Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Make Federal Jobs Into Good Jobs



Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness Director the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson Joins Hundreds of Striking Low-Wage Federal Contract Workers Calling on President Obama to Lead the Growing “Fight for $15” Movement

U.S. Federal Contract Workers Strike for to
Ask President to Sign Model Employer Executive Order   


Washington, DC – On Wednesday at 10am, the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, joined U.S. Senate contract janitors and food service workers, who for the first time in history, walked off their jobs to protest poverty pay.   

The U.S Senate contract employees joined hundreds of striking workers from the U.S. Capitol, Pentagon, Smithsonian Institution and other federal landmarks, where private companies receive lucrative contracts to run food service, provide janitorial services, and much more.

Reverend Nelson and several other faith leaders joined with workers to call on President Obama to lead by example and champion the growing “Fight for 15” movement by signing Model Employer Executive Order that gives a preference to federal contractors who pay living wages of at least $15 an hour, provide decent benefits like paid leave, and allow them to collectively bargain so they need not go on strike to be heard.  

In his opening remarks, J. Herbert Nelson called for the President to make federal contract jobs good jobs. He called for fairness in our labor market – “The fairness that I speak of today is not about simply earning enough to make a living, but instead enough to build a life worth living – and a legacy to leave behind.”

Presbyterians can join with Reverend Nelson in standing with low-wage workers and against poverty wages. Click here to write a letter to the President.

Today, the federal contracting process awards contracts to the lowest bidder, making the government the largest low-wage job creator in the country, funding over 2 million poverty jobs through contracts, loans, and grants to private businesses. Taxpayer dollars should create good jobs that pay workers livable wages, provide benefits, paid sick leave, and dignity in the workplace. We know from past movements that Executive Orders related to federal contract hiring can lead the marketplace, creating a tide that lifts all workers and builds a stronger economy.

This will be the twelfth strike in two years by low-wage contract workers who are organizing under the banner of Good Jobs Nation. This is the second time in a year that Reverend Nelson has walked with these workers.  In response to previous strikes and Congressional gridlock, President Obama declared he would “lead by example” by signing executive orders to boost the minimum wage to $10.10 and end wage theft on federal contracts. In the wake of the President’s orders last year, the CEOs of private companies like The Gap, IKEA, McDonalds and Wal-Mart announced that they too would hike starting pay and several cities passed ordinances to end wage theft. 

However, just like the thousands of fast food worker who are calling for better pay, benefits, and working conditions, federal contract workers say they need “More than the Minimum” to survive. Even after President Obama’s executive orders, the U.S. Government continues to be America’s largest low-wage job creator. We can do so much better.

Reverend Nelson was joined in his solidarity with low-wage workers by several other religious leaders who wrote in a letter –

Dear Mr. President,

In the faith community, we believe that every person is a child of God, that God wants shalom, that is, peace and wholeness for each of us, and that there is inherent dignity in work and the fruits of labor.

As you know, our nation generates great abundance yet only a few among us share in the bounty. This growing gap between the wealthy and everyone else is not only a political issue, but also a moral one that we are compelled by conscience to address. Indeed, it is an affront to human dignity when hardworking men and women are deprived of fully enjoying the fruits of their labor and must struggle simply to feed, clothe and shelter themselves and their children…  

As leaders of faith communities in the United States, we express our gratitude to you for exercising moral leadership by using your executive powers to start lifting low-wage workers out of poverty.   Our faith traditions advocate for justice, and we recognize that your actions provide a firm foundation for rebuilding a more fair and equitable society. 

However, given the scale of human suffering caused by poverty jobs, we urge you to do even more to aid our nation’s most vulnerable workers by promoting living wage and benefit standards on federal contracts with the power of your pen.  We believe that if you lead on this, our economy and labor market will once again follow your lead.

We therefore call on you to issue a “Model Employer Executive Order” that provides a contracting preference for companies that pay living wages of at least $15 an hour, offer good benefits and paid-time off for sickness and care-giving, provide full-time hours and predictable work schedules, as well as promote the rights of workers to bargain collectively so they do not need to strike to have their voices heard.  

For the complete letter and list of signatures, please visit the Office of Public Witness blog.

To read J. Herbert Nelson’s remarks, as prepared, please visit the Office of Public Witness blog here.

Click here to view the video of J. Herbert Nelson’s remarks.

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Parts of this article are excerpted from a Media Advisory published by Good Jobs Nation, an organization of low-wage federal contract workers who are calling on the President to end the U.S. Government’s role as America’s leading low-wage job creator. Good Jobs Nation is supported by national faith, labor and advocacy organizations including Change to Win, Interfaith Worker Justice, Progressive Congress, and the Campaign for America’s Future.   Learn more at www.goodjobsnation.org.

J. Herbert Nelson Stands with Striking workers, remarks as prepared

Opening Speech given by Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II,
Rally for a Good Jobs Nation
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
(remarks as prepared)


Today, I am happy to represent the faith community in affirming that all work matters and that all workers deserve a livable wage for the work that they do. We are here today to urge the President make federal contract jobs, good jobs – with livable wages, benefits, paid sick days, safe workplaces, reliable schedules, and the right to bargain collectively. We appreciate President Obama’s initial raise to $10.10 an hour when he bypassed Congress and acted on moral authority.

