By Linda Brindle
Kairos Milwaukie United Church of Christ, Milwaukie, OR
CPCUCC Representative Oregon Farm Workers Ministry Board (OFM)

darigold justiceDo you remember the stories of worker abuse at dairy farms that supply Darigold’s milk? For those who haven’t heard the story before, workers have come forward repeatedly describing conditions that include wage theft, unsanitary restrooms, lack of rest or lunch breaks, lack of water and mistreatment of workers. There are at least four dairies in Washington & Oregon which are accused of this worker mistreatment.

In addition there is also animal abuse at the Darigold supplier dairies. One worker tells that “The manager carries around a taser and he was electrocuting the cow so that she would get up. The cow screamed and cried with the shocks until one worker…told him to leave her alone; that they would take the cow outside.”1 In another story “The cows get milked with mastitis because we don’t have enough people to be able to milk right. You can tell that it hurts the cows a lot…because they (are)…very swollen from the (mistreatment) that they receive.”1

Jobs With Justice and Right to Work

By Don Johnson, Zion United Church of Christ, Gresham, OR
right to work is wrongThe Jobs With Justice breakfast on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 found the faith community, especially the United Church of Christ, very well represented. At least six UCC pastors were in attendance.

A large concern at the meeting was that there are currently 24 Right to Work states, and Oregon is being targeted to become the 25th. This effort is primarily promoted and funded by large corporations. One strategy is to use the words “choice” and “freedom” in their advertising. Corporations want to end organized labor so they can cut wages and benefits, which they claim are the reasons for higher prices. The real reason is probably greed. A posting on “Face Book” a few weeks ago by Global listed the pay ratio of CEOs vs. the average worker in various countries: Japan 11:1, Germany 12:1, France 15:1, Canada 20:1, UK 22:1, Mexico 47:1, USA 145:1. Many corporations pay their employees so poorly that they must rely on assistance to support and meet the medical needs of their families. Most corporations in the United States are doing quite well during these times, but the average worker is falling behind.



The transcendent image of a resurrected Christ shines with liberation, even from death, with a promise of life everlasting.  This audacious promise is the heart of our faith.  It is also the heart of our mission of justice and equity for all, because life everlasting begins not after death but in this life on earth.

 Justice and witness ministry is a ministry of liberation:  to free the oppressed, to use power and wealth on behalf of the powerless and poor, and to act boldly for justice.  This ministry carries our Christian faith into the world through action, amply supported by scripture and the ages-long actions of our UCC forebears.

 This ministry, however, contains within it the seeds of its own undoing.  As we work to free the oppressed, we may assume we are free and they are not.  As we give and ask nothing in return, we may flaunt our power, separating us, the powerful, from them, the weak and oppressed.  As we fight for justice, we may focus on a furious fight against injustice, on oppression rather than liberation, and take our eyes off the prize.

 A few months ago, I came across a quotation that rings true to me for justice ministry.  It is often attributed to Lilla Watson, an Australian Aboriginal elder and activist, speaking to a missionary:

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

 “Your liberation is bound up in mine.”  What a marvelous phrase.  In a few simple words, the arrogant assumption of being free, the inequitable separation from the other, and the furious focus on oppression, are all replaced by a call to work together for liberation.

 In our justice ministry we are clearly not free.  In the Rev. Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail, he writes “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  We work for freedom in a mutual mission of liberation, with a handshake, not a handout.

 “Bound up…”  A profound intimacy pervades those words, loving our neighbor as ourselves.  We are not separate from each other, any more than the body of Christ is dismembered.  A Jew, Martin Buber, expresses this best for me.  His “I-Thou” relationship is warmly intimate, as is the Bible.  Today, we see the Biblical use of “thou” as formal and stiff, but in the England of King James “thou” was a term used for friends and relatives, bound by kinship and friendship.

 This intimacy is empowered in forgiveness.  The oppressed, and those fighting oppression, are often angry, outraged.  The justness of the cause becomes a justification for anger that can blind us to each other.  Forgive us our rages, as we forgive those who rage against us.  Liberate us to love one another.

 “Let us work together.”  We work together, shoulder-to-shoulder, with our eyes firmly on the prize: liberation.  Of course we fight oppression, but as a gardener fights weeds, as a part of growing a finer garden.  Gardeners of justice work together not for a final prize but for a recurring cycle of sweet, savory prizes that nourish and grow through constant, careful tending.

 Christ did not die for our sins; he rose from death for our salvation.  He came because his liberation is bound up in ours.  As we work together for justice, may we follow Christ.

Will Fuller – Kairos-Milwaukie UCC