This morning I woke up at 4:30am, dressed (for the first time this year) in flannel jeans and long underwear, grabbed a mason jar of tea, and headed out into the chill morning air in the company of two of my housemates. Despite the cold and the early hour, we were bright-eyed and excited. Though we all work for non-profit organizations, it is sometimes hard to see what impact we are making. This morning, we were going to work for more palpable change; marching in solidarity with workers fighting for their rights.
We were invited to the #ReclaimOurCity: March for Working Families through local organization CTUL. CTUL stands for Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, “The Center of Workers United in Struggle.” Today, they joined in a movement spanning 270 cities across the country, in which fast food employees, retail workers, and retail cleaners are going on strike to protest their lack of a livable wage.
The march this morning was a diverse mix of students, workers, allies, and CTUL staff. Included also were representatives from Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, raising the cry that “Black Workers matter”. At the start of the march, under the neon of McDonalds and SuperAmerica, we were blessed by the performance of three Aztec dancers. Call and response chants were shouted in English and Spanish. I’m surprised I have any voice left—I was so busy giving it in service to the protest, I didn’t care whether I got it back. The music that blasted from the back of the truck leading the protest was interspersed between stories from people who lived, daily, with the injustices we were fighting against.
Why is this important? Because today’s march was not—and is not— about a group of people whining over low pay. This is about hundreds of people who work long and hard to provide us with little luxuries, fast food and clean stores, while they struggle with decisions of paying rent or feeding their families. This is about hundreds of people who sacrifice their health rather than miss a day of work— and the necessary paycheck that it brings. This is about the dignity of the human person, as described in Catholic Social Teaching and in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (check out number 8). Quite simply, it is about wrong…and rights.
God bless all those who were brave enough to stand up for those rights today; may your work truly bring justice.