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Restoring Trust in Massachusetts

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This post was written by Jesse C. Jaeger, Executive Director of UU Mass Action.

On Wednesday, January 23rd, UU Mass Action participated in the Thirty Days of Love by helping our local immigrant rights partners organize a lobby day in support of the Massachusetts Trust Act. The Trust Act will end Immigration Custom and Enforcement’s co-opting of local law enforcement, which breaks down relationships in all of our communities.

In May 2012, Immigration Custom and Enforcement (ICE) implemented the Secure Communities (S-Comm) program statewide in Massachusetts despite the objections of immigrant rights groups, faith groups, many local law enforcement official,s and even Governor Patrick. ICE tells us that S-Comm makes our communities safer by deporting criminals who are undocumented. However, ICE’s own statistics show that this in not the case. Since its implementation, nearly 200 individuals have been deported through the S-Comm program–60% of those people have committed no crime at all (aside from their immigration violation) and another 10% have only committed minor infractions such as traffic violations or minor misdemeanors. Only 3 in 10 of those deported have committed the types of crimes that ICE touts as the reason for S-Comm. The national statistics, while not as bad, are still pretty grim: 83,000 people were deported using the S-Comm program in 2012 and 50% of had committed no crime or a minor traffic violation or misdemeanor.

The truth is that S-Comm does the exact opposite of its intended purpose. S-Comm makes our communities less safe. Nationwide thousands of families have been torn apart–taking parents away from U.S. citizen children, removing bread winners from homes, and throwing many into the hands of already strained local social service providers. S-Comm has also driven a wedge between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, making those communities much less likely to report crimes such as domestic violence, theft, and assault. S-Comm tears at the bonds of love and trust that hold our communities together, calling for a response from the faith community.

That is why UU Mass Action is working to engage Massachusetts Unitarian Universalists in the national Restoring Trust campaign and have played a leading role in getting the Massachusetts Trust Act filed. The Trust Act breaks the bond between ICE and local law enforcement, allowing a trusting relationship to form between police and immigrant communities and making it much harder for ICE to break up law abiding immigrant families.

Massachusetts Trust Act Team

We met directly with state legislators to ask them to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill. Together, we also mapped out a strategy for the next six months of the campaign. Over the coming weeks, UU Mass Action will continue to build the interfaith coalition in support of the Trust Act by asking congregations and religious leaders to sign on to the letter of support and leading a series of workshops across the state.

There are other active statewide Trust Act campaigns in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon, and California, and many more local campaigns. Visit the Interfaith Immigration Coalition website today to see if there is a Trust Act campaign near you and learn more about how you could help start a campaign in your community.

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Day 26: Love the Hands that Feed You

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Today is Day 26 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today is 2/13 and our action is to to raise awareness about the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13. If you plan on eating out this week, speak with the restaurant manager about why this economic justice issue matters to you. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.


Ethical eating is an issue close to my heart. The food that we eat connects us to our planet and to other people. Restaurant and other food workers play key roles in America’s modern food chain. But they are often overlooked and their rights trampled.

“It really opened my eyes. It was Latinos cooking, white women working graveyard shifts, men working during the day. I saw the racism, sexism, and low wages in the industry,” says Claudia Muñoz, a Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United leader. Claudia used to earn $2.13 an hour—the federal minimum wage for tipped workers for the last 20 years. Although the law requires employers to make up the difference between that and the regular minimum wage if tips fail to cover the gap, the reality is that employers often don’t.

Claudia made only about $160-$250 per week in tips and often worked over 40 hours a week. Her tips rarely made up the difference between the tipped minimum wage and the full minimum wage for non-tipped workers. But Claudia was often told to report more tips than she actually earned, so that the restaurant wouldn’t have to pay the difference.

Claudia’s story is not an anomaly. The restaurant industry has more than 10 million workers and ROC-United has documented extensive poverty, discrimination, and health and safety hazards in the industry.

The good news is that there is something that we can do about it! We ask you to mark today, 2/13, with an action to support workers who are paid as little as $2.13 an hour by their employers.

