Archive for July, 2013

Faith Reflection: Stories of Low Wage Workers

 

In the days and weeks ahead, the question of improved wages, human dignity, and labor conditions for many hundreds of thousands of low wage fast food industry employees will get more and more attention in our community and around the nation.  Already, workers in many cities have taken action to stand up for their worth and dignity as people who deserve better pay and conditions for the hard work they offer the companies they serve.  Who are these people and what are they asking for.  Here in the Kansas City Metro, over 26,000 persons serve this industry.  Let me introduce you to a few of them.

Gary works for Pizza Hut and lives in Midtown.  He has worked in the fast food industry since he was 16 and is now almost 31.  Gary wants to pay his bills, put food on his table, stay healthy, and improve his education.  Not outrageous hopes, hopes he shares with almost all of us.  However, at near minimum wage, Gary finds these reasonable goals unattainable.  “Working fast food means I have a hard time keeping food in the house.  I have to juggle bills each month.  I have to pay the bill that is about to be cut off and put off the others . . . Every two weeks when I open my paycheck, I know it’s all gone and I still don’t have enough to pay all my bills . . . I’ve twice enrolled in community college and wasn’t able to keep up with the homework because I was working all the time and I had to make a choice between school and money . . . I got a pace maker put in back in 2004.  I have to go to the doctor for check-ups every three months.  I now have $130,000 in medical debt  . . . they can’t garnish my wages because I don’t make enough.  I will need a new pace maker in 6-18 months.”  Of course, Gary does not qualify currently for company health insurance and his employer is lowering his hours so to not be required to offer him coverage under the Affordable Care Act of 2010.  Gary just wants a chance; Gary just wants a fair wage.  Gary wants to be treated with dignity.  Meanwhile, the largest Pizza Hut franchisee (base in Overland Park, Ks) reports “a 46-percent boost in first-quarter profit despite same-store sales declines in the first quarter.  Executives . . . told analysts in a Monday morning call that cost savings in restaurant operations and commodities helped the company book net income in the quarter ended March 26 of $13.2 million compared with $9 million in the same quarter last year” (Restaurant News, May 6, 2013).

Proverbs 29.7—A righteous man is concerned with the cause of the poor; a wicked man cannot understand such concern. 

Wilma has been working in the fast food industry for 25 years.  She currently works for Pizza Hut.  In 2005, while working for Kentucky Fried Chicken, a piece of equipment fell on her and injured her back.  Because she had no paid sick days (a common reality in the fast food industry), Wilma was forced to work for months in constant pain in order to pay her rent, keep food in the frig for her child, and keep her job.  Workman’s compensation paid for her treatment but she could not get better because she could not miss work.  She finally had to quit in order to recover her health.  Wilma works, “paycheck to paycheck and struggles to feed me and my son, and pay the rent and utilities.”  Wilma can no longer afford a car and when she could, she could not afford to keep it running.  Wilma just wants to be able to afford to pay her bills on time, eat better, take care of her son, and have health insurance.  Wilma is no different from many of us; she just wants to be paid fairly and to take care of her obligations.  “When I think of fast food workers,” Wilma writes, “I think of people who keep the business running.  I think of people who are working hard and trying to raise kids.”

Micah 6.8—What the Lord requires of you: Only do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.

In order to do the best he can for his three children and his fiancé, Terrance works for two fast food places, Burger King and Pizza Hut.  Terrance enjoys working with people and enjoys the work he does in the fast food industry.  Nevertheless, Terrance struggles, “Despite working two jobs and my fiancé’s full-time work, my family recently became homeless.”  Terrance continues, “I have poured a tremendous amount of energy into the companies I have worked for—only to be underpaid, under-valued, and under-appreciated for years.  Wages in fast food are extremely low and the benefits don’t exist.  There’s no healthcare, paid sick days, or vacation pay . . . I’m working 15-hour days and we still can’t make it . . . You talk about watching your kids grow up overnight—there are consecutive days where I don’t get to see my 3 kids because of working two jobs.”  For Terrance, fair wages means having a chance to have a life, spending quality times with his children, maybe even taking them bowling or having a birthday party.  Terrance just wants to be treated fairly and with dignity.

