by Stuart Elliott
“Labor Sunday” was first celebrated 98 years ago and was intended to lift up the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. For the past 15 years, interfaith religious communities across the United States have been celebrating Labor in the Pulpit/on the Bimah/in the Minbar during Labor Day worship services – a program designed by Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) in partnership with the AFL-CIO. But this year it’s all about context as congregations prepare to address very specific local issues facing workers and working families in their communities.
Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, said, “Congregational leaders realize that working families in their communities – and in their own pews – are really struggling in this economy. They are sick and tired of the way working people are being blamed for the crisis. And they want to do something tangible to make a difference.”
In New Orleans, LA, for example, interfaith leaders and worker advocates are asking congregations to Pray for Avondale during Labor Day weekend worship services and then to attend a community-wide Rally for Avondale which will be held on October 1, 2011. Avondale Shipyards, the largest private employer in Louisiana, has been building ships for the United States Navy but this contract is being terminated.
For congregations in San Jose, CA, the focus this Labor Day weekend will be food justice. Interfaith leaders and worker advocates will be speaking at more than 100 worship services, calling on religious people to strive for justice for farm workers, grocery workers, and all people involved in the production, selling, and consumption of food. Interfaith leaders in Denver, CO are kicking off Labor Day weekend events with a Town Hall Forum on the Denver Paid Sick Days Ballot Campaign to be held at Highlands Church on August 31, 2011.
In a program sponsored by Arise Chicago, the ChicagoTeachers Union, and the Chicago Federation of Labor, religious leaders will invite fifty teachers to speak in worship services during the Labor Day weekend. This special “Teacher in the Pulpit” program is in addition to the annual program sponsored by Arise Chicago and the Chicago Federation of Labor in which labor leaders are placed in over 100 services.
The Jewish Labor Committee has reached out to nearly a thousand rabbis across the United States. asking them to incorporate a message about the importance of workers rights in some meaningful way during Sabbath services between Labor Day weekend and Rosh Hashanah, which will begin the evening of September 28th.
The JLC is asking rabbis and congregation to support a specific campaign for decency and dignity at the workplace– “signing the pledge” to support justice at Hyatt.