Will Jim Wallis Represent True Worker Justice Before Senate Committee?

For an excellent backgrounder on the EFCA, see Restoring Dignity: The Employee Free Choice Act — ed.

So with some major s**t about to hit the fan (and with Warren Buffett, America’s Mr. Capitalism himself, already flatly declaring himself against the Employee Free Choice Act), you would think that pro-labor Democrats in Washington would turn for help to faith leaders who actually have a record of identifying with workplace justice.

After all, there is no shortage of such leaders in the various labor-religion coalitions that exist all over the country and in the national clearinghouse for such coalitions, a Chicago-based umbrella group called Interfaith Worker Justice.

But no. Yet again it’s Jim Wallis who is speaking for all the faithful in testimony today before Tom Harkin’s Senate committee.

I am reluctant to pre-judge Wallis, but I will be surprised if he makes these essential points in a forceful way:

1.) The principal (but not exclusive) cause of widening income inequality over the past three decades has been the frontal corporate-government assault on unions and union power. Especially during this economic crisis, if you really want bottom-up stimulus you need to strengthen worker bargaining power.

2.) Younger people of color are in the forefront of current union organizing drives, so leveling the playing field in order to give such drives a chance to succeed is also an important current-day civil rights issue.

3.) It is morally offensive to see America’s biggest corporations raising and spending a huge war chest (of tax-deductible dollars) to kill the EFCA in the name of preserving democracy and the secret ballot when these same corporations repeatedly flout the law to defeat workplace democracy and when they repeatedly use their lobbying clout to thwart civil democracy.

4.) Anyone who has been intimately involved in an organizing drive knows without the shadow of a doubt that the aspirations of the workers who stick their necks out come from a deeply sacred place—that these are, in fact, holy aspirations.

5.) Likewise, anyone who really believes that the bosses have their workers’ best interests at heart (and that therefore no “third party” is warranted in the modern workplace) should consult the history of Pharoah and the Israelites. Moreover, “union prevention” campaigns by employers are ugly things: they are inherently violent, even though today’s employers may not employ outright thugs like those used by Dearborn fascist Harry Bennett against Ford workers over seventy years ago.

As I said, I will be the first to shout “glory hallelujah” if Wallis makes these points, but I honestly doubt that he is up to it.

When are the Democrats (and their enablers in centrist religious circles) going to figure out that the Wallis brand is NOT the one size that fits all in matters of faith and public life?

I’m waiting. And so are the workers.

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