- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Labor in the Pulpits

Labor unions will once again take their organizing efforts to churches on Labor Day with an annual campaign to talk about the right to unionize workplaces and recruit supporters.

The program, sponsored by the AFL-CIO and the Interfaith Worker Justice, has been taking place for 12 years and places union advocates in more than 1,000 congregations to help create and maintain relationships between labor councils and the local religious communities. The Change to Win, a powerful coalition of labor groups, recently endorsed the effort as well.

Labor in the Pulpits/on the Bimah/in the Minbar encourages participants to talk about specific issues such as health care reform, the Employee Free Choice Act and wage issues, Renaye Manley of IWJ told The Washington Times over the phone. “Everyone is really concerned about health care right now,” she said.

They are also advised to tailor their remarks to the different religions. For example, there’s information about appropriate Muslim readings and prayers to be used when discussing labor issues as well as an eight-page paper about “Jewish perspectives on health care.”

A 2009 organizing guide posted on the Labor in Pulpits Web site contains a sample outline for the speaker to follow. Under a bullet item titled “reason for speaking,” the guide says, “Labor Day is a hard-earned holiday coming out of the struggles of working people for the eight-hour day and the right to organize unions.”

“Tie Labor Day to the lectionary, other Biblical readings, or the appropriate faith group statement on the right to organize,” it says. The guide goes on to suggest specific biblical passages to incorporate into the speech, like 1 Timothy 6:18-19 that says, “Rich people are to be generous and ready to share.”

Labor advocates say churchgoers are natural allies.

“Every major religion teaches respect for work and the moral duty to care for the poor and foster social justice - the same goals that the union movement holds,” IWJ Executive Director Kim Bobo said in a statement. “Those shared goals create a natural bond between us. That bond is even stronger this year as we stand poised to bring about real change in our country from reforming health care to stopping wage theft and making our workplaces more democratic.”

Booked hospital tour

Progress Now founder and Chief Executive Officer Michael Huttner is throwing in a sassy grand prize for the winner of a contest to promote his new book, “50 Ways You Can Help Obama Change America.”

He’s asking people to submit ideas how to help President Obama to his Web site 50waysyoucanhelpObama.com to supplement the ideas proposed his book. A winner chosen Nov. 4 will receive a trip for two to Honolulu for a private tour of the hospital where President Obama was born and the opportunity to participate in a community service project there for the Martin Luther King Day of Service on Jan. 19.

If there were any doubts that this was a shot at the “birthers” who continue to demand Mr. Obama’s birth certificate as evidence of his U.S. citizenship, Mr. Huttner quickly dispelled them.

“Not only are we challenging the entire birther theory, we invite them to enter the contest so we can personally show them the truth,” he said in an e-mail.

Birther boycott

Political consultant Jon Henke is calling for an advertising boycott of the conservative newsmagazine World Net Daily for relentlessly pushing stories questioning President Obama’s citizenship.

WND has published several stories on the subject and recently produced a DVD documentary called “A Question of Eligibility.” The Web site’s retail section has a category called “Birth Certificate Store” that sells magnetic bumper stickers and yard signs that say, “Where’s the birth certificate?”

“The Birthers are the Birchers of our time, and World Net Daily is their pamphlet,” he wrote in a blog post for thenextright.com. He criticized conservative organizations for supporting WND with advertising dollars and said it was time for a boycott. “No respectable organization should support the kind of fringe lunacy that WND peddles,” he wrote. “Those who do are not respectable.”

Joseph Farah, editor of World Net Daily, questioned Mr. Henke’s motives and standing in an interview with The Washington Times.

“In the little bit of time I’ve had to figure out who Jon Henke is and what the Next Right is, I see it’s pretty much a Republican establishment group who has worked for the RNC and the Republican Party and I can certainly understand why a group like that would have problems with World Net Daily,” he said. “We are not in anybody’s pocket and we don’t have to take our cues from them. We never have and never will and that will probably bother some people.”

He added about the Next Right: “Just looking at their biographies I see these are not journalists, they are political activists who have their own agendas.”

Mr. Henke told The Times that he has received “almost exclusively positive reaction,” from his blog post although he’s unhappy that organizations “aren’t exactly leaping to disclose” their ties to WND.

He said he would pursue that on his own, by making phone calls to various groups inquiring whether they work with WND for a follow-up blog.

One of those targets could be the Republican National Committee.

The left-leaning Media Matters picked up on Mr. Henke’s boycott call and posted a screen shot of a mailer the RNC sent to WND subscribers Aug. 27 warning about Democratic health care expansion plans. “Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be coming back to Washington to show the American people they won’t let a little thing like public outrage get between them and their desire for socialist control over our lives,” it said.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com.

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