Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is Democracy for Sale?

Do you agree that America works best when our government is by "ALL the people," not by leveraged, unaccountable special interests?

Is money speech? The United States Supreme Court defined money as speech in Citizens United v. FEC.  Since this landmark ruling campaign spending rose 427 percent in the 2010 elections. Spending in 2012 may reach over $8 billion.

Do you want to discuss the issues and seek solutions?

A concerned citizen's group is inviting you to attend a nonpartisan discussion on the legal, economic, political and social consequences of the 2010 U. S. Supreme Court Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission decision. The discussion will be on Flag Day, June 14, 2012, at the Wichita Boathouse, 7:00 p.m.

Ms. Laura Dungan will moderate the discussion.

Panelist are:

Russell Fox, Professor, Friends University

Louis Goseland, Sunflower Community Action

Davis Merritt, Journalist and Author

David Hansen, Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An Open Letter Calling for Jubilee at Walmart

Walmart is celebrating its 50-year anniversary this year, and people of faith are calling for Jubilee at Walmart. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Jubilee mandates the freeing of slaves, cancelling of debts and redistribution of resources every 50 years to limit inequality.

Walmart is the glaring example of inequality. For 50 years it helped legitimize an economy that benefits a few at the expense of working people.

As Walmart claims to celebrate and honor values like "hard-work," "entrepreneurship," and "the American dream," the majority of its 1.4 million workers still earn poverty wages with very limited access to insurance and benefits.

It's time for Walmart to redistribute wealth at the top by providing living wages and better treatment to workers. It's time for a Jubilee at Walmart! 

This Open Letter will be delivered to the company at its annual shareholders' meeting on June 1, 2012.

source: Kim Bobo
National Director
Interfaith Worker Justice 

Monday, May 21, 2012

IWJ Kansas: Why Now

On May 17 I had the honor of speaking at the AFL-CIO Community Service Awards Luncheon. My theme was IWJ Kansas: Why Now. The following is an edited version of my talk in which I introduced myself, explained why we need IWJ Kansas now and offered suggestions on next steps we can take together.

Introducing myself

I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. I grew up in a church-going family, but I did not "get religion" until the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s. That is when I discovered that organized faith has the power to turn despair into hope. That is when I heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tell me that the "arc of history bends toward justice." And that is when I learned from St. Augustine that the world has enough to meet all of our needs, but not enough to satisfy one person's greed. For the first time in my life I got excited about the church. I wanted to be part of it. More than that, I wanted to be a leader in the church. So I enrolled in the Pacific School of Religion.I was ordained in the United Church of Christ in 1973.

Less that 10 years later I was already becoming disillusioned. It seemed even then that the church was turning inward. The fire in me was cooling to an ember. Institutional concerns were crowding out the very reasons I felt called to ministry. So with a family of four children in tow and a wife willing to put hubby through, I went back to school. I enrolled in the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. My goal was to pursue a doctorate in social justice. In my dissertation, I contrasted laissez-faire economics, industrial-policy economics and faith-based economics. I learned that laissez-faire means "less fair," and industrial policy means "winner takes all." I learned that market-driven economics has no moral compass. I learned that there is a deep chasm separating ethics and economics. And I became convinced that one of the great challenges of our time is to bridge this chasm.With my doctoral degree in hand, I returned to the church.

I began to read the New Testament with new eyes. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus tells of a wealthy man who wears fine clothes, hand-sewn by his personal tailor. Morning and night he enjoys a fine meals prepared by his personal chef. And day and night the poor man Lazarus sits outside the gate waiting for the garbage to be tossed out; hoping that he can get to it before the dogs do. In this parable, the dogs lick his wounds. In their own way they are tending to his sores. The dogs are showing Lazarus more compassion than the man at the table.

Reading the parable I asked myself, "How is it possible that in this the richest nation in the history of the world we have come to accept as normal gated communities that sit like islands of prosperity in the midst of oceans of poverty? How is it possible that we accept as normal the fact that 70 to 80 percent of the children in our public schools qualify to receive free and reduced meals? Who finds this acceptable?" The official poverty rate is around 8 percent. But economists assure us that the real poverty rate for white males is closer to 15 percent. For African Americans the real poverty rate is over 30 percent. And in this land of plenty 9 of the 10 poorest counties are home to American Indians.These are some of the realities that make me get up in the morning. And these are some of the truths that lead me to believe that we need Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas now.

Why we need IWJ Kansas now

When I look around I see people of good will everywhere. I see people sending food to food pantries and clothes to clothes closets. I see people of good will eager to help their neighbors in times of need for we are a generous people. And it is all good. It is all necessary. And it is all done in the name of love. Please hear me when I say this because I have a lover's quarrel with the church. The prophets teach us to love mercy and practice kindness--and to seek justice. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us that those who hunger and thirst for justice will have plenty to chew on (Clarence Jordan's Cotton Patch translation). And like manna that fell from heaven on the children of Israel giving them plenty to chew on when they were in the wilderness, in our own wilderness experience we too have plenty to chew on.

Just a few weeks ago, at the beginning of May, Terry Forsyth, the President of Working Kansas Alliance, said that there are 9 anti-union bills in the state legislature. If we add the governor's budget that makes 10. If we add the attack on public education that makes 11. If we add the ongoing fight over voter suppression we have 12 and that makes an  even dozen. We have plenty to chew on. That is why we need Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas now.

Interfaith Worker Justice is a partnership between faith and labor. In our better moments members of both communities have stood together. And when we have stood with each other, we have made a difference. I believe that we can make a difference now if we stand together. Let me offer some ideas for your consideration.

