Category Archives: Labor Justice

LABOR JUSTICE: Ask Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour

From Interfaith Worker Justice and Faith in Public Life

Pax Christi USA has signed onto this letter asking Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. In addition, PCUSA supports raising the tipped wage to at least 70% of the minimum wage.

Click here to read the letter and sign on today.

ON THE LINE: February 2014 edition includes campaign against gun violence, NCR interview, Vow of Nonviolence, and more

Compiled by Johnny Zokovitch

Each month, “On The Line” features news items and announcements from around the nation featuring Pax Christi members, local groups, regions and partners. These are gleaned from articles in local newspapers, websites, magazines, and elsewhere.

PC LONG ISLAND (NY) INITIATES CAMPAIGN AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: (by Sr. Rosalie Carven) After the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, some members of Pax Christi Long Island met to consider how to respond to the prevalence of gun deaths, not only recurring mass shootings but also the 30 gun deaths that happen each day in our nation—homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. The nonviolent ethic of Pax Christi conditioned us to embrace a particular perspective on this tragedy: not to react in the belief that individuals and communities find personal and public security at the end of gun barrel. So a small committee of the Pax Christi Long Island council began a campaign to educate and encourage communities on Long Island to seek sensible gun regulations. The InSight Campaign to End Gun Violence was born… Read more at http://paxchristiusa.org/2014/02/12/regional-news-pax-christi-long-island-initiates-insight-campaign-to-end-gun-violence/

PC-LI's December 8 interfaith service at St. Martha’s Parish in Uniondale. It was arranged  to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a lone gunman’s rampage on the Long Island Rail Road, in which six people died, and the first anniversary of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which took the lives of 20 children and six staff members. The speaker is Det. Steven McDonald of the New York Police Department. While McDonald was on patrol in New York’s Central Park in 1986, a 15-year-old boy shot him and left him paralyzed. He has since become an eloquent advocate of forgiveness.

Det. Steven McDonald of the NY Police Department, shot in Central Park in 1986 by a 15-year-old boy, speaks on forgiveness at PC-LI’s interfaith service at St. Martha’s Parish in Uniondale. The service commemorated the 20th anniversary of a gunman’s rampage on the Long Island Rail Road, in which six people died, and the first anniversary of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct.

PC SEATTLE MEMBERS TAKE VOW OF NONVIOLENCE WITH ARCHBISHOP: (from Louise McDonald, CSJ) On Friday, January 17, 2014, twelve members of Pax Christi USA from the Seattle area made a Vow of Nonviolence at the 5:30 PM Liturgy at St. James Cathedral. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, who presided, welcomed the group to commit themselves to the journey of peacemaking through the nonviolence of Jesus. The group made their vow while holding lighted candles symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World. Pax Christi Central Seattle members had prepared for this step by making a day-long retreat last fall led by Sr. Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. Deacon Dennis Duffell stated “it was fitting that we members of Pax Christi were able to profess a Vow of Nonviolence on the weekend honoring the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man of nonviolence.”  Eugene Underwood, the Coordinator of the Pax Christi Pacific Northwest Region remarked that “we were pleased that Archbishop Sartain was able to preside and Fr. Michael G. Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral, to concelebrate. That made the event very meaningful.” And Emily E.B. Meyer, co-coordinator of Pax Christi Central Seattle reflected that “it was a peace-filled evening standing together in the candlelight, strengthening each other for a year of active peacemaking.” Read more at http://www.stjames-cathedral.org/Events/2014/album-paxchristi.aspx

Members of Pax Christi in Seattle take the Vow of Nonviolence with Archbishop Sartain on MLK Day. (Photo by Maria Laughlin)

Members of Pax Christi in Seattle take the Vow of Nonviolence with Archbishop Sartain on MLK Day. (Photo by Maria Laughlin)

