Posts Tagged ‘jobs’

In This Moment…

Monday, January 30th, 2017
Beloved Justice Seekers,
        
In this moment, it is hard to not let darkness of despair and fear overcome Epiphany's light. There are days when it seems that we are in a perpetual state of lent – lamenting the realities we are facing with the new presidential administration. I think back to hearing the news of our presidential election. I spent the days following that news at Facing Race, the largest conference focused in racial justice, surrounded by thousands of folks dedicated to seeking justice. Over the past few days I've surrounded myself with thousands of queer and trans people organizing, dreaming, and resisting together. I can't think of a better place to be in light of what was happening and is continuing to happen in our nation. 

As I prepare for what lies ahead and the paths of resistance we will each walk, I'm grounded in the thought that our priority must be to care for our bodies and each other. We do not have to lean into platitudes of unity at the sake of our own sacred worth. Our fundamental desire to thrive and the vows we take at our baptism call us to look inward, resist injustice, and serve all! We commit to our own personal rejection of the evil powers of this world, accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist, and finally put our trust in Christ promising to serve a church for all people. As we step into this new season our welcome must be intended for those pushed from the center – the source of privilege – in our communities. We must resist the ways we are complacent in maintaining privilege. We must bring others along with us in this struggle. 

From our earliest days, the Methodist Federation for Social Action identified as a movement energizing people to be agents of sacred change in the church and the world. We believe that the root of justice lies within people of faith in grassroots communities called to engage in collective liberation. It requires storied relationships, resilience in the midst of oppression, and resistance to all that stands in the way of love. Our intersectional lens reminds us of the words of Methodist and civil rights leader, Fannie Lou Hamer, who said: “nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” Our lived experience tells us sacred change is only possible in a movement that is boundary breaking and refuses to be silenced by the powers and principalities of our day. 

Your partnership in this movement has made and continues to make sacred change possible each and every day. We have faced difficult days in the history of our movement. We stood up and resisted when the church refused to integrate, we stood up and resisted when the government used fear to attempt to silence us in the McCarthy era, we stood up and resisted when the church said no to women’s ordination, we stood up and resisted when the government said no to women's suffrage, we stood up and resisted dangerous child labor practices. Our legacy of resistance is faithfully long. We will continue our legacy of standing up and resisting. No matter whom the powers and principalities are we will accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. 

In order to do so we need your help. In the coming year we need to increase our staff to increase our capacity to resist. Please consider making a donation to the Methodist Federation for Social Action today to help us continue our legacy of resistance.

It is our commitment to faithfully look within ourselves, our movement, and our world to renounce the wickedness we perpetuate, to resist the injustice in our world, to trust in God’s grace and to serve Christ through a church open to ALL people. Will you join me in making sacred change possible with a gift to MFSA!

Seeking justice,
Joseph Lopez
He, Him, His
Nominations and Governance Co-Chair
Board of Directors
 

 

Being the Good Samaritan Isn’t Enough

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Being the Good Samaritan Isn't Enough

By Irene R. DeMaris, M.Div.

A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?” He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”

Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

This Sunday at my church, the Rev. Dr. Luke Powery, the Dean of Duke University Chapel, preached for our Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday. His words were prophetic and courageous, I quickly took notes and there is one part of his sermon that struck a nerve with me. He talked about the Good Samaritan, that it was a good first action, but not the last step in seeking justice. Powery brought up that we needed to know why the road was so violent, what was the systemic reasons behind this. How come the others didn’t stop, why did the Samaritan have to pay so much out of pocket to heal the man? He opened up the parable for me and as I sat down to write about the ACA and how it affects women’s reproductive health, I can’t get it out of my head.

Last week we learned that 91% of the 115th Congress identifies as Christian thanks to the Pew Research Center. The religion of the prolific healer, Jesus Christ who healed those who needed him. Yet, in the same week in the dead of the night last week, the U.S. Senate begun its work dismantling the Affordable Healthcare Act and taking us backwards from the Gospel. In a space of Christian majority, the Gospel did not flourish.

