Sunday, September 7, 2014

Each small victory is important


Pat, Joe (as Kitty Wells) and Bob

Our friends from the SWEAT Campaign arrive. Time to check in. There’s organizer Jo Ann and worker/organizer Carlos, long time comrades by now. And Leah, new on the scene a  lawyer from the National Center for  Law and Econmic Justice  bringing legal muscle. Part of what gives them cred is that they have yet to lose a legal case. Most recently winning over $1.6 million for the Dominoes workers. And the Indus Valley workers won a  $225,000 settlement.   And an even more recent victory, two weeks ago they got the state Department of Labor to convene a Wage Board to review wage theft by owners from workers. It is another victory to get the concept and language of wage theft into the public conversation.

Their demands are far from radical. We’re not talking communist revolution or overthrowing the capitalist system. Their demand is simple…obey the law…Yes, we are working in a coalition for a real minimum wage, but that is an empty victory if owners have discovered they can get away without obeying it. The Indus Valley workers waited seven years for a decision!..For all those years, the owners had the benefit of stolen wages of the workers.  And now we’re demanding that the legislature make possible the enforcement of the laws that already exist. It’s been a long road from the picket line at Saigon Grill. But the victories continue to come. One by one.

The lesson is defineable, achievable, measurable campaigns. Pick winnable battles.  Each legal decision has  had life changing implications for the most oppressed and vulnerable of workers, most of whom are undocumented workers. And the devaluation of their labor directly devalues the labor of all workers. I’ve invited them to come to church and share on Sunday. They are part of the family.

Russ comes into the chapel with his recording equipment to interview me for his show. We cover my life history in ministry, Tulsa, Pittsburgh, New York City, Central America, the Middle East. But mainly the current life of the Church and West-Park’s vision and emerging strategy to reimagine church and begin the revitalization of a community. (You can hear the whole interview here:

And just on time, Pat O stops by to help me review where we are on then timeline for moving our project forward.

I hear reports that one of our people from the steps had been busted for gay bashing. And more serious charges from another state. I am not surprised.

Travis from the RCP is in to set up a quick Sunday potluck. They’re also interested in office space to work on organizing their October campaign against Mass Incarceration. Whatever else, I admire their diligence and discipline. And being there.

Berik and I accompany RL to the Gate to get supplies for the night, hand truck bouncing along behind us.  Soon enough it’s time to begin.

Another small turnout. While we’re waiting to begin, I invite Rabbi Steve into the sanctuary to share a song with him. One I can’t figure out what to do with. I want to hear how his cabaret style might match up. In the darkened sanctuary and the resonant Beckstein, there’s a quiet intimacy as we feel each other out musically. We’ve heard each other many times, know each other’s music. But this is different.

Back in the chapel, there’s a young man  Adam
playing his own songs. Joel
is fresh back from his Fashion Week gig and works that into his set.
Miryam has  another  set of her own soul searching songs. Pat, Joe and I each have our own sets with our own styles, but we have  some fun, too. I invite Pat and Joe up for another go at Rider…And then Joe invites me to duet with him on Wild Side of Life/Honky Tonk Angels with me doing Hank and Joe, in his resonant bass, Kitty Wells. It made RL's night.

Nick brought his ever expanding banjo chops and as always we end with Stay Awhile.

On the way out the door, Miryam is giving out hugs of friendship ot her fellow musicians. I missed that. Then she comes to me. Asks if that song with the dinosaur in it, was that yours?
I say Yes. 
And then she says, I gave everyone else a hug. You didn’t get one. Do you mind?
Not at all, I say. Not at all.

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