Jeremiah 22.16—He upheld the rights of the poor and needy—then all was well.  That is truly heeding me, declares the Lord.

So what do we do?

 

A justice action–Right now fast food workers around the Kansas City are coming together and standing up for their economic dignity and fighting for better wages, benefits, and respect.  We must commit to support low-wage food industry workers as they fight for just wages and a better Kansas City for all people.

A faith action–All scripture recognizes the inherent dignity of the created world, and emphasizes the dignity of human beings.  We must stand with the poor as an act of solidarity with God and God’s hope for all people.  We must stand with the poor as an act of faith.

 

A community action— We know it will take a movement of committed workers and community members standing beside them to build our better future in Kansas City for the long haul.  We are bringing people together from across our city to discuss what will take to build good jobs, economic dignity, and opportunity for all in our city.  Join us for a “For Jobs and Freedom” mass meeting with the Rev’d CT Vivian on Mon 7/29 at 6:30pm at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church (2310 East Linwood Blvd).  The Rev’d Vivian is a long-time organizer and leader for justice and was a member Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal executive staff during the Civil Rights Movement.  The veteran leader comes to Kansas City to lend his voice to low-wage workers’ moral struggle for racial and economic justice and to challenge us to do the same.

 

A public action—Let our faith and our commitment to justice and dignity create a community in which everyone can work with dignity.  Right now, fast food workers are coming together and standing up for better wages, benefits, and respect.  It’s time we put our faith values in action for economic dignity.  Stand with fast food worker for good jobs and a better Kansas City by publicly supporting a low-wage workers rally and march on Tuesday 7/30 at Gillham Park (Gillham Rd and 39th St) from 2:00-4:30

 

The values of our baptismal faith and the incarnational and transformational power of God working through us demand our best efforts for all of God’s children no matter the risk or challenge.  As with the prophets before us, we stand vulnerable and faithful.  Let us not fail the “least” among us (Matthew 25.40).  Let us remember the words of God to the Apostle Paul, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not be silent’ (Acts 18.9).

 

Fr. Stan Runnels, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Westport.

 

 

Faith Reflection on Low Wage Workers

You see them everywhere.

They are our new factory workers. Their industry makes billions of dollars in profit for their owners. What these workers produce is in very high demand. They often work at two factories in the same day to produce this valuable product. They wear uniforms and are often given daily pep talks and ask to produce at their very highest level with the very highest quality. Who are these workers and what is this valuable product they produce?   

Well, you’ve seen many of these workers, walking our streets in their uniforms. They’re waiting for public transportation, often carrying their groceries onto the bus. These workers make our hamburgers, our chicken, and our pizzas.

Fast food workers are nearing the average age of 30 years old. These workers are working day in and day out, making wages far below the poverty line. These workers deserve better from this country. They work when they are sick and they are tired. They work because they have to survive, and their wages are often the only means of support in their family. With poverty wages and no benefits, these workers are being denied economic justice.  They must be given some opportunity to share the wealth and the greatness of this country.

My church teaches all workers, fast food workers included, have a moral right  to human dignity, and this right should not and cannot be denied. My church teaches that human dignity is built upon the foundation of justice. This justice includes:, access to fair employment practices, affordable health care, and the right to free association and joining into unions. 

The largest single employment group in the greater Kansas City area are fast food workers. They are vital to our economy and as human beings are entitled to a better life. The next time you enter a fast food restaurant, seek out the manager and ask him if he would thoughtfully consider treating his employees to a better life, better wages, health care and a decent life.

 

Deacon Mike Lewis

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, North Kansas City

Legendary Civil Rights Leader to Speak in Kansas City

C.T. Vivian in Kansas City

Legendary civil rights leader Rev. C.T. Vivian is making a special visit to Kansas City to rally support for Kansas City’s fast food and retail workers.  Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO), Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, and the Workers Organizing Committee of Kansas City (WOC KC) are holding the mass meeting to kick off a series of events led by fast food and retail workers in the days to follow. These events will place Kansas City alongside New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Washington D.C. and other major cities whose fast food and retail workers have called for change.