This is a big week for the restaurant industry, with many people celebrating Valentine’s Day, so let’s show that we care how restaurants treat their workers. If you are going to be dining out this week, ask to speak to the manager.

Tell the manager, “Thank you, the food was delicious and the service was great. I also wanted to let you know that I have recently learned that the federal tipped minimum wage for workers is $2.13 an hour. As a customer, I believe that those who prepare and serve my food should be making a living wage.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Claudia’s story and restaurant workers’ rights, one resource is the new book, Behind the Kitchen Door: What Every Diner Should Know About the People Who Feed Us, by Saru Jayaraman. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee is working with ROC-United to promote Behind the Kitchen Door, and more than 500 UUSC supporters have committed to helping. If you are reading this book or planning to, email mobilization@uusc.org to get connected!

We can change the national conversation about what a truly sustainable food system is—a system where workers are paid a living wage and treated with dignity and respect.

Sincerely,

Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh

Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh is co-minister of the Winchester (Massachusetts) Unitarian Society, and the UUA Clara Barton and Massachusetts Bay Districts’ Acting Director of Congregational Development. He is also the editor of the forthcoming anthology from Skinner House Books, The Joy of Just Eating: Food for Personal, Public, and Planetary Well Being (working title).

P.S. Buy Behind the Kitchen Door: What Every Diner Should Know About the People Who Feed Us between now and February 23. Purchases made now through Powell’s Books and Amazon count towards the bestseller list. Please consider buying from one of these retailers between now and February 23 to help put Behind the Kitchen Door on the bestseller list.

If you are making a purchase after February 23, please buy through the UUA Bookstore. And if at any time you are planning to make a bulk order of 10 or more copies, you can do that through the UUA Bookstore at 20% off! All proceeds from the book, wherever it is sold, go to support the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a restaurant workers’ rights organization.

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Day 25: The Power of Truth & Reconciliation

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Today is Day 25 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about truth, reconciliation, and how the power of forgiveness can lead us to better stand on the side of love. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.


Esther Attean and Denise Altvater receive Courageous Love Awards

Today is a new day for the people of Maine. This very morning in the city of Bangor, the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is swearing in five newly selected commissioners.

In May 2011, Gov. Paul LaPage and the chiefs of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Penobscot Indian Nation, the Houtlon Band of Maliseet Indians, and the Aroostook Band of Mickmacs signed an agreement to initiate a process of truth and reconciliation with regard to the child welfare practices in Maine where native children are 20 times more likely to be removed from their home and tribal community and placed in foster care. Maine is the first state in the country to initiate a process of truth and reconciliation with our indigenous communities.

Esther Attean and Denise Altvater, Passamaquoddy tribal members and founding staff of the TRC, were recently honored with Courageous Love Awards at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speaker Breakfast in Winthrop, Maine. Denise and Esther have worked countless hours to bring forward this historic and unique partnership. With numerous speaking engagements behind them and 3 years of work in front of them, they are changing lives and bringing the power of healing and transformation to people throughout Maine.

Esther and Denise have the rare ability to speak truth to the actions of Columbus, the colonization of the Americas, the Doctrine of Discovery, and the forced assimilation of native people, while owning their power and asking a room full of white folks to examine their privilege. And the truth telling doesn’t stop there. With undaunted courage, they bravely share their personal stories of generational trauma and imagine a new tomorrow for their people and the people of Maine.

Each time I hear Esther and Denise, I walk away empowered to enter more deeply into an honest openhearted engagement with my role as a colonizer and my life as the colonizers’ legacy.

Their work invites us to ask the question: how might the process of Truth and Reconciliation be implemented in a way that furthers the most pressing social justice issues of our time? How might it play a role in your own communities? Click here to learn more about Truth & Reconciliation.

In faith,

Rev. Carie Johnsen
Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta, Maine

PS: This morning, you can also watch a livestream of the Wabanaki Truth & Reconciliation Commission seating ceremony via their Facebook page.

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Day 24: This is My Prayer

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Today is Day 24 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to write your own prayer, mantra, or meditation to help us “share the love.” To see some examples from last year, click hereClick here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.


