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.

Deep Travel

Will Fuller, Kairos-Milwaukie UC

Every summer for the past four years, my wife and I have traveled by car to a small city in Quebec, Canada to visit our son’s family.  This year, as we traveled I was reading a book by Tony Hiss, In Motion.  This book explores

making use of an ancient, innate, ground-shifting variant of ordinary waking consciousness that we can … call Deep Travel. … It can, among many effects, give…the sense that even a long-familiar route…exists within such a fullness of brand-new or at least new-to-me information and questions that I wonder how I ever had the capacity to exclude them from consideration (p. 9)

In short, the very act of travel can bring a deep appreciation of the transcendent splendor that surrounds us.  We see our old world with fresh, new eyes.  In that transcendence, we may gain a glimpse of the One in whose Name we call for peace and justice

in the rimrock land of eastern Oregon


in the prairie preserves of Illinois


in the rushing rivers of Quebec’s Laurentian Shield


in a friendly Canadian public pool


in the Nevada desert, where Latino workers walk from a shantytown across the tracks to work in the luxury casino resorts on the other side


in Montana’s mountains, where tough Harley bikers kneel before chipmunks


in Yellowstone National Park, where pilgrims from all over the world, speaking a Babel of languages, stand in awe before the old, faithful grandeur of Creation


and in all the places we travel on life’s journey.


Workers’ Rights and the Church

By Karen Kulm.
Published on March 17, 2011

You’ve seen the slogans: “The weekend, minimum wage, Worker’s Comp, and the middle class brought to you by: The Union.”  You’ve also seen recent massive gatherings of union members and their supporters rallying throughout the country, particularly in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.

The right to form, organize, or join a union is a fundamental and internationally recognized human right, listed in the 1948 United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights.  Yet our own nation’s laws provide weak protections for workers’ rights to form a union.  Laws are frequently violated and penalties to the employer are minimal.

We have recently seen in Wisconsin a state legislature and governor illegally taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.  (A Wisconsin judge issued a restraining order on March 18, blocking the contentious law from taking effect.)  Many local church leaders stood with the 85,000 people who protested in Wisconsin.

Multiple faith traditions insist that workers, as human beings with inherent dignity, may freely associate to improve their conditions at work.  Statements issued over the centuries by a wide array of faith bodies strongly affirm the right of workers to organize and bargain with their employers over wages, benefits, and a voice on the job.

General Synod 21 of The United Church of Christ (UCC) passed the “Resolution Affirming Democratic Principles In an Emerging Global Economy,” which affirms: “the heritage of the UCC as an advocate for just, democratic, participatory and inclusive economic policies in both public and private sectors, including… the responsibility of workers to organize for collective bargaining with employers regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions, and the responsibility of employers to respect not only worker rights but also workers’ dignity, and to create and maintain a climate conducive to the workers’ autonomous decision to organize.”

Our public workers did not cause our current economic crisis.  Cutting jobs of teachers, police officers, public health workers, bus drivers and others will not reduce state deficits. Stripping unions of collective bargaining rights will ultimately have a negative effect on families, communities and the economy.

I encourage you to be informed and take action.  Information is available at the UCC national website Justice Home Page under advocacy resources:  Interfaith Worker Justice has many resources and a petition to “Stop Attacks on Public Sector Workers and Worker’s Unions.”  Many states, including those in the Central Pacific Conference (CPC), have been organizing protest rallies at their state capitols.

A call for a national day of action on April 4 has been issued.  On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, where he had gone to stand with sanitation workers demanding their dream: The right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a better life. The workers were trying to form a union with AFSCME.  Beginning with worship services over the April 1 weekend, and continuing through the week of April 4, unions, people of faith, civil and human rights activists, students and other progressive allies will host a range of community- and workplace-focused actions.  Worship resources and information are available at the We Are One website: .

Finally, the CPC Justice and Witness Team is sponsoring a resolution at the Spring Assembly in Portland, OR on May 20-21 titled “Resolution Affirming Workers’ Rights to Form Unions and Bargain Collectively.”

Karen Kulm, a member of Vancouver UCC, is a proud union member and active in various justice issues in her community.