However, we stand with these striking government contract workers to declare that $10.10 is not enough. Our nation cannot boast of being the land of the free, while allowing companies to pay wages that enslave its citizens to debt, poverty and an inability to provide a decent living for themselves, their children and generations to come. The workers who we stand with today represent the hopes of current and prospective students; parents; children; spouses; and grandparents. They represent a lifeline of hope not only for themselves, but others who depend on them to assist their dreams, hopes and future possibilities.

I was deeply disturbed when we held a rally in front of Union Station last year to hear a grandmother declare that she wanted to retire, but could not live on what her anticipated retirement income would be. So, she keeps on working as she ages with no hope for retirement. It is not fair for someone to labor all of her life at a wage that keeps her working in poverty unto death. We are a better nation than that that!

I stand today as a follower of the Christian faith tradition. Jesus tells the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) in response to Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27: "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" Peter wanted to know what reward would be given to those who give up everything to follow Jesus. In response, Jesus explains this truth about the kingdom of heaven. I cannot help but notice that Jesus uses an example of equitable pay to give a resonance of Spirit to provide a Kingdom reality to the fair treatment of workers.

These day laborers waited for someone to hire them. And, they were hired at different times during the day. Some of these workers started their day at 9:00 am and others throughout the day. One group was even hired with only one hour left to work. At the end of their workday those who were hired last were paid first and all of the workers were paid the same wage irrespective of the time of day that they started or how many hours they worked. Jesus called it a daily wage. We who share The Lord’s prayer frame it in Jesus’ context as “daily bread.”

This parable reminds us that all work that upraises the dignity of a human being and furthers the cause of our earthly stewardship to the world God created is worthy of livable wage. In other words, a living wage is what Jesus is seeking. Jesus knew that people working poverty jobs everyday and living in poverty could not buy bread, butter or milk cheaper than those of us with more money to spend. Jesus knew that a woman who works the same job and makes less than a man could not build a similar future. Jesus knew that all work should be valued when it affirms the dignity and worth of a human being and advances the positive possibilities of a society. And, workers are striking out of a conviction that they ought to be paid fairly for the work that they do. The fairness that I speak of today is not simply enough to make a living, but instead enough to build a life worth living – and a legacy to leave behind.

In God’s Kingdom there are no “big I’s and little You’s.” We are all precious in the good Lord’s sight. Work should offer us our daily bread – enough to live peaceably while peacefully living.

We, the members of the faith community join these workers today by strongly urging the President to seize the moral high ground and do for these striking workers what our country has done for now profitable corporations since 2008. We raised the corporations’ wage through bailouts and tax breaks. But now I say – I want my tax dollars to create good jobs – with livable wages, benefits, paid sick days, safe workplaces, reliable schedules, and the right to bargain collectively for the good of the whole.

Stand now with those who depend upon wages from these same corporations who we incentivized and bailed out – to do business with the federal government, they must create good jobs, not poverty jobs. Stand now for the mother who needs to feed her children – the father who needs to put a roof over his family’s heads.

I want to share with the workers who begin striking today. Be aware that you do not walk alone. People of faith are here today and will be with you in the days ahead. The power of faith will guide you in the days ahead. The love of faith will embrace you when you feel you stand alone. The guidance of faith will direct you when the way seems long with no end in sight. The presence of faith will comfort you in your moments of disappointment. Don’t you give up on the one who made you and guides you even now.


Because the Good Lord knows that $10.10 is not enough!!!


Nelson Stands with Hundreds of Striking Workers

(stay tuned to this blog for more information about and photos of the demonstration)

Action Alert:

This morning, the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, joined hundreds of striking workers – mostly janitors and food services workers – from the U.S. Capitol, Pentagon, Senate, Smithsonian Institution and other federal landmarks, as they walked off their jobs in protest of poverty pay.

Click here to write to the President and walk with low-wage workers too.

J. Herbert Nelson Marches with Good Jobs Nation Workers
in July 2014
The Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Director for Public Witness, and several other faith leaders joined with workers to call on President Obama to lead by example and champion the growing “Fight for 15” movement by signing Model Employer Executive Order that gives a preference to federal contractors who pay living wages of at least $15 an hour, provide decent benefits like paid leave, and allow them to collectively bargain so they need not go on strike to be heard.  

Today, the federal contracting process awards contracts to the lowest bidder, making the government the largest low-wage job creator in the country, funding over 2 million poverty jobs through contracts, loans, and grants to private businesses. Taxpayer dollars should create good jobs that pay workers livable wages, provide benefits, paid sick leave, and dignity in the workplace. We know from past movements that Executive Orders related to federal contract hiring can lead the marketplace, creating a tide that lifts all workers and builds a stronger economy.


