Faith Communities Support Health Care for Grocery Workers

In response to news that Safeway and Giant were trying to cut back health and pension benefits for 23,000 grocery workers in DC, MD and VA represented by the UFCW Local 400, local faith leaders sprung into action. In addition to spreading the word to their congregations, members of Interfaith Worker Justice of Greater Washington led a delegation to a Safeway store and delivered a letter to the manager. “Members of our congregations shop at these stores,” Rev. Kay Johnson of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in DC told the manager at the Dupont Circle Safeway. “We’re prepared to support the workers in any way we can.”rnrnRick Walsh, a long time OPEIU Local 2 union member brought the issue to his church, Providence United Methodist Church in Fort Washington Maryland. The congregation offered a special prayer for the grocery workers during Sunday services and made plans to visit three stores in the surrounding area together to offer words of support to the employees there. rnrnJust days before the contract expiration, ministers from across the city came together for a press conference to express support for the workers and call on Safeway and Giant to maintain quality benefits. “They’re not asking for a raise, but they’re also asking not to have them come out of their pocket to pay for insurance, and we believe that’s fair,” said the Rev. Raymond Bell, pastor of First Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church. Faith leaders pledged that if the workers strike, they will tell members of their congregations not to cross the picket lines. “As people of faith, we’re standing up with the workers, and we’re urging people that, if there is a lockout or strike, we’re called to support the workers,” said the Rev. Graylin Hagler of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ. rnrnThe efforts of local faith leaders, combined with solidarity from other union and community members resulted in a victory for Safeway and Giant workers, who agreed on April 1st to a new contract that maintains health and pension benefits and improves wages. Click here for more details on the campaign and contract victory.

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