Faith and Labor Acting Together to Fight for our Communities

By Mary Kay Henry, International President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life

Hundreds of thousands of people in cities and towns across America will come together May 1 — International Workers Day — to rise up against the Trump administration’s criminalization of hard-working immigrant families and efforts to tear them apart.

They will demand lawmakers support policies that promote humane immigration reform, and reject the massive funding increases for deportation squads and border walls that a vast majority of Americans reject.

As women of faith, we will be there with them. On May 1, we will declare that hatred and bigotry have no home here.

As our country contends with a president who aims to take away healthcare from 24 million of our most vulnerable residents, enacts immoral travel bans targeting Muslims, threatens our access to clean air and water by rolling back environmental protections and pushes for the largest tax cut for corporations in our history paid for by reducing needed public services, we remain steadfast to ensuring our communities are protected against President Trump’s proposals.

We will serve as a check on elected officials at all levels to win an America where immigrant families can continue to contribute to our economy and communities. We are a nation that welcomes immigrants and values the talent, sweat, creativity and hard work immigrants bring to all our communities.

We call on people of faith and workers across this country to remain committed in their resistance and in their support of immigrant families. We resolve to build on the work already completed to beat back proposals that tear at the very fabric of our society.

As women of faith, we believe deeply in and have dedicated our lives to a spiritual calling to uplift marginalized communities. Together, we have worked tirelessly through the Fight for $15 to ensure the value of work is reflected in people’s pay. Together in 2012, we mobilized thousands to embrace prayer and fasting as we pushed lawmakers for immediate and humane commonsense immigration reform.

Though we represent different faith traditions — Catholic and Presbyterian — our faiths fuel our fervor to defend immigrant families and protect millions of seniors, people with disabilities, communities of color, our families and children from efforts to take away affordable health care from millions. Our organizations are not easily intimidated or discouraged by setbacks. In fact, we have overcome them before through collective action and are poised to do it again.

We ground ourselves in stories of faith such as those of the Hebrew people who fled the bondage of Egypt. They were met with a great obstacle as they reached the Red Sea, water so deep and so massive, that it was seemingly impassable on foot. Behind them was Pharaoh’s army looking to re-enslave them.

According to Jewish tradition, one person stepped forward. His name was Nachshon. His faith was so strong that he kept walking until the water was at his mouth; then the Red Sea parted.

It is when we confront our darkest moments that must keep the faith. We have to be like Nachshon and have the faith to do the difficult work required to fight for and win not only immigrant justice, but also racial justice, economic justice, and environmental justice for our nation.

Pope Francis, a religious leader who has captured the attention of people of all faiths, said: “The future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of people and in their ability to organize.”

As advocates, leaders and as women who believe in justice, we will continue to mobilize the masses. We will continue to seek justice. We will continue to fight.