Last Friday I participated in a rally in support of the rights of the service sector workers at my university to unionize. Apparently my university hired a known union-busting company to intimidate workers out of unionizing. The university is feeling the affects of the economic downturn. We are a heavily enrollment-based school, financially, and enrollment for the coming year is down. Within the last few weeks the overnight shift of janitors and maintenance staff was all fired and replaced with temp workers who do not receive benefits. Many food service and facilities workers make less than a living wage (even if they've worked here for more than 10 years), and their enrollment benefits were rolled back in the last few years (so their kids can't go to school for free anymore).
So, I was invited to come show support for the rights of workers. I'm not sure what I think about unions. Like any tool, they can do both good and harm. But it seems to me that if the school is willing to pay a union-busting company over $800,000 then they probably have some injustice to hide that would be uncovered (or no longer tolerated) by a powerful union.
I'd never been to a rally like this before. We held signs, chanted, marched around. Some people gave speeches. There was a petition to sign. Some of the chants were:
"We care for the people who care for us."
"When [our] workers are under attack
What do we do?"
"Stand up! Fight back!"
There were some chants that I didn't join in, including some that were slanderous toward the president of our university and his administration, and others that seemed to say that the 'power of the people' was the greatest source of power: "Ain't no power like the people-power / Ain't no power like the power we got." Sorry, but there is a Power much greater than our own, no matter how many voices we raise or how big our megaphone.
But I think the best part of the whole experience for me was just to be among people that care so ardently and passionately about justice. People from all walks of life. These are the kind of people that I long to reach out to with the truth of the gospel. They are people of passion. Imagine what God might do through them should he add the fire of the Holy Spirit to their passion for justice!