We also know now, there are ten senators who identify as United Methodists and eight of them voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act: Jeff Sessions, Tom Cotton, Johnny Isakson, David Perdue, Pat Roberts, John Kennedy, Richard Burr, and Rob Portman. (It is worth noting, two United Methodist senators voted against: Elizabeth Warren and Debbie Stabenow.)

Some of our United Methodist siblings voted against our neighbor. Those we are in communion with, who verbally join in our baptismal covenant, yet do the opposite. What are we to do? Our neighbors who are about to lose their healthcare are hurting at the hands of our siblings.

The stories have flooded our news feeds of people who will be directly affected by the repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act. They grow by the day. You may even have your personal story. As I listen, it’s hard not to lose hope. The ACA was not perfect, it was a first step like the Good Samaritan caring for the man on the side of the road to Jericho. Repealing the ACA is walking by one of God’s beloved children in pain and not doing a damn thing.

Instead of repealing it, we should be addressing it and the systemic issues regarding health care. Why profit comes before people. Why a group of overwhelmingly Christians are ignoring Jesus’ words and actions. A group who knows that the most vulnerable is disproportionately affected by these changes.

I think another part of the parable’s lesson for me is that we also need to call to task the priest and the Levite who walked past the injured man on the road to Jericho. We need to hold those in our communion, who join our baptismal covenant to our Wesleyan heritage of radical love, grace, and justice.

As we move forward into the fight to maintain the ACA, instead of strengthening it, I will leave you with The Social Principles section on Right to Health Care:

Health is a condition of physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. John 10:10b says, “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted. Creating the personal, environmental, and social conditions in which health can thrive is a joint responsibility—public and private. We encourage individuals to pursue a healthy lifestyle and affirm the importance of preventive health care, health education, environmental and occupational safety, good nutrition, and secure housing in achieving health. Health care is a basic human right.

Providing the care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes to all, a responsibility government ignores at its peril. In Ezekiel 34:4a, God points out the failures of the leadership of Israel to care for the weak: “You don’t strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, or seek out the lost.” As a result all suffer. Like police and fire protection, health care is best funded through the government’s ability to tax each person equitably and directly fund the provider entities. Countries facing a public health crisis such as HIV/AIDS must have access to generic medicines and to patented medicines. We affirm the right of men and women to have access to comprehensive reproductive health/family planning information and services that will serve as a means to prevent unplanned pregnancies, reduce abortions, and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The right to health care includes care for persons with brain diseases, neurological conditions, or physical disabilities, who must be afforded the same access to health care as all other persons in our communities. It is unjust to construct or perpetuate barriers to physical or mental wholeness or full participation in community.

We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care.

We encourage hospitals, physicians, and medical clinics to provide access to primary health care to all people regardless of their health-care coverage or ability to pay for treatment.

Being the Good Samaritan isn’t enough, moving backwards from the Gospel is also not acceptable. As people of faith, we must protect our siblings who are on the precipice of losing their healthcare. All hands are needed on the road to Jericho. It’s time to stand up and act.

Call the United Methodist Senators who are actively trying to repeal the ACA today!

Senator Jeff Sessions: (202) 224-4124

Senator Tom Cotton: (202) 224-2353

Senator Johnny Isakson: (202) 224-3643

Senator David Perdue: (202) 224-3521

Senator Pat Roberts: (202) 224-4774

Senator John Kennedy: (202) 224-4623

Senator Richard Burr: (202) 224-3154

Senator Rob Portman: (202) 224-3353

 

Irene R. DeMaris, M.Div. is a feminist, lifelong member of The United Methodist Church, and former MFSA intern who advocates for women’s health through a faith-based lens.

Mondelez Outsources Plant: Nabisco Jobs Leave Philadelphia for Mexico

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Nabisco Logo with the word "outsource" on the inside. On February 19, my 17-month-old son went to his first protest.  A number of people, including politicians, union representatives from around the country and employees of the Nabisco Plant in Northeast Philadelphia gathered to let Mondelez International know that they are outraged by the decision to close the iconic Philadelphia factory, which will leave about 350 people without jobs, including my husband.   As a pastor in Philadelphia, I am constantly preaching about kingdom-building.  As parents we are trying to raise our son as ethically as we know how and we want him to know that what corporations like Mondelez do to employees is not ethical. 

