Across the nation, people of faith are seeking ways to strengthen their congregations’ ministry with and for workers—workers within and outside the congregation. Despite the booming economy, too many workers are not paid wages and benefits that can support families. Almost half of new jobs pay less than $16,000 per year. These jobs cannot move families out of poverty.
When workers attempt to organize a union to improve wages or benefits, they often face strong employer opposition. Eighty percent of private sector employers hire professional consultants to fight workers’ unions. Almost a third fire employees who actively help other workers join unions.
Congregations and faith-based organizations are on the front lines of providing soup kitchens and shelters. But increasingly, such groups want to be on the front lines of justice for workers so that people won’t need soup kitchens and shelters to survive.
Below are 15 concrete ways to strengthen your congregation’s justice ministry with workers and to help rebuild ties with the labor movement.
1. Hold a service on the Sunday before Labor Day lifting up justice for workers. Labor Day is an obvious time to address worker justice issues. Use the entire service to focus on God’s desire for justice in the workplace. If there are labor leaders in your congregation, ask them to speak during the service. Or involve local labor leaders from the community in the service.
In 1998, 37 cities had "Labor in the Pulpits" programs in which labor leaders spoke in congregations. Similar programs will occur in many cities over Labor Day weekend in 1999. Labor Day worship materials are available from the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice (see NICWJ address below).
2. Form a Bible study group on God’s messages to workers and employers. Look carefully at what the Bible teaches about being a just worker and a just employer.