Good Jobs for All Mass Meeting
Monday, July 29 – 6:30 PM
Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church
2310 Linwood
Kansas City, MO

Free Admission

RSVP: Stand for Dignity

Rally and March for Low Wage Workers
Tuesday, July 30 – 3:30 PM
Gillham Park (40th & Gillham)

 

 

Get to know Rev. Vivian (Slideshow)

Dr. Vivian is best known for his work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was National Director of Affiliates, and strategist for every Southern Christian Leadership Conference (S.C.L.C.) organization. He truly helped change the nation: His work in Birmingham helped win the Civil Rights Bill; in Selma, the Voting Rights Bill; and he was deeply involved in other movements such as Nashville, TN; Danville, VA; St. Augustine, FL; and Chicago, IL. Dr. Vivian  won his first non-violent direct action movement in 1947 opening restaurants in Peoria, IL. He is featured throughout PBS’s acclaimed documentary “Eyes On The Prize” (1987 & 2006). PBS later produced a full-length presentation, “The Healing Ministry of the Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian”. He is also featured as both an activist and analyst in the series, The People’s Century (PBS/WGBH, 1998), and in the Tom Brokaw documentary “King” (History Channel, 2008). After leaving Dr. King’s Executive Staff, Dr. Vivian trained ministers and developed the urban curriculum for seminaries throughout the nation at the Urban Training Center in Chicago. He returned to the realm of seminary education as the Dean of Divinity at Shaw University Seminary. There he originated and acquired funding for an original national level program, the basis of his doctoral work, Seminary Without Walls.

In 2008, Vivian founded the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute, Inc. to create a model leadership culture for the purpose of training and educating the new generation of grass-roots leaders inspired to mobilize a constituency.  The Institute is based out of Atlanta, Georgia.  More recently, Dr. Vivian received an Honorary Doctorate from Morehouse College (2010), served as National President of S.C.L.C. (2012), and currently serves as Dean of The Urban Institute at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA.

Notable accomplishments:

  • He has been summoned to provide civil rights counsel to five (5) different U.S. Presidential Administrations (Johnson, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama).
  • Served as part of a team of religious advisors to President Barack Obama during his successful 2008 campaign.
  • He has advised foreign Heads of State.
  • He has addressed the United Nations.
  • He has addressed the World Baptist Alliance as a keynote speaker during their conference on racism in the world community. Shared the platform with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
  • Was Director of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “The best non-violent movement in the nation”.
  • Served on an independent UN Committee on Human Rights Education.
  • In one year alone he was highlighted in three books, two of which were authored by Pulitzer Prize winners and the other by a U.S. Congressman: The Children, David Habersham; Pillars of Fire, Taylor Branch; and Walking With The Wind, Congressman John Lewis.
  • Highly respected across the racial spectrum. His awards include: The Trumpet Award (2006), The National Jewish Labor Award, and The Martin L. King, Jr. Humanitarian Award.
  • He organized street gangs in Chicago, turning gang members away from violence, and developed a program that earned them jobs.

Special Rally and Prayer – Thursday 7/25

July-Prayer-Rally-Flyer

Community Rally and Prayer Service
Thursday, July 25th 2013
True Vine Missionary Baptist Church
2500 Bellefontaine
KCMO 64127
6:30PM

Justice does not begin or end with one verdict.

We share in the outrage growing from every corner of our nation that we have abandoned our young people to the clutches of violence fueled by racism, greed, fear and our despair.

We affirm that our faiths impel us to speak out that all humans of all races are made in God’s image, and all have the right to live in peace and safety.

And we will work tirelessly and in coalition with one another across racial and ethnic lines, class and place lines, and age and gender lines to vigorously confront the lack of meaningful and quality opportunities for advancement in our KC Metropolitan Area and our nation.

Something big is moving in Kansas City. The next two weeks will see CCO leaders and other members of our community asking bold new questions to demand answers to the lack of opportunity for our children and families. We believe it is important to start with a prayer.

Come join us THIS Thursday, July 25th at 6:30pm at True Vine Baptist Church to rally and pray for racial and economic justice, equitable employment and educational opportunities for all.


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