I am part of the Faith Labor Committee of Portland Jobs with Justice, and we support the workers at Nabisco who are on strike. Having worked mandatory overtime and in difficult conditions throughout the pandemic, these union workers are being asked to sacrifice even more by giving up overtime pay, pensions, and more! Meanwhile, parent company Mondelez International recorded more than $3.5 billion in profits in 2020, paying the CEO $17 million. We say “no” to corporate greed and “yes” to worker rights! I was honored to give this prayer at the picket line rally on August 28, 2021.
Prayer for the Striking Workers at Nabisco in Portland, Oregon
By The Reverend Connie Yost
We gather today near the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers on land worked and loved by many native tribes in the past. We honor the reclaiming of an important native site not too far from here, called Neerchokikoo [near-cho-kee-koo] by the Native American Youth & Family Center.
May our words, actions and hearts join together today in solidarity also with the native community on whose sacred land we stand.
Let us pray.
We gather today in the spirit of life, love and solidarity with the Nabisco workers who so courageously are striking for their human rights. Let each one of us in our own way, within our own faith tradition or no faith tradition at all, affirm the inherent worth and dignity of each of them.
The workers before us work hard for too little; they see their strong work ethic being exploited by mandatory overtime, their family time taken away, and themselves used callously, as machines, not people.
We affirm the dignity of these workers, who deserve time off to care for and enjoy their own families and friends. We abhor the exploitive policies of Nabisco that asks workers to make concessions while the company posts record profits. We say “no” to the greed that asks many to sacrifice for the benefit of a few.
Let us each call on our own source of strength so we can find it in our heart to stand with these workers even when the going gets tough.
Workers, may you know that are hearts are open to you in love, justice and hospitality. May the strike soon bear fruit and your dignity be affirmed.
This we pray, in the spirit of life, love and solidarity.
Cross-posted from Holy Places, the blog by Rev. Connie Yost The Rev. Connie Yost is an ordained Unitarian Universalist community minister. She has served in community ministry for the last 20 years focused on social justice for the underserved and often invisible and forgotten — poor, disabled, very young and elderly. Connie currently serves as President of the Board of Farm Worker Ministry Northwest, which advocates for farm workers as directed by its partners – PCUN United Farm Workers, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, Western Farmworker’s Association and other farm worker organizations as directed by the National Farm Worker Ministry, where she also serves as board member. She is the founder of Friends Stay Warm, a nonprofit ministry dedicated to supporting low-wage workers and immigrant detainees through cash assistance and advocacy. She serves on the Faith Labor Committee of Portland Jobs with Justice, supporting the Burgerville fast-food workers as they strive to get an historic union contract. She is the Treasurer of the Oregon Poor People’s Campaign. Connie also serves as a trained spiritual director, preacher, teacher, activist, and minister of rites of passage. For her full bio, please see the blog post.
Current vaccine production will cover just 25% of the world’s population. While the world’s wealthiest nations are being vaccinated at increasing rates, developing countries are being left without access to vaccines until possibly as long as 2024. This inequity led to the emergency of the Delta Variant.
Even though there are capable vaccine-producing factories across the world that are waiting to access new vaccine and treatment formulas (which were created largely due to public funds), they are unable to because of strict intellectual property rules that pharmaceutical companies are using to profit off of this crisis, risking a prolonged pandemic for all of us.
An emergency waiver of “Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights” (TRIPS) at the World Trade Organization is a critical first step to enabling vaccines and treatments to be produced in as many places as possible, as quickly as possible.
President Biden’s support of the Waiver on May 5th was great news and a good step forward, but the WTO has still not passed a comprehensive and final agreement, instead its members are taking vacations while the Delta variant ravages the world.
If we do not pass a comprehensive TRIPS waiver at the WTO, we risk more shutdowns, more school closures and more death.
Join the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, Portland Jobs with Justice, California Trade Justice Coalition, and community partners at the West Coast TRIPS Action Conference. We’ll get an update on the campaign so far, hear from global south voices on why their countries need the TRIPS waiver, and plan the next steps to Free the Vaccine!
Saturday, September 11 at 10am
RSVP here for the event.
Currently, Oregon is experiencing the highest rate of COVID-19 case increases in the nation. As the majority of counties in Oregon enter “High” or “Extreme” Risk for COVID-19, it is more important than ever that frontline workers have safe workplaces. Worker health is public health!
