Economic justice is essential for securing basic human rights, alleviating poverty, and achieving a more just world. UUSC’s Economic Justice Program partners with grassroots organizations to protect the rights of workers and advocate for fair wages, fair, treatment, and safe work environments.

In the United States, UUSC has been successful in helping to improve working conditions in the poultry industry, protecting the rights of street vendors, and expanding the adoption of the Good Food Purchasing Policy. In light of Donald Trump’s election, we recognized that many low-wage workers were going to face increasing discrimination in the work force in the months and years ahead. As a result, we joined forces with the Unitarian Universalist Association to found Love Resists—a joint campaign that supports worker centers and worker-led organizing groups where immigrants, Muslims, and people of color are particularly at risk.

UUSC, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and other allies leave Wendy’s shareholder meeting, May 2017.

Internationally, the Economic Justice program supports small farmer cooperatives in Central America through a partnership with Equal Exchange, a worker-owned cooperative in Massachusetts which buys coffee, chocolate, and other products directly from small farmers around the world. Revenue from UU congregations’ purchase of these items is used to support small co-operatives in Central America, where farmers have more control over their economic future and which support the advancement of human rights and the protection of the environment.

Goals

  • Empower and organize workers who are under threat by the Trump administration to advocate for their rights.
  • Support worker-led organizing and advocacy.
  • Foster the creation of fair, safe work environments that are free from intimidation and harassment, and where the human rights and dignity of workers are respected.
  • Hold corporations accountable for violations of their workers’ rights.
  • Support small farmer cooperatives in Central America as an alternative economic model to advance human rights.

Current projects

  • Our partnerships with Northwest Arkansas Worker Justice Center, Greater Minnesota Worker Center, Rural Community Workers Alliance (RCWA), and Make the Road PA are designed to support low-wage immigrants, people of color, and Muslims to advocate for their rights and push back against the criminalization of their communities. These organizations conduct trainings on labor rights and immigration, organize workers across communities, and advocate on issues that impact low-wage workers, including wage theft, raising the minimum wage, and immigration.
  • We have partnered with three grassroots cooperatives in Nicaragua to support capacity strengthening for cooperatives and economic empowerment generally. One of these groups, Fundación Entre Mujeres is currently conducting an agroecology project designed to empower peasant women in the country.
Fundación Entre Mujeres (FEM) members in their field in Nicaragua.

PARTNER IMPACT & ACTIVITY

  • Supported RCWA to hold trainings on immigration and labor rights for their worker members. Since March 2017, over 130 workers in rural Missouri have been trained on immigration and labor rights, and RCWA is planning solidarity and unification events to help build a greater sense of community.
  • Funded the Greater Minnesota Worker Center to hold leadership and “Know Your Rights” trainings for their members, many of whom are low-wage immigrant workers, to help the workers organize and advance worker rights in the face of efforts to criminalize immigration and worker organizing. Since May 2017, over 170 workers have participated in the trainings.

RESEARCH

  • UUSC participated in a collaborative research project that resulted in the February 2016 release of Wages and Working Conditions in Arkansas Poultry Plants, a report on human rights abuses in the poultry industry. This report was used, as part of a multi-group advocacy campaign, to pressure Tyson Foods, Inc. to improve its working conditions.

UUSC’s Advocacy Highlights

  • UUSC has supported the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ boycott of Wendy’s since March 2016 and, along with our members, has put pressure on the company to responsibly source their tomatoes and improve wages and working conditions for farmworkers through protests, boycotts, and other actions, including participating in the 2017 Wendy’s Shareholder Meeting.
  • In conjunction with the Wages and Working Conditions report, UUSC joined with partner Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center (NWAWJC), and others in a joint advocacy campaign directed at Tyson, where we had documented significant worker violations in their poultry processing plants. The advocacy efforts proved successful and resulted in Tyson’s decision to improve working conditions for workers in their plants.