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Attn: Clergy and Faith Leaders Concerned About Workers Rights

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Feb 25, 2011

The UUA is asking for your support for public sector workers. As you know, Wisconsin has become the flash point for maintaining collective bargaining rights for public workers. This is an historic moment for workers and those that support them.

The news in Wisconsin is happening in lots of other states. Interfaith Worker Justice, of which the UUA is a member, is asking for your help to garner broad religious support for workers on this issue.

Please join UUA President Rev. Peter Morales and sign on to IWJ’s Open Letter from Faith Leaders: Stop Attacks on Public Sector Workers and Unions. To sign on, visit: http://org.salsalabs.com/o/1035/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5946


Rev. Colin Bossin

Rev. Colin Bossen


Below is an excellent open letter from Rev. Colin Bossen, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland with more about this issue:

Dear Colleagues:

We are called as religious leaders to support public employees who are fighting to preserve their collective bargaining rights. To understand why, we need to look no further than the example of Martin Luther King, Jr.

When King was assassinated he was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting a sanitation workers strike. The slogan those public employees adopted for their struggle was “I am a Man.” The struggle in Memphis was about human dignity and human rights far more than it was about money. The sanitation workers in Memphis were fighting for their right to bargain and the recognition of their union. They knew without these things, the mayor of Memphis would not treat them as human beings deserving of respect and dignity. He would treat them like chattel consigned to marginal pay without the prospect of job security.

King understood that the key issue in Memphis was human dignity. He urged religious leaders to support the struggle by marching, speaking out, organizing economic boycotts and engaging in civil disobedience. Religious leaders have moral authority. That moral authority should be used to work for justice.

The struggle today in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and other states is the same as it was in King’s day. Public employees are fighting for human dignity. Collective bargaining rights stem from the rights of assembly and free speech. An assault on collective bargaining is an assault on human rights.

It is also an assault on our democracy. Any society that does not afford its citizens human rights does not deserve to be called a democracy. Without human rights it is impossible for citizens to make their views known or participate in society’s decision making process.

Some of you have probably heard that this struggle is about fixing state deficits. It is not. In Wisconsin, the state’s immediate budget shortfall stems from the legislature’s recent decision to cut taxes. In Ohio stripping public employees of their rights to bargain will not demonstrably save the state money. When confronted with this fact State Senator Shannon Jones, the sponsor of the legislation, was asked why she wanted to pass it. She replied, “It’s my philosophy. We think that public employees should not have the rights that they have now.”

Larger issues are at stake. If we religious leaders are to continue to have moral authority in our communities we must speak up in support of public employees right to collective bargaining. In the Unitarian Universalist tradition, we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. If our principles are to be more than hollow words we must stand up for human rights when they are threatened.

As in King’s day, there are many things we can do to support the struggle of public employees. We can reach out to labor unions and let them know of our support. We can work with solidarity organizations like Interfaith Workers Justice (www.iwj.org) and Jobs with Justice (www.jwj.org). We can write letters. We can preach sermons and hold teach-ins to educate the members of our congregations and the public. We can march and rally, and if the time comes, we can engage, like King and his generation, in non-violent civil disobedience.

Towards the end of his last speech in Memphis, King preached: “Let us rise up… with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.” Today, as in 1968, the challenges we face present us with the opportunity to make America a better nation. Don’t be silent. Don’t be absent. Let your voice be heard.

In solidarity,

The Rev. Colin Bossen
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland

Rev. Colin Bossen
Minister
Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland

http://www.uucleveland.org/

blog: http://infidelity.blogsome.com/
216.932.1898 (office)

3 Responses to “Attn: Clergy and Faith Leaders Concerned About Workers Rights”

  1. The biggest issue is that what they are attempting to do will give them total control of the State of Wisconsin. Hour after hour I watched the Assembly Republicans refuse to hear, consider, discuss, or compromise on anything the governor (sorry, hasn’t earned a capital G) has decreed as the way they should think and vote. The system of checks and balances is totally gone in Wisconsin. The only thing between a dictatorship and democracy are the 14 minority members of the Wisconsin Senate.

    One of the end goals in eliminating collective bargaining is to destroy the unions (as is laid out in the bill.) Once they manage that, unions will no longer be able to be the primary supporters of democratic (small d) campaigns, and the Republicans (large R) will have effectively eliminated their political opponents. And they’ll ultimately own the county.

    Somehow this needs to be turned around. It is up to the people. They must stand together.

  2. I just left the rally outside the Massachusetts State House, next door to the UUA headquarters. It was wonderful to see the Standing on the Side of Love banner there!

  3. Paul Roche says:

    Sorry – but I don’t see how this is an SoSL issue. Whatever you think about the pros and cons of what is going on in Wisconsin and other places it is a purely fiscal and political issue; and those issues should not be confused with human rights issues. I fear it cheapens the SoSL message. We should be concentrating on things like the fact that President Obama’s spokesperson says that although the president won’t defend DOMA, he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Where is the outrage?!

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