Members of JwJ representing faith and labor witnesses joined workers today, Monday April 26th, in a delegation to the Tanasbourne Whole Foods Store Manager, Sandra, to express their need for greater safety measures. Workers are calling for trained personnel to work the door to enforce the mask mandate, to enforce customer limits. Workers also expressed concern that carts are no longer being disinfected, which is dangerous for customers who wrongly believe that they are still being disinfected.
All pandemic long, frontline grocery workers have provided our vital needs without the decency of appropriate compensation or protection by negligent corporations. This is especially the case for workers of Amazon and Amazon-owned Whole Foods. This is wrong, and the JwJ Coalition and The Reverend Connie Yost bore witness to workers concerns for a safe workplace.
The workers presented the following letter articulating their concerns to management:
To Store Leadership at Whole Foods Market Tanasbourne,
We feel that we have been left out of important decision-making. As Oregon faces the rise of COVID-19 cases, we feel this is not the time to remove the shift at the front door without an alternative. We fear that we (especially those that have not been fully vaccinated) may catch the deadly disease as the finish line is coming into view. Many more customers without masks have been entering the store as Washington County sees risk rising. In addition, Whole Body continues to lose hundreds if not thousands of dollars in product due to theft. We respectfully ask that that you hire a security guard to check for proper face coverings and act as a reinforcement for loss prevention until every Team Member is fully vaccinated or Oregon sees a six week continuous drop in cases. We know that Whole Foods cares about Team Member happiness and growth, and to that end, we should be consulted and informed before decisions like these are made in the future.
Letter to Providence:
January 29, 2021
Dear Jennifer Burrows, Oregon Regional Chief Nursing Officer, Providence Health & Services in Oregon:
We are members of the Portland Area Workers’ Rights Board. We represent a broad spectrum of political, faith, academic, legal, and community leaders, all of whom are committed to fighting for community labor standards that respect the dignity of all workers.
In this regard, we have grown ever more concerned about the unwillingness of Providence Health & Services to respect the safety of its own employees, in this case its nurses. This is especially alarming given the role that nurses play as frontline workers during this pandemic.
We have read articles in local newspapers, heard stories on local media, and spoken directly to Providence nurses working throughout the state and staff of the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), and it is clear to us that Providence is failing to provide its nurses with safe working conditions, putting both them and those they serve at great risk. Moreover, unlike other health providers like Kaiser and OHSU, Providence remains a regional outlier in its unwillingness to meet and actively work with nurses from the Oregon Nurses Association to implement their COVID-19 Bill of Rights.
Providence Health & Services has failed to provide nurses with needed personal protective devices. In the case of masks, for example, many nurses have been forced to wear ones inappropriately sized or heavily worn from repeated use. It has also failed to ensure timely testing of nurses to determine whether they have been infected, through their work with patients and other staff, with the coronavirus. It has failed to adequately compensate nurses who must take time away from work because of possible or actual infection. It has ignored the enormous emotional and physical costs suffered by nurses from overwork, inadequate safety standards, and ever changing policy pronouncements. And, by refusing to sign an agreement which guarantees these critical protections, Providence is robbing nurses of the certainty and stability which comes with an enforceable union contract.
Providence nurses, in demanding that Providence work with them to ensure the availability of personal protective equipment, safe staffing practices, guaranteed access to rapid point-of-care testing and consistent notification of exposures or possible exposures, appropriate time off and workers compensation for Covid-19 exposure, and respect for nurse input and accountability, are only asking Providence Health & Services to take the pandemic seriously and act appropriately.
The coronavirus case load continues to rise throughout the state. We call on Providence administrators to sit down now with representatives from ONA and sign an agreement to implement nurses’ COVID-19 Bill of Rights. Nurses and their patients desperately need these protections. If an agreement is not signed within one week, which should be more than enough time to make the right choice, we are committed to organizing a major community forum at which nurses and patients can tell their stories, and share their concerns and frustrations with Providence. And we will do our best to ensure that local and state media, political and business leaders, and concerned Oregonians are appropriately educated about Providence’s intransigence during this time of pandemic crisis.
