Interfaith Rally for Fair Wages: Show Workers Some Love!

Pastor Santiago Rodriguez addresses the crowd
RI JWJ Faith Chair Pastor Santiago Rodriguez addresses the crowd

On Thursday June 26, hundreds of people rallied outside the Renaissance Hotel Downtown Providence to call for fair wages. RI JWJ partnered with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee to bring together faith leaders in support of low wage workers in RI at the Unitarian Universalist Association annual General Assembly, held this year in Providence.

The event marked a critical moment in RI JWJ’s interfaith work, as we helped bring together labor- and faith-based groups in support of a national campaign for low wage workers’ rights and dignity. This Interfaith Rally demonstrated widespread solidarity with Rhode Island fast food and hotel workers, who are fighting for a living wage of $15 and the right to organize.

Amidst signs decrying the current minimum wage as a ‘moral outrage,’ the crowd urged the Renaissance Hotel, a major low-wage employer in Providence, to ‘show workers some love!’ by paying their workers fair wages. RI JWJ’s faith chair, Pastor Santiago Rodriguez of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, introduced the event by praying that workers would not have to face “terrible choices between paying the rent and feeding their families,” and asking that the “courageous cry of workers be heard by their employers, by the community, and by our government.”

Speakers included Rev. Dr. Donald Anderson, Executive Minister of the RI State Council of Churches, local UU ministers Rev. James Ford and Rev. Ellen Quaadgras as well as Rabbi Jonathan Klein, the Executive Director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, who joined us from L.A. All of the speakers from across traditions emphasized the religious imperative to stand for justice and to fight for a livable wage. They stressed the immorality of exploiting workers, denouncing oppressive working conditions created by unjust employers.

Also speaking were B Doubour, a fast food worker at Wendy’s who spoke of the difficulty of affording rent and providing for her two children on minimum wage, and Yilenny Ferreras, a former Providence Hilton housekeeper, who was fired for helping to organize her co-workers. Rev. Amy Webb, of the River of Grass UU Congregation in Ft. Lauderdale, led the crowd in a song.

With this rally, RI JWJ begins a new phase of greater interfaith coalition building. The faith leaders at the event helped strengthen the moral authority behind the fight for justice, and inspired the crowd with their words. It was wonderful to see such a diverse set of people, across faith backgrounds, come out to support workers and stand up for justice!

We thank our partners and supporters: the UU Service Committee, the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, the RI State Council of Churches, the American Friends Service Committee, the Restaurants Opportunities Center United, Unite Here Local 217, RI SEIU State Council, the Bell Street Chapel, and the Environmental Justice League of RI.