Mondelez, Kraft, and Nabisco are one in the same.  Kraft bought out Nabisco, then the company split into Kraft and Mondelez last year.  They make billions annually. 1.8 billion went to their share holders last year and their CEO took home $29 million, not including use of the company jet.  This is not a company that is hurting for money.  “This is a case of corporate greed on steroids,” State Representative Brendan Boyle said in the press conference held during the rally, “They brag about how much money they are making.”   He later wrote, “The decision to close the plant is a shocking window into the motives and agenda of Mondelez International and an example of the threat which outsourcing poses to working class families.”

Mondelez claims the production that will leave Philadelphia will go to strengthen the other east coast plants; however, the production lines that have already been leaving the factory in the past year have been going to the plant in Monterrey, Mexico.  Dan Melendez, Chief Stewart of the Philadelphia Nabisco Plant, informed me that the factory in Mexico has 2000 workers, which all make just over $3.00 an hour and they receive no benefits.  American Mondelez employees make $23 an hour on average, receive excellent benefits, a pension and a 401K. 

Kraft laid off 1600 American and Canadian employees when the company split and will lay off hundreds more within the year.  In response to the negative reactions about the Philadelphia plant closing, Mondelez reassures the public that they are going to invest in their other east coast plants.  What they are leaving out is that their investment is in new machines that will cause the lay off of more American workers. 

While all of this is happening, Dan Melendez said, Mondelez is investing $600 million to build the world's largest cookie plant in Mexico.  At low wages and no benefits, Mondelez is in effect, opening the biggest cookie sweat shop in the world.  It is slated to open at the same time the Philadelphia plant will close.  Ted Constable, of Local 358 in Richmond Virginia, added that the new plant will be built closer to the Texas border in a free trade zone, meaning no inspections and no guarantee in quality.  Corporations that build in free trade zones are given tax breaks, so, “as tax-payers, we are paying to get rid of our own jobs,” Melendez pointed out. 

Quote-box containing Dan Melendez statement.In addition to the unethical ways Mondelez is treating their employees, with no environmental laws, they can dump whatever they want into the water, causing further pollution to the earth.  That water is then put into the products in the factory.  On the bullhorn, John Lazar, a representative of the local union, asked passers-by, “Oreos will be made in Mexico, do you know what's in the water?”  He also stated in the press conference that “there is not one Fig Newton or Graham Cracker made in the U.S. anymore, they are all made in Mexico.”  After the new factory opens many more products will be produced in Mexico.    

State Senator Mike Stack and other elected officials stated they would boycott Kraft/Nabisco products.

Many people at the protest were discussing how big corporations, like Mondelez, are tearing apart the American middle class.  State Representative Kevin Boyle said, “it's a betrayal of the middle class, a betrayal of the American dream.” Constable said it's “unethical for them to strip the middle class from the U.S.  It's hurting American families.”  Zach Townsend of the Atlanta plant said, “It's a sad day for a lot of people because it means a loss of their house, and for some no college for their kids.”  

 State Representatives Boyle issued a statement, "It is clear, through their decision not to consider our offers and invitations, that Mondelez International’s decision to close the factory at Roosevelt and Byberry was driven by profits over people.”

Zach Townsend said the reason he came to the protest all the way from Atlanta was because, “this isn't a one-stop situation, it's an ongoing process.  If we don't stand up today, all of the jobs will be in Mexico.  We're not asking for anything special, just to keep our jobs.”

Edward Burpo of the Chicago plant also came out to support his brothers and sisters in Philadelphia, saying, “We as Americans want to work and want the company to keep production in America.” 

