Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Thank You President Obama; Take the Next Step

“You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning”  -- Lev. 19:13

Last week, the Reverend Dr. J Herbert Nelson was arrested in front of Union Station in Washington, D.C., along with other faith leaders and workers. In solidarity with the 8 million U.S. workers who are dependent upon federal contract jobs, Rev. Dr. Nelson has called on the President to ensure that the federal government only does business with companies that pay a living wage and provide good benefits, follow wage, hour, and safety laws, allow workers to bargain collectively, and limit overspending on CEO pay.

To read the Rev. J Herbert Nelson's Reflection on Work, click HERE.

The President responded. Two days later, President Obama signed an executive order (EO) aimed at reducing labor law violations among firms that contract with the federal government. This order requires companies bidding for federal contracts to disclose their recent compliance with labor and employment laws and instructs federal agencies to consider this compliance, or lack thereof, in the process of awarding federal contracts.

One Step Closer: Rev. J Herbert Nelson responds to President Obama's Executive Order

This is an excellent step forward and deserves praise. And because this order applies company-wide, not only to the workers directly employed through the contract, it has the potential to improve jobs across the economy. But there is still more to be done. With the stroke of a pen the president could further improve jobs for workers, federal contract workers and across the economy. For this goal,  the Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson participated in a nonviolence civil disobedience with local workers and clergy.

Click HERE to thank President Obama and urge him take the next step and make sure the workers have a voice in the workplace.

There are real benefits to this action. According to Demos, allowing federally contracted workers to bargain collectively would help put 21 million people (8 million workers and their families) on the path to the middle class. This nation became the leading economic power of the world when it had a strong middle class that was paid fair wages and had a strong voice to their employer through unionization.

Federal Jobs Lead the Marketplace, writes Rev. J Herbert Nelson.

The federal government is currently the largest employer of low-wage workers in the nation, spending $1.3 trillion on purchasing goods and services through private companies. What’s more, the federal government has often set the precedent of change in this country. For example, President Lyndon Johnson’s Executive Order 11246 established racial non-discrimination in hiring and employment by U.S. contractors, a precursor to the landmark Civil Rights Act. President Obama too can lead by example. As the largest employer of low-wage workers, the President is setting precedent for the nation’s marketplace. Tell him to take justice for workers a step farther and ensure collective bargaining rights for workers whose wages come from taxpayers.

President Obama has acted to protect U.S. workers. THANK him, and urge him to build on last week’s action with the Good Jobs Executive Order.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has long invested in the dignity of work and supported rights and protections for workers. Dating back to the 1952 General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church urged a “…greater emphasis upon free collective bargaining in labor- management relations,” and that Presbyterians “…participate more actively in management organizations and labor unions as an expression of Christian vocation….” This commitment has not changed in the present day. The 220th General Assembly (2012) upheld its 1952 stance when it passed A Resolution on Workers’ Rights and Income Inequality that recognized “the PC(USA)’s historic support of collective bargaining rights regarding wages benefits, and unemployment.”