Category Archives: Labor Justice

FARMWORKER JUSTICE: An open letter to the CEO of Wendy’s


At the Wendy’s shareholders’ meeting last month, twenty of the most prominent religious leaders from a spectrum of faith traditions across the country —representing millions of people of faith — stepped to the fore, publishing a letter to CEO Emil Brolick, calling on him to “lead Wendy’s to be part of the common good.” Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Pax Chrisi USA was one of the signatories. The letter is below…

Dear Mr. Brolick:

Nine years ago, as the CEO of Taco Bell, you pioneered a partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Florida growers that set in motion a new paradigm for human rights and corporate social responsibility.

For three years, the Fair Food Program has been in operation in over ninety percent of Florida’s 650 million dollar industry and the changes have been as comprehensive as they are breathtaking.  While for generations the Florida tomato industry was plagued by poverty wages, wage theft, sexual harassment and, in extreme cases, forced labor, those abuses are now not only being eliminated, but their root causes are being addressed through the Fair Food Program (FFP). The Program has been lauded by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and the White House for its innovation, impact and sustainability, and has gained global recognition for the groundbreaking transformation it is creating in the fields through a unique collaboration.

Twelve corporations have joined the Fair Food Program, agreeing to pay a penny-per-pound premium to their Florida tomato suppliers that is passed on to workers through the growers’regular payroll process, and to purchase only from growers that uphold the Fair Food Code of Conduct. The largest global retailer, Wal-Mart, joined in January of this year and four out of five of our nation’s leading fast-food restaurants are already participating.

But not Wendy’s.  Instead Wendy’s has tried to give consumers the impression that it supports the changes achieved through the FFP while in fact continuing to do business as usual. By refusing to join its competitors in paying the penny-per-pound premium, Wendy’s gains an unconscionable cost advantage over the rest of the fast-food industry leaders. By refusing to commit to buy its Florida tomatoes only from growers complying with the Fair Food Program, Wendy’s perpetuates the old, “no questions asked”market for those growers unwilling to recognize the FFP’s human rights standards.

We are perplexed and alarmed at Wendy’s posture on this issue of basic human rights…

Click here to read the entire letter. 

LABOR JUSTICE: Pax Christi USA signs onto letter to Wendy’s CEO for farmworker justice

from Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida


Last week at the Wendy’s shareholder meeting, a letter signed by some of the most prominent national religious leaders in the country was presented to executives and shareholders, saying:

“We are perplexed and alarmed at Wendy’s posture on this issue of basic human rights.

The call for society to recognize that our lives are intertwined, that our decisions and actions impact one another, and that we have a moral responsibility to ensure human well-being is as ancient as the command, “love thy neighbor.””

The letter was co-signed by Pax Christi USA Executive Director Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN.

Click here to see the entire letter.

ON THE LINE: March 2014 edition includes groups trying to repeal the death penalty, raise the minimum wage, stop deportations!

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.

PAX CHRISTI SOUTH DAKOTA MEMBERS WORK FOR REPEAL OF DEATH PENALTY: (from Leona Weiland) As the South Dakota House State Affairs committee met to discuss the death penalty, PC South Dakota members worked on the repeal effort, including circulating this letter to their elected officials: On behalf of five chapters of Pax Christi in South Dakota, we follow Pax Christi USA in stating that we follow the non-violent Jesus. The international Catholic peace movement, from the Latin for “peace of Christ,” began after WWII. We focus on issues central to Gospel values of life, love, truth and justice. In our prayer, study and actions, we respect the gift of life given by God who teaches that all life is sacred, from beginning to natural death. Following the example of Jesus in the Gospels, we commit ourselves to God’s way of caring with compassion, forgiveness, mercy and love. Please note our attached Statement for Repeal of the Death Penalty in our state and the many who have signed in support of it.


