sanders. "It’s building an understanding that fair wages, workplace dignity, and good jobs affect the whole life of a community."

For such an approach to work in the South, a key is building relationships and coalitions with white evangelicals, who are a dominant cultural and religious force there. For Sanders, who earned a seminary degree before going to law school and is a deacon and Sunday school teacher, this is a natural outgrowth of his own background, skills, and beliefs.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1997
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