Monday, April 20, 2015

Celebrating Public Witness Victories

Victory on Establishing Diplomatic Relations with Cuba
In December 2014, the U.S. made a historic step forward in its Cuba policy when the Obama Administration announced that the U.S. will have full diplomatic relations with Cuba, ease travel restrictions, and review the additional policies that hinder the free relationship between the two countries. This was a huge victory for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the many Presbyterians who have worked together with our partners in Cuba for over fifty years. The Office of Public Witness has worked to advocate and to help Presbyterians advocate for this change of policy. Through action alerts, meetings with Congress and the Administration, and hosting delegations of our Cuban church partners, we have continually pressed for a full and free relationship between the two countries. We are looking forward to making sure these changes are fully implemented in the coming year.

Standing with Low-Wage Workers
J. Herbert Nelson stands with low-wage
workers in April 2015
In July 2014, the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson stood with striking low-wage federal contract workers to call on the President to set a new standard in the U.S. labor market. As the largest creator of low-wage jobs in the country, the U.S. government, through its contracts, has tremendous power to lead the labor market and improve jobs for millions of workers. When President Obama signed an executive order last summer requiring federal contractors to pay their workers at least $10.10 per hour, he set a standard for American workers, and many corporations, cities, and municipalities followed his lead. Days after Reverend Nelson stood with striking workers at Union Station, the President signed the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order” that will ensure that federal contracts are scrutinized for their compliance with federal labor law, such as wage theft protections and safe workplace regulations. This effort to raise the floor of the U.S. labor market continues in 2015 as the Office of Public Witness stands with workers who are demanding more livable wages and contract preferences for good employers who undercut the poverty jobs market by using taxpayer dollars to create good jobs.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation in Iran
A central concern for the PC(USA) has been Nuclear Proliferation and adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Last year, the Office of Public Witness worked in coalition with our interfaith and ecumenical partners in support of negotiated solution to the Iran nuclear issue and in opposition to harmful sanctions proposed in Congress. Because of your response to our alerts and the coalition of faith partners working in DC, we stopped the additional sanctions that would have derailed an agreement. Early in spring 2015, a historic agreement with Iran was announced — the key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program. The details remain to be worked out, but this is a tremendous step forward. We will continue to make the final agreement a key priority in public witness work this year.

OPW Staff J. Herbert Nelson and Leslie Woods join religious
leaders to meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
A Step in Addressing Global Climate Change

In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized new regulations under the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Power plants are the largest carbon emitter in the U.S. economy, contributing 30 percent of U.S. carbon pollution. Absent more comprehensive action from Congress, this regulation by the EPA is the largest step the U.S. has taken toward reducing its carbon emissions and beginning to address global climate change and disruption. The faith community was active in calling for these regulations. The Office of Public Witness provided official comments and testimony during the rule-making process, provided resources for hundreds of Presbyterians to weigh in on the rules, and joined with the inter-religious community to raise a voice for Creation Care in the EPA’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution.