Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Faith Leaders Continue to Support Federal Contract Workers in the Struggle for Living Wages and Decent Benefits

The Escalating "Fight for Fifteen" 

Washington, D.C.- On Tuesday December 8th, the Reverend J Herbert Nelson, Director of the Office of Public Witness, joined federal contract workers once again in their struggle for living wages and the right to unionize. Workers from the United States Capitol, Pentagon and other federal landmarks walked off of their jobs to fight poverty pay in an action that escalated their campaign and increased pressure on decision makers. Workers were in the holiday spirit, complete with Santa hats and Grinch costumes, and once again appealed to decision makers to make federal jobs good jobs with living wages and decent benefits.

Reverend Nelson was joined by The Reverend Sekinah Hamlin, Reverend Aundreia Alexander, and Reverend Leslie Copland Tune who led the striking Senate cafeteria workers in prayer as they marched into the Dirksen Senate cafeteria. Once in the cafeteria, the faith leaders presented a letter to the Restaurant Associates management. In this letter, leaders of faith offered to bridge the gap between management and workers, and to act as a third party to count the signed union pledges. The workers and faith leaders then marched to Senator Ted Cruz’s office in order to present him with a Golden Grinch Award for not following through with action on worker’s rights. Senator Cruz has spoken about the need for workers to earn a livable wage, but has not kept his word.

This faith action is a part of an ongoing struggle in the Fight for Fifteen. This past month, Senate staffers have joined in the Fight for Fifteen by participating in the weekly brown bag boycott in support of the Senate cafeteria workers. Faith leaders in Washington D.C. will sustain their support until workers have justice. 

Below is a copy of the letter the faith leaders presented to Restaurant Associates Management:

Richard John Cousins
CEO, Compass Group
Compass House
Guildford Street
Surrey KT16 9BQ
United Kingdom

Dear Mr. Cousins:

As faith leaders, we believe that there is inherit dignity in work and that workers deserve a seat at the banquet table so they can share in the fruits of their labor.
We have listened to the heart-breaking stories of U.S. Capitol and Senate contract workers – employed by your company – who earn so little that they are forced to sleep on the streets and use food stamps to feed their families. We have witnessed courageous workers willing to walk off their jobs on strike to call for justice and freedom at work. We have prayed with workers and their families so they might be strong in the face of threats and retaliation.

We understand why they are raising their voices to win living wages and a seat at the negotiating table – they seek dignity.
That is why we write to urge you to invite your low-wage workers to the table.
In all of our traditions, the “table” is a sacred symbol – a place where people gather in fellowship, where reconciliation happens, and where abundance is shared. It is a place where all can enjoy dignity.

Mr. Cousins, set a place at the table for your workers. Allow your workers the opportunity to self-organize and speak with one voice. Remove all obstacles in their way by protecting their freedom to associate and by recognizing their union based on a majority of membership cards. By doing so, you can lead by example and send a message to other CEOs – workers should not have to go on strike to have their voices heard.

We stand ready to support you and your workers end this labor dispute and achieve mutual reconciliation. We are available to help monitor a “free and fair organizing” process by mediating a resolution to the strikes and certifying the results of the card count.
The U.S. Capitol is a symbol of inclusion where everyone can have their voices heard. We hope you will to do everything possible to make this symbol real for America’s low-wage workers.


National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
National Council of Churches
Presbyterian Church (USA)
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
Ecumenical Poverty Initiative