Two Disciples ministers were among five clergy who went to jail for protesting low pay and scarce benefits for janitors in Indianapolis on May 17. Another Disciples minister was handcuffed but later released by police.The campaign has forced some businesses to sign agreements that improve the pay, benefits and working conditions of their employees. Executive Management Services (EMS) has resisted the pressure and been accused of retaliating against those workers that are fighting for change. The clergy group is meeting with companies who contract with EMS in an effort to persuade them to exert pressure on EMS to cooperate or to switch to another service.
The janitors are trying to organize a local chapter of the Service Employees Union International (SEUI) with certain contractors, but have faced retaliation, intimidation and harassment from the companies they work for. Some companies have tried to discourage the employees that were attempting to organize a union by firing them, reducing their working hours so they aren’t eligible for health benefits and using other tactics.
Disciples minister Garnett Day said, “The Bible talks about the need to serve the aged, the vulnerable, the poor and the oppressed. They always come first in the mind of God. As people of faith, we have a responsibility to stand with those who are vulnerable in our society. In this case, it’s janitors whose wages are low.”
About 125 Disciples clergy have signed a "Statement of Principle," which calls on employers to pay janitors wages that will allow them to support their families. The statement also urges employers to provide benefits for their workers and seeks protections for employees that are trying to organize unions. You can read the Statement here.
I'm a (former) Hoosier and went to seminary in Indianapolis. The list of Disciples clergy reads like a roll call from my graduating class. Way to go, guys! I'm proud of you!!
TAGS: Living Wage, Unions, Disciples of Christ