Bill Bigelow, Curriculum Editor, Rethinking Schools
Johanna Brenner, Professor of Sociology/ WGSS Emerita, Portland State University
Senator Michael Dembrow, Oregon Senate District 23
Barbara Dudley, Oregon Working Families Party, Senior Policy Advisor
Veronica Dujon, Professor of Sociology, Portland State University
Ranfis Giannettino Villatoro, Community Organizer, Blue Green Alliance
Avel Louise Gordly, Former Oregon State Senator
Martin Hart-Landsberg, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Lewis and Clark College
Catherine Highet, Highet Law, LLC
Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, Multnomah County
Maura Kelly, Portland State University
Mary C. King, Professor of Economics Emerita, Portland State University
Rev. Mark Knutson, Augustana Lutheran Church
Msgr. Chuck Lienert, Priest of the Archdiocese of Portland
Nikki Mandell, Professor of History Emerita, University of Wisconsin- Whitewater
Commissioner Sharon Meieran, MD, JD, Multnomah County
Rev. Jack Mosbrucker, Archdiocese of Portland, Retired
Huy Ong, Executive Director of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon
Dr. José Padín, Portland State University
Verna Porter, retired RN, Alliance for Retired Americans
The Rev. Cecil Charles Prescod, Ainsworth United Church of Christ
Former Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum
The Reverend Dr. Patricia Ross, United Church of Christ, Retired
The Reverend Eugene Ross, United Church of Christ, Retired
Rev. John Schwiebert, Metanoia Peace Community, United Methodist Church
Rev. Lynne Smouse López, Ainsworth United Church of Christ
Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, Multnomah County
Dr. David L. Wheeler, American Baptist theologian, Eastern University
Chris Wold, Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark Law School
Rev. Connie Yost, President, Farm Worker Ministry Northwest
Fr. Dave Zeger, St. Andrew Catholic Church
Lisa Vance, Chief Executive Officer, Providence Health & Services Oregon
Dan Mueller, Senior Labor & Employment Counsel, Providence Health & Services Oregon
Lynda Pond, President, Oregon Nurses Association
Sarah Laslett, Executive Director, Oregon Nurses Association
Tom Doyle, General Counsel, Oregon Nurses Association
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 1. 2021
Contact: Dr. Veronica Dujon
Workers’ Rights Board Chair
PORTLAND-AREA WORKERS’ RIGHTS BOARD CALLS ON PROVIDENCE HEALTH & SERVICES IN OREGON TO NEGOTIATE COVID PROTECTIONS FOR NURSES
Providence remains a regional outlier in its unwillingness to meet and actively work with nurses from the Oregon Nurses Association to implement their COVID-19 Bill of Rights.
PORTLAND, OREGON. February 1, 2021- The Portland Area Workers’ Rights Board represents a broad spectrum of political, faith, academic, legal, and community leaders, all of whom are committed to fighting for community labor standards that respect the dignity of all workers. After reading a stream of media stories and hearing alarming testimony from nurses it is clear to us that Providence is failing to provide its nurses with safe working conditions, putting both them and those they serve at great risk.
The Workers’ Rights Board has sent a letter to Chief Nursing Officer of Providence Health and Systems, Jennifer Burrows, calling on Providence administrators to immediately sit down with representatives from the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) and sign an agreement to implement nurses’ COVID-19 Bill of Rights. The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) represents more than 4,000 nurses working at Providence’s Oregon health care facilities and more than 15,000 Oregon nurses and health care workers.
Providence nurses, in demanding that Providence work with them to ensure the availability of personal protective equipment, safe staffing practices, guaranteed access to rapid point-of-care testing and consistent notification of exposures or possible exposures, appropriate time off and workers compensation for Covid-19 exposure, and respect for nurse input and accountability, are only asking Providence Health & Services to take the pandemic seriously and act appropriately. As it is, Providence is a regional outlier, refusing to do what other health providers like Kaiser and OHSU have already done.
Veronica Dujon, a Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Workers’ Rights Board said: “As Workers’ Rights Board members we’re hoping Providence will honor its own mission and values of compassion, justice and integrity and care for their frontline caregivers who risk their lives on our behalf. An agreement is in the best interest of our wider community, not only for Providence nurses.”
“We are incredibly grateful our community stands with Oregon’s nurses. Hearing leaders from all walks of life speak up for strong COVID-19 safety standards says volumes about our community’s priorities,” said Oregon Nurses Association President Lynda Pond, RNC. “Without COVID-19 safety standards, nurses are walking a tightrope without a net. Providence needs to support nurses to prove it cares about caregivers and our community. It’s time for Providence to pick up a pen and sign a COVID-19 safety agreement to protect Oregon’s nurses, patients and our communities.”
If Providence does not sign an agreement with ONA within one week, the Workers’ Rights Board is committed to organizing a major community forum at which nurses and patients can publicly tell their stories, and share their concerns and frustrations. We will do our best to ensure that local and state media, political and business leaders, and concerned Oregonians are appropriately educated about Providence’s intransigence during this time of pandemic crisis.