Everyone, not just Americans, have the right to a living wage, but that is not what Mondelez is ensuring for anyone.  They are paying their Mexican workers an unfair wage with no benefits, and they are cutting thousands of good-paying jobs in America.  We want to raise our son to be successful, but not at the cost of others.  I don't mind that my son didn't inherit my fiery red hair, but I hope he inherits my fiery spirit for justice.  This was his first protest and it won't be his last.  Even when it may seem hopeless, we will always fight to build the kingdom because it is what each and everyone of us are called to do. 

Wondering what you can do? Boycott all Kraft/Nabisco products made in Mexico (on the nutrition information panel it will say Made in Mexico).  Every purchase of one of these products is a vote supporting Mondelez.  Call 847-943-4000 and tell Mondelez you do not support them and will not buy their products that are Made in Mexico.

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Rev. Julia SingletonJulia Singleton is a mom, wife, pastor and advocate for social justice.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from La Salle University, her M.Div. from Drew Theological School and is currently serving a church in Philadelphia, PA.  

The Time is Still Now: the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

There Will Never Be Anything Like The 1963 March on Washington, Again!

I have been "Thinking Out Loud" about why this 50th anniversary time of the March on Washington is so important for me and, I believe, for all of us. One reason: I realize at my age there will never be another time for me when there is such a convergence and acknowledgment of the Black racial journey and its relationship to many of  the tribulations and triumphs of the USA.  We have a way of "paying attention" to significant chronological anniversaries. There will never be another 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which did so much to transform the practice, culture and history of us all. And as well, there will never be another 50th anniversary of what Chris Matthews of MSNBC says was the second most important speech in the nation's history: Martin Luther King's, "I Have A Dream", speech. (I believe Matthews said Abraham Lincoln's 2nd inaugural speech was the first).

Another reason; The role of religion, faith, spirituality (all, or your choice) in the re-shaping and transformation of life in the USA was made manifest by the March on Washington; it is and will be deeply rooted in history. Religion and the texts of religion have been responsible too many times, "used" to exclude rather than include, render some immoral by those who who have not acknowledged their own immorality, and both maintain and sustain the inequities and inequalities of the status quo. In that "Great getting up morning" (The Spiritual), regardless of how your faith views life/existence beyond this life/existence, religion, and we who claim to be as followers of a faith, in some way will be challenged to respond to the question; "Why have I/we worshiped our Holy Script more than worshiping the God who inspired that Script?" And, for those of us who have followed Jesus, we must answer, "Why have I/we used him to justify our prejudices, rather than allowing his life, mission, and ministry to liberate us from them?"

The 1963 March on Washington was like a Holy Pilgrimage, where people of a diversity of faiths and no faith persuasions gathered to celebrate each other, the potential that was ours, and to "Dream" with Martin Luther King about that — that which was not yet, but could be if we had the will and courage to make it, "For Real". The 1963 March on Washington was one of the most significant Interfaith gatherings the nation and world have ever known. What has taken place since then validates its significance.

A final reason: the USA has been able to live and lead the world in believing that we are "much better than the rest of the world". We deplore the current violence in the middle east, while forgetting the violence and the deaths that were the result of our Civil War. Some demean Islam because Muslims are fighting Muslims in the middle east. Were not Christians fighting Christians in the Civil War? We are a nation of contradictions. Martin Luther King at the March on Washington, and the Civil Rights Movement in so many ways, helped the USA acknowledge the gap between our national creeds and our national deeds.

The March on Washington "set the table" as it made visible for the nation to see what the banquet table of the USA ought look like and be. It is time for all of us to sit at that Banquet Table.

"We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right"
                                                            –
Martin Luther King, Jr.

"There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now."
                                             -
James Baldwin

(Quotations are from African American Quotations, Richard Newman, Editor, 2000)

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Rev. Gild CaldwellRev. Gill Caldwell is retired United Methodist clergy living in Asbury Park, NJ. He is former Associate General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race and one of the founders of Black Methodists for Church Renewal.  As a long-time MFSA supporter, Gil's ministry of writing challenges the United Methodist Church to be the best it can be.

