This is one Labor Day article that isn’t going to start by moaning about what lousy shape the American labor movement is in. You’ll read that in the mainstream press on Monday, mark my words. They’ll drone on about ” the old gray labor movement, she ain’t what she used to be.”
We do have some work to do.
In labor, we do have our problems, but who doesn’t? We’re under constant attack, but who isn’t?
But that’s no reason to be fatalistic, pessimistic and victim-istic.
Don’t write us off yet. We aren’t in Dick Cheney’s “last throes.” No, we’re the current underdog, and Americans love underdogs.
We just need to do a few little things to get back on track:
–Beat back Wal-Mart. The Beast of Bentonville is dominating our economy and job market, and all its suppliers have moved to communist China. Visit www.wakeupwalmart.com.
–Fix the health-care system so that the millions without insurance can go to the doctor instead of the emergency room.
–Pass a labor law that works for workers. Visit http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/.
–Create some living-wage jobs to replace the millions killed off by the president.
–Organize a million more workers into unions.
OK, so these things aren’t so little. (The word “million” shows up a lot in that list.) Maybe the churches will help.
I work with a couple of great networks, Interfaith Worker Justice (www.nicwj.org) and Jobs with Justice (www.jwj.org). These national labor/community/religious coalitions support union organizing campaigns, living-wage movements and civil-rights efforts of all kinds.
I’ve seen Catholics, mainstream Protestants, Jews and others come out to picket lines, join Workers Rights Boards, and speak a word from the Lord with courage and conviction. They do a fine job.
Who is missing from these groups, in a big way, is us: evangelicals, Baptists (both Southern, and “southern”, and everybody else like us.
People who take the Bible seriously and are serious about reaching people for Jesus. (You can still count on some African-American Baptists. It’s the white folks who are missing from the action.)
People who know, in their heart of hearts, which side the Carpenter’s Son is on when the lines are drawn between working families and corporate greed.
People who root for underdogs, and people who are underdogs.
I travel around the country a lot, and I don’t see us out in the mix.
I think we can change that, and it could grow from a part of the Body of Christ I’m calling Working Christians.
That includes Christian working people (union or not), Christian shop stewards and union representatives, bivocational preachers, working-peoples’ pastors, preachers with the courage of their convictions and anyone else who already stands up for working people and wants to stand together.
We can organize around the twin goals of evangelism and solidarity. If that’s you, I’d like to hear from you.
There’s a world to conquer, the fields are white with harvest. You don’t have to worry about tripping over each other. When you’re the underdog, there’s plenty of room for more.
I went to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary back when we were “out to change the world.” It needs changing now more than ever. When you come back from the lake after Labor Day, call me.
Chris Sanders practices law and politics statewide for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Kentucky. He plays a rockin’ guitar (and sometimes preaches) for “FridayChurch” at Highland Baptist in Louisville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A practicing employment lawyer, active in law, labor, faith and politics, Sanders serves Simmons College of Kentucky, a historically black college, as coordinator of Empower West Louisville, a coalition of black and white churches dedicated to economic empowerment in Louisville’s segregated West End that sponsors The Angela Project.