Just Enforcement Will Empower Workers to Enforce Their Rights
by Sarah Kowaleski, JwJ Coalition Organizer
All workers should be able to entrust that their rights will be protected and that the state will enforce laws meant to protect them. Throughout the pandemic, state agencies received record numbers of reports of workplace abuse and health and safety violations. During 2020, OR OSHA received complaints from 23 of the 35 largest workplace COVID outbreaks but were only able to investigate two. OR OSHA received ten times as many complaints as they do in a normal year.
Essential workers have made life-saving sacrifices and keep us nourished, cared for, and safe. Yet mortality rates for jobs in the food and agriculture industries, disproportionately immigrant workers, have jumped nearly 40% during the pandemic. When frontline and essential workers work in industries which have seen the most widespread workplace outbreaks of COVID-19, robust safety enforcement is essential to public health for our entire community.
Essential and immigrant workers also disproportionately labor for low wages and face wage theft. That is, they are cheated out of their pay by bad bosses. Despite hundreds of claims of stolen wages filed every year, employers only pay penalties in 1% of claims determined to be valid. As a result, lawbreaking employers have little incentive to do the right thing. When labor laws are poorly enforced, workers, especially the most marginalized, lose confidence that the system will protect them. This tailspin drives workers into dire circumstances and disadvantages honest businesses who play by the rules. It is precisely the communities with the least means, and who face the most structural and language barriers to collective organization whose rights have been heartlessly disregarded.
Because it’s clear that the state lacks the capacity to enforce existing labor law, the legislature should enact the Just Enforcement Act (House Bill 2205). This legislation allows workers and organizations to enforce labor laws when the state cannot do so. Providing an avenue for workers to partner with trusted community organizations to file suits on the state’s behalf would empower workers to speak out without fear of retaliation or losing their jobs. Workers recover 30-40% of the civil penalties collected from bosses who break the rules, and the state agency would reinvest the remainder to expand investigative staff and conduct community outreach. Workers and advocates will be empowered, more violations will be caught, and a culture of compliance will create better working conditions for all.
Jobs with Justice is dedicated to protecting the rights of working people and this landmark legislation will make workplaces more safe and just. Our community must demand that legislators support House Bill 2205, Just Enforcement Act, in defense of all workers’ rights.
By Sarah Kowaleski
A Narrow Proposition
This November in California, multi-billionaire Gig corporations such as Uber, Lyft, Postmates, DoorDash and Instacart spent more than $200 million to back a deceptive California state proposition known as Prop 22. This was a corporate backlash to a new law in California, known as AB5, that rightly classified gig workers as employees. Despite all of their millions and resorting to deceptive tactics, gig corporations won, narrowly. Only 58% of California voters backed Prop 22, the gig-worker proposition.
Prop 22 has both enabled gig corporations to continue misclassifying their workers as “contractors” and has given the industry a playbook they hope to replicate in the face of rising Labor movements worldwide.
What’s in it for Gig Employers?
Proposition 22 was based around the fear that their workers, given the proper wages and protections of employees would annihilate the gig business model based on hyper exploitation. Uber and the like see their ‘success’ with Prop 22 in California as a way to thwart regulations that apply to every other employer. In fact, just after the win, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told analysts, “We feel strongly that this is the right approach, and it’s a priority for us to work with governments across the U.S. and the world to make this a reality.” 32 other states already use the same legal test to determine worker classification as California’s, so Gig corporations are keen to export this approach to other states. They know that “not real employee” status is inferior to “employee” status, so they wish to enshrine this everywhere, permanently.
What’s at stake for Labor and communities?
Measures like Prop 22 allow wealthy corporations to deny their drivers rights and protections like paid sick leave, workers compensation, and unemployment benefits. What’s at stake include good union jobs that pay fair wages, and small businesses, as gig corporations drive down standards in order to drive up their competitive advantage. Gig corporations want to maximize their profit and expand their low-pay, no-protection business model to virtually every industry, leading to unprecedented job loss and a race to the bottom.
Now, gig corporations are pouring resources into state legislation and forming industry lobby groups such as the App-Based Work Alliance, to accomplish their goal of rolling back workers’ rights and to pre-emptively stifle worker organizing and consumer advocacy for stronger protections. This makes us all less safe by eliminating safety protections for riders and drivers and any liability these wealthy corporations have to consumers.
Stay tuned for ways you can support Gig workers organizing, pushing back on greedy corporate plans to erode the rights of employees. We must not take these rights for granted!