The Social Justice committee meets at noon after the Sunday service on the first Sunday of each month. Occasionally when a special event is held at that time, the meeting is held the following Sunday. All meetings are open to MUUF members and guests. Notifications of meetings, agendas, and minutes may be emailed upon request. Through regular participation in the meetings, in activities of the Committee or by request, any member or friend of MUUF may become a member of the committee.
a. Once a month we address the injustices in our local community by inviting leaders of local charities to tell us about their work. These speakers discuss their program, services and needs on Sunday either by presenting the main address or presenting a thumbnail description of their program. On these Sundays a special collection is taken for that local charity.
b. Frequently the social justice committee will sponsor a program for the monthly Share-A-Dish meals which are held the second Friday evening of each month. These programs educate and inform about timely topics.
c. Each quarter a member writes a thorough paper about an issue chosen in the Social Justice meeting. These Issues of the Quarter are distributed to members and friends and are on the website under ISSUES. Issues in 2016 were: Income Inequality, Move to Amend, Voting Rights, Ballot legislation. Issues in 2015 were: Water, Decreasing Carbon Use, Black Lives Matter/Mass Incarceration, Inequality.
d. The Social Justice Bulletin Board helps to inform our members about what the committee is doing, and has information about issues.
e. The monthly newsletter, UPDATE, gives commentaries about current issues.
f. During October to May once a month we co-sponsor an evening movie and discussion program with OCCUPY-Bradenton about an issue of local, national or international interest.
1. MUUF supports Move to Amend. Corporations are not People and Money is not Speech. MUUF was the first UU congregation to put a resolution on the Move to Amend website..
2. MUUF supports the Restoration of the Right to Vote for ex-felons in Florida. We collected signatures for the successful placement on the ballot of November 2018. We join other Florida UUs, LWV, ACLU and others in advocating passage of Amendment 4.
3. MUUF supports the Charter resolution for Manatee County.
4. MUUF supports OCCUPY-Bradenton.
5. MUUF supports Indivisible-Progressives in Bradenton. Indivisible activities can be found in the MUUF Newsletter of October 2017.
Pictures are from Move to Amend demonstration at Rt 41 at Bahia Vista in Sarasota with Occupy and UUs from Manatee, Sarasota and Venice observing the 5th anniversary of “Citizens United”
MUUF PARTNERS with many organizations for improving social justice.
A. We support Unitarian Universalist Association social justice groups:
UU Ministry of the Earth – uuministryforearth.org
UU Justice Florida – uujusticefl.org
UU Service Committee – uusc.org
Standing on the Side of Love – standingonthesideoflove.org
B: The committee arranges speakers from LOCAL AND NATIONAL charitable groups which work directly with people in difficult circumstances. We take a collection to support their work. The committee feels it is important to support various groups which may be overlooked by faith-based donations. We want to support organizations that promote our liberal faith-traditions.
Coalition of The Homeless (PATH) – fchonline.org
Our Daily Bread – odb.org
Volunteers from MUUF serve lunch to Bradenton’s needy at Our Daily Bread, one of many programs at the One Stop Center at 900 17th Avenue West in Bradenton. Over 200 meals are served every day. The staff prepares meals accepting food donations from local grocery stores and monetary donations from churches, individuals and many organizations. Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has been contributing time for 16 years. Besides volunteering at lunch, we also have a special collection for Our Daily Bread each January.
PRISM – prismyouth.org
We support Prism in the Annual Gay Pride event in March.
Coalition of Immokalee Workers – ciw-online.org
We support the annual observances of the Immokalee Workers each March to earn Fair Pay and Fair Food Program for the workers at Immokalee and other areas of the United States.
Planned Parenthood – plannedparenthood.org
We support Planned Parenthood by participating in the volunteer activities and fund raising.
Turning Points – Jobs for Vets – tpmanatee.org
We support Turning Point programs by donating food, clothing; by volunteering, by applyng for grants for their support, such as the 2016 MLK Jr Day of Service grants for two job search computers and 4 dental program computers.
Church Women United by participating in the Crop walk – churchwomen.org
MUUF members pledge money to the MUUF volunteer walkers in support of world hunger.
Southwest Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice – sarasotapeacenter.org
NAACP, especially for voting rights – manateenaacp.org
Many MUUF members are also Members of NAACP and cooperate in chapter functions, with collecting petitions for restoring the right to vote for ex-felons, with support in police relationship programs on MLK Day.
League of Women Voters with issues of conservation and voting rights – lwvmanatee.org
Unidos Now in support of Immigration Reform and Latino affairs – unidosnow.org
Staff speakers and student leadership latinos present programs for our Share-A Dish events. We support efforts to register voters and securing volunteers for the High School-On to College mentor education program.
OCCUPY – facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Manatee-County Our Social Justice Committee meets twice a month with OCCUPY on issues national an international.
We suport and participate in annual Climate Change activities sponsored by 350.org.
