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Estamos Listos: We Are Ready for Immigration Reform

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Immigration press conference in Detroit. MUUSJN director Randy Block at the far right.

Last month, the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network (MUUSJN) and people from three UU congregations took their big Standing on the Side of Love banners to participate in immigration reform press conferences across the state of Michigan. These events, organized by the Alliance for Immigrant Rights, helped kick off a national immigration reform campaign. In Detroit and Lansing, our message of love was welcomed by media event organizers. Another press event was held in Kalamazoo, where UUs participate in an immigration reform coalition called the Michigan Organizing Project. These events were covered by the Detroit News, the Lansing State Journal, a local CBS affiliate, and other media.

At these events, hundreds of supporters gathered to ask Congress and the President to keep their promises and pass reform in 2013. Faith, community, union, social service, and elected leaders called on the President and Congress to support these important principles in a reform bill:

• Keep families together through a path to citizenship.
• Grant visas for family preference.
• Reunits the deported with their families.
• Create a worker program that serves families, not just employers.
• Enforcs humane treatment in the border and detention systems.
• Promote racial justice and an end to all discriminatory programs.
• Establish an Immigrant Integration Office.

This is just the beginning of our advocacy for compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform in 2013!


 This post was contributed by Randy Block, director of the Michigan UU Social Justice Network.

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Day 27: Happy National Standing on the Side of Love Day!

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Today is Day 27 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to celebrate our Fourth Annual National Standing on the Side of Love Day! Click here send in photos and stories of how you shared the love today. Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.


“Love isn’t an emotion or even an intention, but a policy, a vow, a behavior. It must be embodied to become real. Love exists only in action.”
- Rev. Tom Owen-Towle

Four years ago today, Unitarians Universalists began to re-imagine Valentine’s Day as a social justice holiday. We committed to investing in a different kind of love than the love corporations have been selling to us. Instead we chose to stand on the side of love with those who experience discrimination because of their identities.

Over time, our National Standing on the Side of Love Day has grown from one day to thirty, and has extended beyond Unitarian Universalists to welcome anyone who shares our values of promoting compassion, peace and justice.

Watch my video message to learn more about the wonderful ways that people across the country have taken part in these Thirty Days of Love:

Let’s celebrate the successful conclusion of these Thirty Days of Love together online. We are partnering with the Church of the Larger Fellowship for worship services on:

• Sunday, February 17 at 8:00pm ET
• Monday, February 18 at 9:00am and 1:30pm ET

Plan now to join in for one of these services. Check out our Facebook event to RSVP and invite your friends and family to join us.

Also, on February 17, many of our congregations are celebrating Share the Love Sunday in their sanctuaries. We have resources online for you to create your own Share the Love Sunday service for Feb. 17 or anytime this year. With a special plate collection for your Unitarian Universalist Association, Standing on the Side of Love will grow stronger and we will continue to promote our progressive liberal values in the world.

Together, our congregations and our Association can do amazing things. Thank you for your generosity and passion.

In faith,

Rev. Peter Morales
President
Unitarian Universalist Association

PS: Please inspire others by sharing photos and stories of courageous love from these past thirty days on our website. Hundreds of actions across the country will generate hundreds more.

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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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