PC South Dakota members at the Capitol, taken the morning before the Committee Meeting for the Repeal of the Death Penalty. (photo courtesy of Leona Weiland)

PC-NEW JERSEY LEADS IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ACTIONS ON ASH WEDNESDAY: (from With Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty as their backdrop, dozens gathered at Liberty State Park on Wednesday to kickoff a series of vigils, protests and rallies across New Jersey designed to urge the United States government to halt detentions and deportations of immigrants who live illegally in the country.  The events, organized by the Catholic organization Pax Christi New Jersey and scheduled to coincide with Ash Wednesday, came a day after President Obama presented a proposed budget that would set aside additional funds for immigration enforcement. With the 2 millionth deportation looming under the Obama administration, and after Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives said they will likely not bring immigration reform to a vote this year, advocates acknowledged they face an uphill battle… Read more at

Pax Christi New Jersey members protesting deportations. (photo courtesy of

PC New Jersey members protesting deportations. (photo from

Sr. Karen Nykiel OSB

Sr. Karen Nykiel, OSB of PC Illinois (photo by Tom Cordaro)

PC ILLINOIS MEMBER MODERATES PRESS CONFERENCE FOR RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE: (by Tom Cordaro) On March 6th, prior to International Women’s Day, seven women religious leaders from Chicago and the Western Suburbs gathered in Naperville, Illinois to call for an increase in the minimum wage. The event was held in conjunction with press events around the country organized by Interfaith Worker Justice – a leader in the fight for economic and worker justice in the U.S. since 1996. Moderating the event was Sr. Karen Nykiel, OSB, a member of Pax Christi Illinois, a chapter of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement. Sr. Karen set the context of the event stating, “We are focusing on women at this event because more than 64%– almost two-thirds — of minimum wage workers are women.”… Read more at

PC FLORIDA JOINS CLEAN WATER EFFORT: (by Carol Ann Breyer) Citizens  and environmental  activists from around Florida gathered on the steps of the historic Old Capitol in Tallahassee on February 18 to demand legislative action to protect and restore Florida’s  endangered  springs, rivers, and bays. About 200 people attended the gathering for “Florida’s Clean Water Declaration” campaign that was launched last year after toxic algae blooms appeared in the Indian River Lagoon… Six Pax Christi Florida members and supporters from South Central and Southwest Florida were present at the event. Karen Dwyer spoke emphatically about the drilling threat in the Naples area which has been challenged by Pax Christi members. In 2013, Pax Christi participated in the effort to secure signatures for a proposed Constitutional Amendment on Water and Land Conservation that would dedicate finds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.

PCF Council Members, Carol Ann and Lee Breyer (right of podium) at Clean Water Rally at Florida State Capitol. (photo courtesy of PCF).

PCF Council Members, Carol Ann and Lee Breyer (right of podium) at Clean Water Rally at Florida State Capitol. (photo courtesy of PCF).

Upcoming or Ongoing Events:

March 5-15 – Coalition of Immokalee Workers “Now is the Time” tour,

March 14-16 – Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space conference in Santa Barbara, CA,

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

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,

March 24 – Archbishop Romero assassinated, 1980

March 27 – Vanderhaar Symposium with Malik Yakini in Memphis, TN,

March 28-29 – Friends of Sabeel North America Conference in Philadelphia,

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,!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;

March 30 – PC-New Jersey is co-hosting “Remembering Archbishop Romero” from 2-5pm, at Saint Peter’s University; contact for more information

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,

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 for more info

May 3 – Regional Dialogue with Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore,


In tribute to Marie Parmly, long-time Pax Christi USA member who lives in Florida and is celebrating her 90th birthday this year, her friends have set up a special fund in her name, “Tribute to Marie Parmly.” To give to this special fund, go to PCUSA’s “Donate” page and scroll down … In February, PC Los Angeles, PC Orange County, and PC Southern California co-sponsored with Holy Family Parish in South Pasadena a book signing event with John Dear to help launch his new book … Plowshares activist Joe Gump passed away earlier this week. Read the archived article in the Chicago Tribune to learn more about Joe’s actions in the 1980’s. Pax Christi USA gives thanks for Joe’s life and witness! … Support the #LetUsThrough Thunderclap on March 18  in response to the Syrian refugee crisis … John Dear’s father passed away in late February. You can see the obituary here … Check out Pax Christi International’s new blogPax Christi USA’s founding bishop-president, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, was featured in a column in The Toledo Blade recently … If you have high schoolers, you may be interested that PCUSA member Ellen Finnigan will be teaching a course this summer through Kolbe Academy called “The Hunger Games and Christian nonviolence” … The Coalition of Immokalee Workers are touring through some Pax Christi-rich states over the next few days. Check out the tour info and join them if you can … Pax Christi International’s March 2014 newsletter is online … See more local and regional updates in the Fall 2013 edition of The Peace Current

LABOR JUSTICE: Let them know that reconciliation is possible

from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Wilson Perez and family

In the cool, early hours of a beautiful March morning in Immokalee, FL, farmworkers gathered at the CIW community center ahead of the launch of the Now Is the Time Tour with a To-Do list almost as long as the 2,800-mile tour itself.

