Category Archives: Interfaith Worker Justice

Workers Unite! Organizing for change, with ben speight, Part 2

In Part 2 Ben Speight talks about the practices of “combing our forces” in the fight for worker justice. These current times require ever more coalition building and organized resistance to the status quo. Ben uses examples from his own decades of union organizing to show that “the people united will never be divided!”

Ben Speight with students from REL/EDU 385: Religion, Education, and Activism

Theme music by Aviva and the Flying Penguins and Lance Eric Haugan.

End music on both Parts 1 and 2 by Paul Myhre, “Prayer for New Zealand” (2019) on reverbnation.com.

Workers unite!: Organizing for change Part 1: Ben Speight on unions and people power

Ben Speight teaching union organizing

This March 2019 podcast is for anyone who teaches/studies social movements, movement building, labor history, union organizing, non-violent activism, social justice teaching, and direct action for social change! Hear Teamster Local 728 Organizing Director Ben Speight give an overview of union organizing and connections to our current times. He visited my REL/EDU 385: Religion, Education, and Activism class in February 2019 to plug us into the history of workers and why unions are still relevant more than ever.

Teaching Sustainability: Focus on Fair Food and Ecojustice with Rev. Noelle Damico

Rev. Noelle Damico

Rev. Noelle Damico (United Church of Christ) is an activist educator and movement builder with the Alliance for Fair Food.[http://www.allianceforfairfood.org/]. She coordinated the 2 million member Presbyterian Church USA’s involvement in the Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s Campaign for Fair Food [https://ciw-online.org/], among many other food justicecampaigns. This podcast takes place in an actual class setting, my Religion and Ecology class at Agnes Scott College, a historic women’s liberal arts college in Decatur, GA. Noelle joined us via Skype in our unit on connecting issues of economic justice to the larger topic of sustainability.

What is often missing in mainstream discussions of the organic food movement is workers. Noelle takes us through the founding of the Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s campaign and the “sea-change” it brought, and continues to bring, in the food system, to create a system that works for all people. Issues of safety, forced labor, human trafficking, gender violence, poverty wages, wage theft, and worker abuse are all parts of the history of injustices that CIW addresses.

A worker-driven social responsibility model begins at the work site, determined by the workers who become organizers and change-agents through marches, education tours, hunger strikes, boycotts, and other direct actions. Joining CIW are faith leaders and students as partners. One outcome on university campuses has been the cutting of contracts with Taco Bell on over 25 campuses. The current Boycott Wendy’s campaign [http://www.boycott-wendys.org/] seeks to continue to move companies beyond their “corporate responsibility codes” to real food justice. The CIW campaign has shown that changing the conditions in the field is at the root of a sustainable food future.

Pedagogy is an action verb here. On my campus the tomatoes in our dining hall are part of the fair food system; Aramark was (reluctantly but eventually) one of the signers. But our Aramark dining staff continue, through their own worker-driven campaign, to fight for fair wages and a workplace that offers respect and human dignity (through their union, SEIU). Though unionized, their struggle is difficult. Thus, fair farm and campus food workers are connected.

As part of the class students engage in a practicum with the campus Office of Sustainability in a variety of areas (climate change events, organic farming, National Audubon wildlife site, bees, and also economic justice with the campus Living Wage Campaign). One student working with the campaign joined the Aramark union steward and me on the WRFG Labor Forum, as well as our Economic Justice Teach-In. She also assisted with our “love poster” action in the dining hall for the staff—big posters we are hanging each week, signed with notes of appreciation and affection by community members, for each dining services staff member.

Theme music for Nothing Never Happens is by Aviva and the Flying Penguins and Lance Eric Haugan. Additional music is by Paul Myhre: “Dreams of Winter Sans Guitar (2019).”

My audio engineers are: Reagin Turner, China Wilson, and Megan Simmons. I can be reached at tpippin@agnesscott.edu.

Resources for Economic Justice Work

Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America. Picador, 2011.

Donald Hirsch and Laura Valadez-Martinez, The Living Wage. Agenda, 2017.

Stephanie Luce, Fighting for a Living Wage. ILR Press, 2004.

Annelise Orleck, “We Are All Fast Food Workers Now.” The Global Uprising Against Poverty Wages. Beacon, 2018.

Robert Pollin and Mark Brenner, A Measure of Fairness: The Economics of Living Wages and Minimum Wages in the U.S. Cornell University Press, 2008.

Robert Pollin and Stephanie Luce, The Living Wage: Building a Fair Economy. New Press, 2000.

David K. Shipler, The Working Poor: Invisible in America. Vintage, 2005.

Melissa Snarr, All You That Labor: Religion and Ethics in the Living Wage Movement. NYU Press, 2011.

Donald R. Stabile, The Living Wage: Lessons from the History of Economic Thought. Edward Elgar, 2009.

Interfaith Worker Justice: http://www.iwj.org/

Jobs with Justice: http://www.jwj.org/

United for a Fair Economy: http://www.faireconomy.org/

UFE’s Campus Living Wage Manual: http://www.campusactivism.org/server-new/uploads/campuslivingwagemanual.pdf

United Students Against Sweatshops: http://usas.org/

Family Budget Calculators:

Economic Policy Institute: https://www.epi.org/resources/budget/

MIT Living Wage Calculator: http://livingwage.mit.edu/

Fact Sheet for Living Wage at Agnes Scott College:

http://nothingneverhappens.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/LWFactsheet-Nov2017-2.docx