Fracking: Putting our House out of Order

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

The frack rig's hydraulics drive chemicals and fluids deep into rock layers, causing fractures.Earlier this month I visited my parents in their home along the Ohio River. They’ve owned 75 acres of open fields and hillside forest since 1969.  From their front door you can see an island that serves as a refuge for osprey and bald eagles, the hills of West Virginia, and a coal-burning power plant. It’s a paradox of sorts – the beauty of the Mid-Ohio Valley and the pollution from chemical and power plants. It’s a region that has learned to live with both a successful economy for those employed in well-paying engineering positions at “the plant,” and with an economy that is unsustainable when those factories go out of business. I can remember some families who had previously been ensconced in the middle class receiving free lunch because the coal mines closed or the oil refinery moved away. While such a paradox is not new to the place I call home, it is a history that can oft be forgotten.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when my father said he’d been approached by an energy company about running a frack line across the northern line of our family property. Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a process by which a mix of water, sand, and various chemicals is pumped into the well at high pressure in order to create fissures in the earth through which gas can escape. Natural gas escapes through the fissures and is drawn back up the well to the surface, where it is processed, refined, and shipped to market. Any remaining wastewater returns to the surface.

The process of fracking creates problems that are both environmental and economic. First, the sheer pressure of the process literally causes the geological formation to crack. Sixth grade science class taught me that when geological formations crack something catastrophic can happen; specifically, earthquakes.

Second, water, sand, and chemicals mixed together aid the fracking process. Upon completion of the process, the water and chemicals flow back to the surface, potentially contaminating ground water. Several studies suggest that fracked formations have contaminated drinking water aquifers with methane, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.  In addition to the potential contamination of drinking water aquifers, the practice of fracking, which requires millions of gallons of water, often lowers the water table in aquifers. This greatly reduces the availability of well water and also degrades its quality by allowing more particles to concentrate in what is left in the aquifer.

West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, and Western New York are prime locations for fracking because of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale found there. The same holds true for Utica Shale in Southern Ohio. Jobs related to hydraulic fracking in these regions have grown exponentially over the past five years, and not all of these are blue collar jobs. As more and more landowners, like my parents, are approached regarding mineral rights and rights of way, lawyers with experience in federal and state natural resource law and financial advisors with an eye to sustainable investment of royalties are finding themselves as skilled laborers in the oil and gas industry.  Anecdotally, one friend said there is no rental housing available in his town because it’s been snagged by the oil and gas companies.

While my heart aches for a beautiful land, my mind cannot stop thinking of an oil and gas boom that could deepen the chasm between the haves and the have-nots. Those who have the ability to own land are already a step ahead of those whose financial, or family, history has not provided them with acres of land and minerals below.

History has shown us the economic instability of invasive extraction. In the late 1800s, Bramwell, West Virginia was the center of coal mining in the southern part of the state. At its height, Bramwell was home to 13 millionaires, per capita more than any other place in the United States at the time. (The high school basketball team was even called the “Millionaires”!) In 2000, the per capita income was $13,410 with 15.7% of the population living below the poverty line. Invasive mineral extraction has never proved to be a long term economic option. We cannot embrace short term economic windfalls to guide our path to environmental degradation. When God calls us to be stewards of God’s creation, we must recognize that creation includes not only the environment around us, but the human beings who are marginalized through the dismembered relationships we have with the environment.

The Greek word oikos means house. It’s the root of our modern words ecology, economy, and is related to ekklesia, from which we get ecclesiology. All of those words have something in common – they’re about getting our house in order. I’ve come to realize that as my parents age, I’m going to help them do a lot of house-ordering. I firmly believe that fracking and pipelines for moving frack wastewater do not belong in the order of the household – or in the long-term sustainability of the community around it.  Energy independence cannot come at the risk of widening the economic gap and increasing unhealthy communities. It’s time to stop making people live in this paradox. Our future depends on it.

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Chett Pritchett is Interim Executive Director for the Methodist Federation for Social Action. He is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and Wesley Theological Seminary, and is a member at Dumbarton UMC in Washington, DC.

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