Unions Show Solidarity, Talk Faith
Hundreds of union members gathered near the U.S. Capitol for a lunchtime rally today to show solidarity with their brethren in Wisconsin. Several spoke to Faith in Public Life about the role their faith and support from faith leaders play in the struggle for workers’ rights.
“Faith is the lifeline that gives me courage to act” said Mary Kay Henry, President of Service Employees International Union. Just back from Wisconsin, she praised the role of faith leaders, saying “their role is an incredible presence for our members to know that the faith community stands with them.”
“You have an obligation to help other people – you were not put on this earth by yourself,” said Jimmy Gurganus, Vice President of Telecommunications for the Communications Workers of America. “When we die, our obligation is that life is better for our children, it’s our religious and social obligation.”
Amalgamated Transit Union International President Larry Hanley called for “anyone who is spiritual at all” to see that “what is happening in state governments tells us we are in this together. He reported that his union is “partnering with pastors across the country because we have mutual beliefs that people have a human right to a descent life.”
Both SEIU member Joey Combs of Detroit, and Zachary Ramsey of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents clergy who work in correctional facilities, reflected on the historic role of faith leaders in the labor movement. “In the 1960s, the labor leaders were the faith leaders,” said Combs. Ramsay spoke of the need to make a “reconnection to the social consciousness of the labor union” found in faith community.