Each week at the Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, we open our services with the words of one of our founders, Bob Kintz, “This is a sanctuary for those seeking their own answers to questions of faith. This is a sanctuary for those voices lifted up for peace. This is a sanctuary for those seeking companionship in their struggles and journeys.” We state this intention to create a safe space in which to worship, to affirm our purpose to cultivate peace within ourselves and in the world, and to acknowledge our oneness and the interwoven context of our lives. I believe that by setting intentions we mindfully manifest the life we want to live.

For me, prayer is setting an intention and requesting the support needed to cultivate the qualities required within us. From this perspective there are several things necessary for prayer, including insight, awareness, and the ability to receive support. It is empowering to identify when we need to cultivate courage, forgiveness, or compassion. It is healing to honor that other beings are suffering around us and ask for them to receive love, joy, and peace. It is transformative to learn how to earnestly ask for and receive support from that which is bigger than ourselves. Each time I pray I am blessed with clarity, a deep sense of our interconnectedness, gratitude, and a renewed openness to receive.

In the spirit of loving-kindness, this is my prayer for us today:

May we know true peace and commit to finding moments of quiet in order to listen deeply to our own truth.

May we open our hearts wider than we ever knew was possible, and welcome all beings into our understanding of community, in the spirit of radical hospitality.

May we cultivate compassion not only for others, but for ourselves, knowing this is essential for all our healing. 

May we love deeply and boldly speak our truth so that our authenticity becomes an invitation for others to Stand on the Side of Love.

May we embrace our courage, creativity, gratitude, and sense of humor to sustain us and allow us to flourish on this transformational journey of love!

May it be so…blessed be… amen…namaste!

For today’s action, join me in offering a loving prayer, mantra, or meditation. Click here to share your prayer.

Peace & gratitude,

Kelley Grimes

Kelley Grimes is a counselor, artist, and chair of the Sunday Services Committee and Peace Team at the Palomar UU Fellowship in Vista, California. She is a Unitarian Universalist deeply rooted in an earth based spiritual and Buddhist perspective.

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Day 23: Start By Loving Yourself

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Today is Day 23 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to start the journey of sharing the love by loving yourself first. If you have events planned for National Standing on the Side of Love Day (Thursday, Feb. 14th) or Share the Love Sunday (Sunday, Feb. 17th) be sure to add it to our map and use our media resources to get the word out in your community. Click here for additonal resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.


Our Thirty Days of Love campaign is equal parts spiritual journey and action for social justice.

Today marks the beginning of the last week of our Thirty Days of Love Campaign, and this week’s theme is “Share the Love.” What better place to start than with yourself? How can we stand on the side of love with others, if we aren’t first kind and loving to ourselves?

Every day, I feel humbled by my opportunity to lead a campaign grounded in love and faith. It offers me the opportunity to check in with myself, to see how I can live a life that is more just, more loving. And yet, sometimes I struggle. I find myself frustrated when I don’t live up to my own artificially imposed standards, when I fail or make mistakes. And so I return to a quiet place in my soul, and create the space for forgiveness, acceptance, and love. For me, yoga and fellowship with others help me find that space. What helps you be more kind to yourself?

Perhaps you too will benefit from a reminder that we need to love ourselves first. I invite you to be especially kind to your own soul today, to be better able to share the love with others throughout this week.

And what a week it will be! On Thursday, we will once again re-imagine Valentine’s Day as a social justice holiday, our 4th Annual National Standing on the Side of Love Day and, next Sunday we will celebrate Share the Love Sunday! If your congregation is planning an event, make sure you add it to our map and use our media resources to get the word out in your community. You can also worship online with us through the Church of the Larger Fellowship–click here to find out how.

If you are not part of a congregation or belong to a congregation that’s not participating, there are other ways that you or your family can participate in National Standing on the Side of Love Day. Click here to learn more.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Standing on the side of love with you,

Jennifer Toth
Campaign Manager
Standing on the Side of Love

PS: It’s not too late to take a Share the Love Sunday collection to support our work. If this Sunday doesn’t work for you, Share the Love Sunday can happen any time throughout the year. Click here for more info!

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