“Labor in the Pulpits”

Each year, during Labor Day weekend, churches around the United States take part in an initiative called “Labor in the Pulpits.” Coordinated by Interfaith Worker Justice, it depends on clergy to use their homilies to address issues of importance to workers.

This year’s theme is “fair development,” described as “making sure that monies invested in companies to build the economy are fair to the residents of those communities,” according to Meghan Cohorst of UNITE HERE, a union for workers in the hotel, restaurant and garment industries.

One case in point: Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. “The concession program there, where many of the workers work, is run by a private, for-profit company, not by the airport: Airmall USA, which has a very long-term, lucrative contract with the state of Maryland,” Cohorst said.

“Since January, workers have been organizing around a ‘workers’ bill of rights’ to address issues of job security (and) full-time work,” Cohorst said. “But the workers report they’re having all of these issues, allegedly being intimidated,” she added. “There had been some anti-organizing activity where some of the concessionaries had charges filed against them by the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board).”

According to a 2011 study issued by an organization called Good Jobs First, the median wage for concessions workers at many of the airport’s eateries and newsstands was $8.50 an hour.

About 50 churches in the Baltimore area will have labor-related preaching in their pulpit this weekend. with workers present in those houses of worship, Cohorst said. Among them will be four or five Catholic churches celebrating a total of 11 Masses.

4 Responses

  1. So, the Catholic Church and other churches are being asked to take sides once again in the perennial struggle between business and labor, with labor getting to decide what constitutes social justice and just wages. When will the churches recognize power struggles when they see them? Apparently, never.

    We have seen over the decades the results of power struggles in the auto industry. The outcome has not been all that good for many of the workers nor for the companies, both sides owning blame for it.

    Where does business have any influence with the NLRB, the government board, mind you, which was packed by a president intent on circumventing US Senate authority.

    Social justice is not determined either by corporations or by unions intent on governing those same corporations without risking any of their capital by being owners.

    The churches would do well to stand aside and enter the fray only where it is demonstrated that specific companies violate independent standards of justice.

  2. we pioneered the labor movement, it still needs our support,

  3. What needs our support is proper decision-making by both sides of the bargaining table. The Church is on the wrong side when it only supports that element which is primarily interested in seizing control of a business without investing in it. What is a “just wage”? When it is achieved, there follows another round of battles. The minimum wage could be hiked to $15/hour today and the pressures to increase it would begin before the ink is dry on the legislation. That’s not opinion; there are facts to prove it.

    When one lives in Michigan and in the heart of the auto-manufacturing segment of the state, one sees what really goes on in “the labor movement.” I have firsthand experience of it myself.

  4. Christians should seek the greater good & strive for unity. Here in America a top executive earns hundreds of times more than entry level employees. I have the conviction that God is neither a capitalist or a socialist.

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