After many weeks of preparation, a veritable mountain of signs and banners for the protests, hand-painted props for the tour theater piece to be performed at community meetings along the way, and food, drink, and medical supplies for the long days on the road had accumulated at the CIW office. Before the tour crew could head north, all those materials had to make their way onto the bus and into the many vehicles of the trailing caravan, and the front door of the CIW headquarters was swinging throughout the morning as members carried box after box to the tour vehicles parked outside…

But before we could hit the road, it was time for one final item on the tour launch To-Do list — a blessing from Immokalee’s own Pastor Miguel Estrada of the Presbyterian Church.  This morning marked not only the launch of the tour, but of the Lenten Season as well, and to celebrate, CIW members were treated to a special reflection on the meaning of Ash Wednesday and a blessing for their safety and success on the tour…

Click here to read the full story and see photos and updates from the tour.

REGIONAL EVENT: Women of faith call for raising the minimum wage

Tom Cordaroby Tom Cordaro
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

On March 6th, prior to International Women’s Day, seven women religious leaders from Chicago and the Western Suburbs gathering in Naperville, Illinois to call for an increase in the minimum wage.  The event was held in conjunction with press events around the country organized by Interfaith Worker Justice – a leader in the fight for economic and worker justice in the U.S. since 1996.

Moderating the event was Sr. Karen Nykiel, OSB, a member of Pax Christi Illinois, a chapter of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement. Sr, Karen set the context of the event stating, “We are focusing on women at this event because more than 64%– almost two-thirds — of minimum wage workers are women.”

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She went on to explain why this event was being held in a wealthy suburban city like Naperville, “Raising the minimum wage is not only an issue of importance in poor urban or rural communities in our nation. It is an important issue in communities like Naperville. Census figures show that poverty is growing at a faster rate in the suburbs then it is in urban areas. “

The first speaker, Rev. Elizabeth Bowes from the Glen Ellyn First United Methodist Church, began with a short history of the struggle to create the minimum wage in 1938 and how religious leaders from all faiths were united in that struggle. What these faith leaders had in common was that “they valued human dignity and thus desired to create a labor system that valued workers and treated them with fairness and respect.”

To illustrate how much value the minimum wage has lost over the years Rev. Bowes stated, “In 1968 when the minimum wages was $1.60/ hour you and your family of four could purchase an entire fast-food meal for one hour of work. Today at $7.25/hour – one hour of work can only buy one person a burrito at Chipotle or three cups of coffee from Starbuck’s.”

The next speaker was Sr. Kathleen Desautels, SP, from the 8th Day Center for Justice located in Chicago. The foundress of Kathleen’s community, St. Mother Theodore Guerin, had a strong commitment to raising the status of women in America. As Mother Guerin once stated, “Women in this country are only ¼ of the family. I hope, through the influence of religion and education that she will eventually become ½ – the better half.” Kathleen pointed out that “nearly 175 years latter women still only earn 77% of what men earn for same work.”

As important it is to raise the minimum wage, Sr. Kathleen reminded everyone, “The minimum wage is only a start, what we need is living wage. That is why the 8th Day Center for Justice has been involved in the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Chicago to $15/hour. Do we need an increase in the minimum wage? Absolutely! But let’s not stop there. Let’s continue the struggle for a living wage for every worker. ”

Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher, pastor of the Du Page Unitarian Universalist Church spoke about her own experience with helping those who work minimum wage jobs. “The church tries to help, but the needs far outweigh the resources available. We should not treat human beings this way. This is not in line with America’s concept of fairness.”

Drawing from her own personal story Rev. Belcher stated, “After World War II my family survived on benefits from the GI Bill my father received. These benefits allowed my family to enter the middle class and gave us the opportunity to get a college education. Everyone deserves the same kind of opportunity to succeed.”