Mary and Nick Eoloff

Mary and Nick Eoloff

PC MINNESOTA MEMBER FEATURED IN NCR FOR HER WORK FOR PEACE: (from National Catholic Reporter) The interview below was conducted by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo for her “Conversations with Sr. Camille” feature on the National Catholic Reporter’s website. This interview is with Mary Eoloff, a long-time member of Pax Christi USA living in St. Paul, MN. Q: Can you recall an event or situation that gave direction to your life? A: I believe three events were life-changing for me. My senior English teacher, Sister Marion, insisted I go to college (a first in my family), and I graduated from the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University). The second event was the Second Vatican Council, which changed me forever. It gave me permission to think for myself. Before the council, I had been a very obedient member of a rules-oriented church. The third event was President Jimmy Carter’s reinstatement of the draft in 1980… Read the entire interview at http://paxchristiusa.org/2014/02/05/interview-advocate-for-peace-feels-the-spirit-in-every-breath/

PC METRO NEW YORK PARTICIPATES IN PANEL ON THE LEGACY OF MANDELA: (by Rosemarie Pace) I never know what I’m going to hear when I pick up the phone or check messages at Pax Christi Metro New York. This time it was a man named Gordon Tapper from the United Nations asking to have someone from Pax Christi speak at an Interfaith Harmony Forum at the UN on Friday, February 7th. He wanted a representative of Pax Christi to address the Christian perspective on the theme of “Tolerance, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation in recognition of Nelson Mandela”. Immediately, I thought this is something someone from the Pax Christi International NGO Team should do. Surely one of them would be more appropriate and articulate than I on the topic and in that setting. At first, one of the members of the NGO Team agreed to take on the challenge, though she admitted she wasn’t comfortable with public speaking and thought I was the more appropriate person to present. I still hesitated until I learned more about the request. Ultimately, I agreed to accept the invitation. I thought it would be a good experience for me and a good opportunity for Pax Christi… Read more at http://www.nypaxchristi.org/KeruxLive.html

PCUSA NATIONAL COUNCIL MEETING NOTES: (from Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, PCUSA Executive Director, and Sr. Josie Chrosniak, HM, PCUSA National Council Chair) On the weekend of January 23rd-26th, the Pax Christi USA National Council met for its bi-annual gathering at the PCUSA National Office in Washington, D.C. Ten members of the Council, along with the staff, were present. The following includes glimpses of actions taken by the National Council… To read more, go to http://paxchristiusa.org/2014/02/10/news-report-to-membership-from-the-january-2014-national-council-meeting/

Members of the council and staff, with two regional representatives and two members of PCART, at the planning day with Crossroads.

Members of the council and staff, with two regional representatives and two members of PCART, at the planning day with Crossroads.

PAX CHRISTI USA ENDORSES THE CAMPAIGN NONVIOLENCE: (from Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN) Pax Christi USA has endorsed Campaign Nonviolence that is being circulated through Pace e Bene. This campaign is certainly in keeping with PCUSA’s spirituality of nonviolence and peacemaking along with our other initiatives. The more our organizations can assist in connecting the dots between poverty, militarism, racism and the environment, the better off our world will be. I call your attention to the Pace e Bene website where you will find a wealth of information along with concrete actions to support the Campaign… Read more and consider becoming a promoter with the Campaign: http://paxchristiusa.org/2014/02/03/nonviolence-pax-christi-usa-endorses-the-campaign-nonviolence/

PC MEMPHIS PARTICIPATES IN DAY OF DISCERNMENT: (from PCUSA Ambassador of Peace Janice Vanderhaar) In order for Pax Christi Memphis to remain relevant and effective in our work for a nonviolent and just world, we engaged in a daylong process entitled “Honoring the Past, Welcoming the Future,” led by Mary Jo Greil, President of the Carson Greil Group and organizational change consultant.  Our purpose was to revitalize our mission and create a path for our future. The day was exhilarating, energizing, spirit-filled and enlightening.

Pax Christi Memphis participates in a day of discernment for their group.

Pax Christi Memphis participates in a day of discernment for their group.