ManaSota-88 has spent over 30 years fighting to protect our environment. It is a 501.c3 non-profit organization, incorporated in the State of Florida. We are dedicated to protecting the public’s health and preservation of the environment. Created in 1968, ManaSota-88 evolved from a major environmental health study sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service, Florida State University, the University of Florida and the Sarasota and Manatee County Commissions. Our commitment to safeguard the air, land and water quality is aggressive and uncompromising. Speakers from Manasota-88 are frequent presenters on Sunday morning and Share A Dish programs. Their spokespeople are dependable presenters at County Commissioner hearings where we applaud their efforts. .http://www.manasota 88.org
Social Justice April 2018
By Bernita Franzel
MUUF became interested in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers when we worked on our Green Sanctuary accreditation in 2010. One of the twelve initiatives of UUA was “Concern for those most impacted by injustice in the community.” We chose migrant workers in three areas: CIW, Farmworker Program at Whisenant Camp, and The Literacy Council teaching English. MUUF members wrote letters to Publix, Wendy’s and Taco Bell urging them to support the Fair Food Program of fair pay and fair work policies. One of CIW’s annual walking Tours stopped at MUUF for dinner for 135 on our deck. Speakers from CIW have come annually since 2009. At New College we visited the mobile Slavery Museum, a truck where workers were chained, shown by the Student Interfaith Coalition which has mobilized students across the US. We have marched with the CIW, locally, in Tampa and Lakeland. I have a bumper sticker on my car. We have visited their offices in Immokalee. We have received UUA grants for the CIW radio station to get out the vote. Check the bulletin board for the photos of these events.
This month the Book Discussion Group is discussing “I am Not a Tractor: How Florida Farmworkers Took on the Fast Food Giants and Won” by Susan L. Marquis. It tells of the beginnings of awareness of problems, the farmworkers trying to work out problems on their own, the inclusion of the growers, the fast food restaurants and the retail grocers. The success of CIW with the tomato industry has led to a national program, the Fair Food Program, for other products.
Over the years the abuses have been brought to light by Edward R Murrow’s “Harvest of Shame” on Slavery. Eric Schlosser wrote Fast Food Nation and later produced Food Chains. More and more church groups and Jewish congregations became supportive.
The government has acknowledged the work of the CIW. The passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000. In 2013 PBS Frontline program, Rape in the Fields, was a full-length documentary of sexual violence against women farmworkers across the US. The PBS documentary Slavery was about gun violence, sexual abuse and human trafficking; it was funded by a Dept. of Justice grant. CIW received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for anti-trafficking in 2003. Hillary Clinton spoke at the 2010 report of the Tenth Trafficking in Persons. When Walmart signed on Jan 16, 2014, Kennedy family and the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights sent congratulations. In 2015 CIW received the Presidential award for extraordinary efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. The EEOC’s select task force on the study of Harassment in the workplace brought improvements. The UN’s Human Rights committee has granted awards.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 after the Great Depression gave workers the right to organize and to engage in collective bargaining and another Act was to set basic standards for the fair treatment of workers: minimum wage, overtime, time-keeping records, rules of child labor. These Acts were for all employees EXCEPT domestic workers and agricultural workers. These two groups did not have health insurance, disability insurance, no retirement, no food stamps, no workers compensation, no social security, no Medicaid, although the payroll taxes they were charged went into these systems.
Agricultural work is exceptionally dangerous because of pesticides. When bodies of farmworkers began turning up in the river, there wasn’t much concern. After all the sheriff was a member of the KKK. Workers who tried to escape were shot. Workers were chained at night. Actual slavery was discovered, brought to trial with conviction of the perpetrators.
In 1995 the farmworkers went ahead on their own, held many meetings and decided to strike. After 5 days they settled for a raise to $4.50/hr. Another strike in 1997 produced a 25% increase from forty cents per thirty-two-pound bucket to fifty cents, but with only one grower.
The workers added negotiating directly with fast food companies. For 4 years CIW worked to change Taco Bell by boycotts, demonstrations, letter writing to local managers.
I was a tutor for the Literacy Council and my student of several years had been a farmworker who had
been all over the US with her children, finally settling in Palmetto. She died of cancer; she knew she wasn’t careful enough with the pesticides. I remember having lunch at the hospital cafeteria with two of her daughters and telling why I wouldn’t go to Taco Bell for lunch.
Taco Bell finally signed the agreement on March 8, 2005. This included the pay increase, penny per pound, and the list of practices of the fair food program. After that McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, Burger King, Subway. Then the grocers: Whole Foods, Bon Appetit, Compass Group, Aramark, Trader Joe’s, and finally Walmart after much negotiation. Publix hasn’t signed: it says it is a labor issue between workers and growers. Most of the growers have signed.
The Fair Food Program is in two parts: the Employment Practices and Violations. The bulletin board lists the practices. An auditing firm, Fair Foods Standards Council (FFSC) settles disputes.
Did any of this make a difference to workers, growers, buyers or any difference in public policy? Yes, to all concerned. CIW is so successful, they feel, because real, sustainable change cannot be led or forced by outsiders. Real systemic change is about people as much as policy or organizations: people with courage, objectivity, creativity and persistence.