Sr. Mary Kay Flanagan, OSF, also of 8th Day Center, made the connection between raising the minimum wage and the works of mercy, “To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, to care for the sick and to bury the dead; all of these needs are the consequence of the lack of economic security in the lives of our brothers and sisters. Providing people with a living wage is a way to fulfill the works of mercy.”

The Rev. Lisa Telomen, from Grace United Methodist Church in Naperville also made the link between the struggle for raising the minimum wage and her Christian faith, “Looking at the life and teachings of Jesus it is clear that insuring that every person has enough to eat, that they have adequate shelter and clothing and that they have access to affordable health care is part of what it means to be a disciple.”

Sr. Dorothy Pagosa, SSJ-TOSF from 8th Day Center spoke about volunteering at a homeless shelter for women, “I was shocked to learn that part of my responsibilities was to wake some women up earlier so they could get ready for work. Their minimum wage jobs did not enable them to afford rent at any level. For most apartments you need first and last month’s rent as well as the regular rent payment. Let’s not forget utilities, food and clothes.”

Sister Dorothy also spoke about the grotesque salaries paid to many CEOs, “There seems to be no outcry from Congress when CEOs get increases in their salaries. There seems to be no concern that the cost of these huge salaries will get passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices or that these huge payouts will make it harder for companies to create more jobs.”

Dorothy took aim at Rep. Paul Ryan’s approach to welfare, “He says his ideas are in line with Catholic Social Teaching; but he is reading a very different version than I read. As Pope Francis stated, ‘While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.’”

The last speaker was Sr. Gwen Farry, BVM, from 8th Day Center. Sister Gwen shared about the different ways members of her community were working to increase the minimum wage in Springfield and in Washington DC. Speaking to the value of raising the minimum wage Gwen stated, “If the Gap can pay $10/hour to its employees why can’t others do the same? Even the Gap understands that raising the minimum wage is good for business. The fabulously wealthy do not create jobs; customers create jobs. The minimum wage puts more money in the pockets of consumers and that spending creates jobs.”

Speaking for everyone on the panel Sister Gwen ended by stating the moral imperative of this struggle, “No one working 40 hours a week should have to live in poverty.”

REGIONAL EVENT: Women call for raise in the minimum wage

Women Clergy, Workers and Community Leaders:
Raising the Minimum Wage Is a Women’s Issue
Celebrating International Women’s Day with a Call for Higher Wages

raise-minimum-wage-180Naperville, IL – On Thursday, March 6, at 1 p.m., a group of women faith and community leaders will come together to amplify the call for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Representing different groups, the women leaders will host a press conference in celebration of International Women’s Day and in honor of all the women who make up about two-thirds of our nation’s minimum wage earners.

Like many minimum wage earners across the country, DuPage county minimum wage workers struggle to pay for basic needs like rent and food, and are often forced to rely on charity and government assistance to make ends meet.

A minimum wage earner would have to work 98 hours per week or more than two full-time jobs to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment. The poverty rate in DuPage County has grown to 6.5 percent in 2009 from 3.6 percent a decade earlier.

An increase in the minimum wage will improve the quality of life and provide access to basic resources to workers in low-wage jobs that are disproportionately filled by women.

WHAT:  Women workers, worker advocates, faith and community leaders host a press conference on the push for an increase in the federal minimum wage.


  • The Rev. Elizabeth Bowes, Glen Ellyn First United Methodist Church
  • Sister Kathleen Desautels, SP, 8th Day Center – Chicago
  • The Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher, Du Page Unitarian Universalist Church
  • Sister Mary Kay Flanagan, OSF, 8th Day Center – Chicago
  • The Rev. Lisa Telomen, Grace United Methodist Church
  • Sister Dorothy Pagosa, SSJ-TOSF, 8th Day Center – Chicago
  • Sister Gwen Farry, BVM, 8th Day Center – Chicago

WHEN: Thursday, March 6th, 1 p.m. CST

WHERE: St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, 1450 Green Trails Dr., Naperville, IL

CONTACT: Tom Cordaro, 630-369-0777 /

This event will be streamed live at