Upcoming or Ongoing Events:

February 28-March 2 – PC Metro New York’s Annual Retreat with Sr. Kathleen Deignan, CND at the St. Joseph’s Renewal Center in Brentwood, Long Island; http://www.nypaxchristi.org/events.html

March 1 – PCUSA National Council election nominations due, http://paxchristiusa.org/2014/01/14/national-council-nominations-now-being-sought-for-pax-christi-usa-national-council-elections-4/

March 5 – Ash Wednesday

March 5 – Ash Wednesday leafleting with PC Metro New York from 12-1pm at St. Patrick’s Cathedral; http://www.nypaxchristi.org/events.html

March 5-15 – Coalition of Immokalee Workers “Now is the Time” tour, http://ciw-online.org/blog/2014/01/time-is-now-schedule/

March 9 – PC New Jersey will be cosponsoring an event with author and educator Paul K. Chappell, in Stirling, NJ; email cbush@stshrine.org for more info

March 14-16 – Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space conference in Santa Barbara, CA, http://www.space4peace.org/actions/gnconf_2014.htm

March 21-24 – Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. Theme is “Jesus Weeps: Resisting Violence, Building Peace” with John Dear, http://advocacydays.org/

March 22 – PC Southern California regional assembly, “A Call to Nonviolence: One Year with Pope Francis,” with keynote speaker Ted Smolich, S.J., at Loyola Marymount University, http://www3.paxchristisocal.org/

March 24 – Archbishop Romero assassinated, 1980

March 28-29 – Friends of Sabeel North America Conference in Philadelphia, http://www.fosna.org/content/philadelphia-conference-march-28-29-2014

March 29 – PC Michigan State Conference, “Christian Nonviolence: The Great Failure, the Only Hope,” with Fr. Charles Emmanuel McCarthy; at Cristo Rey Parish, Lansing, MI, http://www.paxchristimi.org/#!pcm-2014-annual-conference/c6oh

March 29-30 – PC Florida Annual Retreat, “Nonviolent Resistance” with Jim Douglass, at Dayspring Episcopal Conference Center in Ellenton, FL; http://paxchristiflorida.org/events/

March 31 – Cesar Chavez Birthday

April 5-6 – Pax Christi Texas State Conference, “Christian Peacemaker Teams: Peacemaking in Palestine,” followed on the 6th by the regional dialogue at the Dominican Center for Spirituality in Houston, http://paxchristiusa.org/programs/regional-dialogues-2012-13/

April 14-18 – Holy Week Pilgrimage with the Norfolk Catholic Worker and Hampton Roads Pax Christi that will stop at 14 area military bases in the Hampton Roads, VA area, the most militarized place on the planet; contact Steve at williamsbaggarly@gmail.com for more info

May 3 – Regional Dialogue with Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore, http://paxchristiusa.org/programs/regional-dialogues-2012-13/

Quicklinks:

Dr. Arland Jacobson spoke recently on the topic of “Humiliation as a Source of Conflict” to the Fargo-Moorhead (ND) Pax Christi group and guests. His presentation was based on his article “The Role of Humiliation in International Conflict,” published in the fall issue of the Northern Plains Ethics Journal … Pax Christi USA will be moving to a new location in Washington, D.C. beginning March 1 … PC Indianapolis member Fran Quigley wrote this excellent article on efforts regarding immigration reform in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and other local congregations … PC members in Amarillo (TX) recently hosted “The Soldier and the Refusenik: Two Israelis. Two Choices. One Conclusion”. They highly recommend other PC groups consider hosting this extraordinary presentation …  PC Richmond (VA) hosted a special World Day of Peace Mass on New Year’s Eve which included a special remembrance of Bishop Walter Sullivan … PC El Paso (TX) recently hosted the film “Brother Outsider” on civil rights activist Bayard Rustin … A new e-booklet for small group discussion on Pacem in Terris’ 50th anniversary is available as a free download from the PCUSA website … PC Minnesota member Steve Clemens contributed this article to the Twin Cities Daily Planet on the frac sand trial in which he was a defendant … PC St. Jude (GA) participated in the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s Justice and Peace Expo earlier this month … Pax Christi Metro New York wrote a moving reflection on Pete Seeger following his death last month … There will be a “gathering of hope” on Feb. 17 in Knoxville for the Transform Now Plowshares. The sentencing phase of their trial is set for Feb. 18 … Pax Christi International’s February 2014 newsletter is online … See more local and regional updates in the Fall 2013 edition of The Peace Current

LABOR JUSTICE: Walmart joins CIW’s Fair Food program

from Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida

ciw

This afternoon, at a ceremony held under a watermelon packing shed on a tomato farm outside of Immokalee (photo above), Walmart and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers signed an historic agreement for the world’s largest retailer to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, the widely-acclaimed social responsibility program that is bringing real, measurable change to the men and women who harvest tomatoes for Florida’s $650 million tomato industry.  As part of the agreement, Walmart will work with the CIW to expand the Fair Food Program beyond Florida and into “other crops beyond tomatoes in its produce supply chain.”

