A place for people of faith and no-faith to explore shared values, build respect and mutually inspiring relationships, and pursue common action for the common good

Blog for International Women’s Day

In Faith, Interfaith, poverty, Social Justice on March 8, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Today’s blog post is in honor of International Women’s Day 2011. You can follow IWD blogging on Twitter #BlogforIWD.

I had the honor, during an internship last summer at Arise Chicago of working with many people of faith who chose to use their faith to engage society on many occasions- but the most gratifying experiences came from, my coordination of the Labor in the Pulpits/on the Bimah/in the Minbar program.

Working with the speaker and congregation participants for the program opened my eyes as to why the two communities must work with each other. Meeting with the volunteer speakers, I heard stories of how the individuals feel representing the laborer is God’s work, and how it is not only good for the economy to have a middle class, but also good for the community. I experienced the passion when one speaker, Ramon, shared that as a child he learned in church “do unto others”, so even though he is an elected official now, he is vocal about his support of the laborer.

You have probably heard of Wisconsin’s recent issues targeting public sector workers through union busting and Governor Walker’s rejection of collective bargaining rights. Dana Goldstein recently pointed out a sexist side to these attacks that I had not considered— she makes the point that many of the professions being targeted by the busting are predominantly female professions. “About 80 percent of American teachers, for example, are female; at the elementary school level, nearly 90 percent are women. Nursing is 95 percent female. Nationwide, the majority of public sector union members, represented by AFSCME and other groups, are women”, Goldstein points out.

In my work with Arise Chicago, I observed the sexism of the trades and representation. Now, thanks for Dana Goldstein, I see these struggles magnified by the fact that “women’s professions” are more often targeted for cuts in general. Obviously, rights for all workers are being fought for in Wisconsin right now, the vast majority of those fighting for collective bargaining rights are not motivated by gender bias. Motivation in this case does not matter, but the systemic degradation of women in the so-called “helping professions” does, what matters is that those working in “women’s work” (with the social connotations of this work being that it is weaker and inferior) who were able to gain dignity through collective action for rights are now under attack from their state governments.

I have heard more stories than I can recall about how people are motivated by faith to stand with both the worker and gender equality, this is the time when those stories should be seen together. I have been taught from an early age that in God’s creation of humans, God created people of all genders in God’s image, and we should respect the personhood of all people, standing for their rights as humans– as equal. The 24th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy (24:14) states “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger…else he will cry to God against you and

you will incur guilt”; this speaks pretty clearly, I think to the command to ensure the dignity of the worker. Does your tradition has similar values? What are you doing to act on these values?

By the end of the summer, after hearing so many stories of passion for the worker, I decided that I, too, would be willing to speak at a Labor in the Pulpits/on the Bimah/in the Minbar service; I realized that I wanted to be a part of the 80-plus people speaking out for their belief in the rights of the laborer, I wanted to claim and publically share that I know poverty and its siblings hunger and homelessness, can be eliminated if the idea of “working poor” is eliminated. You don’t have to take such a public step, but maybe you can post a link on Facebook or Twitter about women’s rights being worker’s rights or have a conversation with a friend about your value of the laborer?

Let me know what you think, value and do!

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