This morning was the twelfth strike in two years by low-wage contract workers who are organizing under the banner of Good Jobs Nation. This is the second time in a year that Reverend Nelson has walked with these workers.  In response to previous strikes and Congressional gridlock, President Obama declared he would “lead by example” by signing executive orders to boost the minimum wage to $10.10 and end wage theft on federal contracts. In the wake of the President’s orders last year, the CEOs of private companies like The Gap, IKEA, McDonalds and Wal-Mart announced that they too would hike starting pay and several cities passed ordinances to end wage theft. 

However, just like the thousands of fast food worker who are calling for better pay, benefits, and working conditions, federal contract workers say they need “More than the Minimum” to survive. Even after President Obama’s executive orders, the U.S. Government continues to be America’s largest low-wage job creator. We can do so much better.

Reverend Nelson was joined in his solidarity with low-wage workers by several other religious leaders who wrote a letter to President Obama calling for his moral leadership in response to the suffering created by poverty wages –

We therefore call on you to issue a “Model Employer Executive Order” that provides a contracting preference for companies that pay living wages of at least $15 an hour, offer good benefits and paid-time off for sickness and care-giving, provide full-time hours and predictable work schedules, as well as promote the rights of workers to bargain collectively so they do not need to strike to have their voices heard.  



For the complete letter and list of signatures, please visit the Office of Public Witness blog.

Faith Community Stands with Low-Wage Federal Contract Workers


w American Friends Service Committee w Bread for the World w Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church w Church World Service w Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ) w Ecumenical Poverty Initiative w Evangelical Lutheran Church in America w Faith in Public Life w Franciscan Action Network w Friends Committee on National Legislation w Interfaith Worker Justice w Islamic Society of North America w Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns w Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity w National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd w National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. w National Religious Campaign Against Torture w NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby w Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) w Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism w Union for Reform Judaism w Unitarian Universalist Association w United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries w The United Methodist Church -- General Board of Church and Society w


April 22, 2015


Dear Mr. President,

In the faith community, we believe that every person is a child of God, that God wants shalom, that is, peace and wholeness for each of us, and that there is inherent dignity in work and the fruits of labor.

As you know, our nation generates great abundance yet only a few among us share in the bounty.   This growing gap between the wealthy and everyone else is not only a political issue, but also a moral one that we are compelled by conscience to address. Indeed, it is an affront to human dignity when hardworking men and women are deprived of fully enjoying the fruits of their labor and must struggle simply to feed, clothe and shelter themselves and their children.  

Your recent executive orders to boost the federal contract minimum wage to $10.10 and to prevent wage theft and other legal violations on federal contracts begin to address this great challenge.

These orders have been transformative in the economic life of our nation, inspiring many leading business executives and public officials to follow your example.  During the past year, the mayors of New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia issued their own executive orders covering municipal contractors and the CEOs of companies like The Gap, IKEA, Wal-Mart, and Target announced that they too would raise wages for their lowest paid workers. In addition, numerous cities, counties and states are now moving, or have already passed, legislation to ensure workers aren’t cheated out of a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. All together, the living standards of 9 million workers will be enhanced because you expressed solidarity with workers who are struggling to survive.

As leaders of faith communities in the United States, we express our gratitude to you for exercising moral leadership by using your executive powers to start lifting low-wage workers out of poverty.   Our faith traditions advocate for justice, and we recognize that your actions provide a firm foundation for rebuilding a more fair and equitable society. 

However, given the scale of human suffering caused by poverty jobs, we urge you to do even more to aid our nation’s most vulnerable workers by promoting living wage and benefit standards on federal contracts with the power of your pen.  We believe that if you lead on this, our economy and labor market will once again follow your lead.

We therefore call on you to issue a “Model Employer Executive Order” that provides a contracting preference for companies that pay living wages of at least $15 an hour, offer good benefits and paid-time off for sickness and care-giving, provide full-time hours and predictable work schedules, as well as promote the rights of workers to bargain collectively so they do not need to strike to have their voices heard.   

By taking bold action before you leave office, you can ensure that all people have an opportunity to live into their God-given potential.   Thank you for considering our request.  We would gladly accept an invitation to meet with you to discuss this issue further.

Sincerely,

The Reverend David Beckmann
President
Bread for the World

Taquiena Boston
Multicultural Growth & Witness Director
Unitarian Universalist Association

The Reverend Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Executive Director
Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ)

The Reverend Jennifer Butler
CEO
Faith in Public Life

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Patrick Carolan
Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network

Lawrence Couch
Director
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

Father John Edmunds, S.T.
General Custodian
Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity

The Reverend Sèkinah Hamlin
Director
Ecumenical Poverty Initiative

The Reverend Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe
General Secretary
The United Methodist Church -- General Board of Church and Society

Aura Kanegis
Director for Public Policy and Advocacy
American Friends Service Committee

Gerry G. Lee
Director
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Rudy López
Executive Director
Interfaith Worker Justice

The Reverend Stacy Martin
Director, Advocacy
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Peter Vander Meulen
Director
Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Director for Public Witness
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner
Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Senior Vice President, Union for Reform Judaism

Diane Randall
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Martin Shupack
Director of Advocacy
Church World Service

Sandy Sorensen
Director, Washington Office
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

The Reverend Ron Stief
Executive Director
National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed
National Director
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America

Jim Winkler
General Secretary and President

National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.