What courage looks like

I can’t believe it was two years ago that I went, a little nervous about what my role was, to support a few kitchen crew members who had been locked out of the Castlewood Country Club for holding on to their right to health benefits. I didn’t yet know that in the previous year, management had boasted record earnings in their annual report. I didn’t yet know that the newly hired manager had expressed a commitment to eliminated the union from the country club (in writing, in a document that showed up in the recycling–really? If you’re going to antagonize the cleaning crew, you don’t think you should shred the evidence?). I knew that times were tough, jobs were hard to come by, and some of these workers might not have papers. It felt a little like they were pushing the envelope.

Fortunately they understood their own worth far better than I did.

Sarah from local 2850 invited me and a layperson from a nearby Unitarian church to sit down with one of the workers to hear her story. It was the story of a hard worker who had no problems in the eight years she had worked there, who was appreciated by the members and the rest of the staff. I would later learn it was also the story of a woman who had just three weeks before agreed to adopt several children in need, not realizing that she would be losing her income and her health care. During a record-breaking earnings year.

Her story and the stories of other workers have inspired me over the past two years. (Here’s one of those amazing stories: http://ireneflorez.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/castlewood/) What inspires me more is their willingness to meet verbal abuse with human decency, even when club members have spat at them for “tearing up families” (because some won’t cross the picket line while others will). They’re willing to point out that their families are being torn apart because they are asking for basic human decency, and things like health care which all the club members who pay over $20,000 just to join (plus monthly dues) take for granted. Over these past two years, they have been a Christlike presence for the movement in two different ways: like Christ, they have endured and stayed committed to the struggle for justice. And also like Jesus they have not backed down, but they have stood strong while retaining their inner dignity by not stooping to the level of the management (or some of the club members). It’s worth noting some of the members have stood in support of the workers, and they have been blackballed from the decision-making process.

Every worker deserves to know that when they work hard, they and their children will not have to worry about health care. These workers, despite mistreatment and sheer malice by people who could easily have afforded them this basic right, have stood strong. I hope to learn from their courage.

On Saturday morning, make time to stand with these courageous workers:

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