Alexandra Guáqueta, chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, also attended the signing ceremony “to support the Immokalee workers and the Fair Food Program, which offers such promise for us all,” and conveyed a statement on behalf of the Working Group…

Read more by clicking here.

REFLECTION: A promise made is a debt unpaid

Fr. John Rauschby Fr. John S. Rausch,
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Coal miners are marching with angry signs to the headquarters of Peabody Energy in St. Louis and chanting shaming slogans before the offices of Patriot Coal in Charleston, WV.  In both cities the United Mine Workers of America staged acts of nonviolent civil disobedience to draw attention to over 22,000 retired miners and their dependents in jeopardy of losing their healthcare benefits.  Through corporate and legal maneuvering Peabody and Patriot are attempting to offload the heritage healthcare liabilities that miners had secured over the years through contracts and agreements.  (Full disclosure: I participated in the Charleston demonstration on April 1, 2013 and was arrested for trespassing on private property.)

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For over sixty years the UMWA negotiated contracts with coal companies that included both terms and conditions of employment for active miners, and defined income and health benefits for retired miners and their dependents.  Coal mining is one of the most dangerous occupations, so historically miners put health and safety first.  They deferred larger wage increases, longer vacations and enhanced fringe benefits in exchange for contracts that gave them greater control over workplace health and safety and the promise of guaranteed lifetime health care.  Now those promises are about to be broken.

In 2007 Peabody Energy created Patriot Coal by spinning off some of its assets and a large portion of its UMWA benefit liabilities.  Some economists call this pattern “dumping obligations,” and 90 percent of the retirees covered by this arrangement never worked a day for Patriot.  Arch Coal used a similar process and created Magnum Coal two years before.  In 2008 Patriot Coal bought Magnum and assumed much of the long-term heritage obligations of both Peabody and Arch.  This made Patriot Coal a top heavy company with almost $1.4 billion liability debt wobbling through the marketplace.  With the recession and weakening of coal markets, Patriot declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012 placing all forms of deferred compensation, such as the health benefits of retirees won by UMWA contracts, at the mercy of the bankruptcy court.  On the surface, Peabody and Arch dumped their heritage liabilities, and with Chapter 11 bankruptcy Patriot can renegotiate all its contracts.  The big losers: the workers.

Catholic theology has another way of looking at business.  John Paul II tells us that the purpose of business “is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons…” (Centesimus Annus, #35).  This is the meaning of the principle of the priority of labor over capital (Laborem Exercens, #12).  From the Catholic perspective, labor is not simply an input to production, but workers become subjects within community.  They cannot be used up and thrown away.

Catholic social teachings would still recognize Peabody Energy and Arch Coal as “indirect employers” (cf. Laborem Exercens, #17) whose obligations do not cease with the formation of Patriot, but take up when the first employer, Patriot, can no longer meet its obligations.  Indeed, a promise made is a debt unpaid.

In general U.S. bankruptcy laws are designed to protect assets, not people.  Still the bankruptcy judge can decide if Patriot Coal was formed intentionally, or recklessly, to dump huge heritage obligations with little chance of Patriot’s success, in which case the judge can hold the former employers responsible.

Meanwhile, approximately 1,100 retirees have written the judge citing their problems with black lung, back injuries, heart disease, and bulging discs from mining.  These miners made the profits for their companies.  They deserve health care.  Anything less, is injustice.

Fr. John Rausch, a Glenmary priest, is the director of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia and works against mountaintop removal.  He was the recipient of the Pax Christi USA’s Teacher of Peace Award in 2007.