Next Steps

First, we need to change the story and stop blaming unions for everything that is wrong with the economy. Unions, like faith communities, care about their members and the well-being of the communities in which  members live. Union members invest in their community, in schools, in congregations, in United Way and in countless other ways union members strive to make their community a better place to live.This story needs to be told.

Interfaith Faith Worker Justice has a national Labor in the Pulpit program the first weekend in September. This is an opportunity to tell our story. Can you imagine what it would be like if communities of faith all across Kansas, in places where you live and work, recognized and honored workers on Labor Day weekend? Together we could make it happen. Interfaith Worker Justice has the resources. We need to do training in the summer months to get people ready and we need to enlist congregations. You can help us identify communities of faith and members of unions willing to join in this effort.

Second, we need to start talking and thinking about the economy in new ways. The Gross National Product and the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other aggregate figures are important, but they don't tell the whole story. This composite data is not more important than people's lives. It is not more important than the welfare of our children. We need to expand the way we think and talk about a healthy economy. We need to bridge the chasm between ethics and economics. Let's lift up the bottom line and put people ahead of profits. Let us focus on the need for greater income equity. Let us say clearly that there is nothing that can replace a good job that pays a living wage and has real benefits.

Third, I want to recognize the growing partnership between Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas and Sunflower Community Action. Sunflower is doing important work on stopping wage theft. In the last three years, the worker justice organizer at Sunflower has recovered more than $2 million dollars in stolen wages. These are wages that workers have earned but have not been paid. And now Sunflower wants us to join with them so we can help even more workers recover wages due to them. We can do this together. And we can win this fight.

Fourth, Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas needs your participation, your prayers and your financial support. SEIU Local 513 and the AFL-CIO Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation have been generous in their support. I ask you to make a personal contribution and to ask your union to consider including Interfaith Worker Justice in your budget. We cannot receive contributions on line yet. Please mail your check to Interfaith Worker Justice, 5214 Pembrook Circle, Wichita, KS 67220.

Since I have already referenced one parable let me close with another, which is also about a rich man. But in this parable the rich man has a name--Zacchaeus. His story is found in Luke 19:1-10. Like the rich man in the first story, Zacchaeus enjoys all the comforts and luxuries that money can buy and he still has more money than he can spend in a lifetime. But unlike the rich man in the first story, Zacchaeus does not have hardness in his heart.When he hears that Jesus is coming to town, he rushes to see him. And here is what happens next. Listen.This is from Luke 19:8-10. After he meets Jesus, Zacchaeus stands before him--it is important to know that he is standing up, he is on his feet, standing tall and with his head held high and his eyes clear--and he says to Jesus, "Behold Lord, half of my goods I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will restore it fourfold."

This is a vow to pursue economic justice. This is a promise to treat people fairly, with dignity and with respect. This is a pledge whose time has come. So let us make our pledge to love mercy and to practice kindness and to seek justice together.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Stand with Wichita Firefighters IAFF Local 135

No confidence in Wichita Fire Chief
Last month, the Wichita Firefighters IAFF Local 135 polled their members, and 94% of the firefighters stated that they have no confidence in the leadership abilities of their Fire Chief, Ron Blackwell. Also, 97% of them approved a vote of no confidence for Deputy Chief Ron Aaron and Division Chief Billy Wenzel.
Issues with the Fire Administration have been multiplying over the past few years, as the Wichita Fire Administration has violated its Memorandum of Agreement with IAFF on multiple occasions. Other issues include giving significant raises to select members of his key staff, during a time where units were taken out of service due to alleged lack of funding.  Removing Training Officers and creating civilian positions that are inconsistent with the best interests of Citizen Safety, making numerous decisions against the direction of the City Manager and City Council, making serious errors in the promotional process, and having misplaced budget priorities.
Stand with Wichita's firefighters! Contact members of the City Council. Let your representative represent you.
Mayor Carl Brewer,
District I,  Lavonta Williams,
District II, Pete Meitzner,
District III, James Clendenin,
District IV, Michael ODonnell,
District V, Jeff Longwell,
District VI Janet Miller,
Thank you for standing with the firefighters of IAFF local 135!
Source: AFL-CIO Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Join a National Call on Jobs and the Economy

On Thursday, May 10, at 3:00 CST, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Jen Kern of the National Employment Law Project will host a nation-wide conversation on the Rebuild America Act. They will discuss Senator Harkin's plan to get America back to work and rebuild our economy. They will take questions..

 "This is exactly the kind of bill that creates a vision for the future and stimulates conversations about how the government can serve the common good," said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of IWJ.

Join the conversation with Sen. Harkin 5.10.12 @ 3:00 p.m. CST (760) 569-0111 Access Code: 1085004#

Source: Faith Advocates for Jobs

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

International Workers' Day Today

May 1st is International Workers' Day. I invite you to thank a worker who has made your life better. And, remember workers who are unemployed or underemployed.

Kim Bobo, the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice reminds us "Workers are an integral part of the fabric of our congregations and communities, yet too many barely make ends meet or are living in poverty. As people of faith, we are called to fight for worker justice and make sure all workers have access to jobs that pay a living and just wage."

Kim will be in Wichita on May 16 speaking at University United Methodist Church, N. Yale and 21st Street, at 3:00 p.m. Please join us.

Interfaith Worker Justice and its affiliates around the country are leading efforts to stop wage theft, educate workers on workplace safety and push for the creation of just jobs. We need your help to carry out this work. You can make a contribution to Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas. Mail your check to IWJKansas, 5214 Pembrook Circle, Wichita, KS 67220. Thank you.