DCIA supports labor issues
Raise Up for $15, the group that wants to raise wages of fast-food workers, made its case to Durham Congregations In Action at its monthly meeting this week. DCIA is composed of about 60 faith congregations that collaborate on social justice issues. This is the third in a series on labor issues at its monthly gatherings.
Keith Bullard is the lead organizer for Raise Up, also known as the Southern Workers Organizing Committee. They’ve been involved in rallies at North Carolina fast-food restaurants and the N.C. NAACP-led Moral Mondays protests at the General Assembly in Raleigh.
Ashley Echevarria, a mother of two boys, works at a Durham McDonald’s. She said she was reluctant at first to become involved in Raise Up, but joined the campaign for workers last summer.
“I make $7.25. I have two kids. I’m about to lose my house,” Echevarria said. She said it’s ridiculous how much company CEOs get paid when the people providing the service, opening the store, cooking and cleaning are making minimum wage. A lot of workers don’t have any health care, she said, but if they miss work because they’re sick, they are expected to have a doctor’s note.
Bullard said that people say $15 is too much to ask for and is never going to happen, but it did happen in Seattle. He said the mind-set of fast-food workers is that they are living in a hard economy and their jobs are all they can get, so they put up with things like working off the clock, which is wage theft. Or they already have varied schedules and if they are called in on their day off, say yes because they don’t want to lose their jobs. Not working a 9 to 5 schedule makes it hard to look for a second job, he said.
Bullard said he’s been inspired by seeing how workers are coming together and rallying together against major corporations.
“Our battle is not with the franchisee or managers,” Bullard said. Echevarria said managers aren’t getting paid much, either.
“We’re focused on the corporate office,” Bullard said. “Fast-food workers are in our communities. They come to our churches,” he said. He suggested that congregations encourage them and show support for the Raise Up movement. Workers get nervous being by themselves at rallies, he said, and congregations can be there to support them. Talk to them and ask them about their struggles, Bullard suggested.
The Rev. Spencer Bradford, director of DCIA, said that in North Carolina they don’t have much cultural experience with workers groups or unions. He said to look at it as a way to stand with our neighbors. Ask business owners to treat workers justly, he said.
“It’s about building community and a sense of accountability,” Bradford said.
Bradford quoted from the New Testament -- 2 Corinthians 8 – in which Paul calls for one who has much to not have too much, and one who has little to not have too little.
“As worshipping communities, we can change the conversation,” he said. DCIA provided information from Interfaith Worker Justice that can be distributed by faith organizations. He also announced the upcoming Labor Sabbath, an initiative started by Amy Laura Hall, an associate professor of Christian ethics at Duke Divinity School. Hall is calling for congregations to say the words “labor union” in a positive way in a prayer, sermon or song on the weekend before Labor Day.
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