a powerful statement from father frank corbishley
AN UPDATE FROM THE CORAL GABLES CLERGY TASK FORCE
SOUTH FLORIDA INTERFAITH COMMITTEE FOR WORKER JUSTICE
Every day striking workers arrive to the Episcopal Student Center on the University of Miami campus, a place now known as "Strike Sanctuary," where I serve as chaplain. The strike is now in its 4th week and the workers remain strong, but a bit worn out from the continual harassment they are receiving from their employer, UNICCO, the contracting service against whom they are striking. One worker told me that last Saturday UNICCO called him 17 times, pressuring him to return to work. Many workers receive phone calls from their UNICCO supervisors, some threatening to fire the workers if they do not return to work.
In spite of the pressure, the workers fill the sanctuary each day as they courageously engage in this David and Goliath struggle. I am moved by how they encourage and support one another. I am also impressed with how the union leadership cares for them by providing the workers with income, food, and meaningful actions to bring this strike to a just resolution.
On behalf of the Task Force, we want to thank the clergy who have written, called, visited, led services, prayed, and joined us in marches as your support means a lot to us and the workers. We especially want to thank Bishops Frade, Ottley, and Estevez, who have given us spiritual strength throughout this journey.
Perhaps you have read that UM President Donna Shalala, although previously stating to the Coral Gables Clergy that she must remain neutral, has announced a raise and "affordable health care" to the striking workers. As a result, some people think that the strike is over or that the main issue has been resolved. I believe this was a tactical move on the part of the university to weaken community support for the workers and is an effort at union busting. The fact that Shalala made this announcement during Spring Break, when students and faculty were away, was another intentional tactical move on her part; there was no on-campus constituency to respond to her for several days. Since returning to campus, the faculty senate has unanimously passed a resolution and STAND, the student group, has run an op-ed piece in the student newspaper.
So, there has been a victory for the workers but it is only a partial victory. The workers remain steadfast in their goal of achieving a union which will guarantee them their rights on the job, safe working conditions, protection against reprisals, and a lasting voice on the job. As you will read in my letter to the editor, published yesterday in the Miami Herald, this has been the goal of the workers all along.
In order to support the workers, the Coral Gables Task Force is inviting you to participate in a march on Tuesday, March 28 at 12 noon. Religious leaders, workers, faculty, students, and community leaders have come together to help the workers achieve their goal of unionization. The march will begin at my church, 1150 Stanford Drive in Coral Gables.
Since I am at a conference this weekend, please feel free to call Rev. C.J. Hawking of Interfaith Worker Justice at 786-280-6902 with any questions you may have. If you wish to speak to me directly, you may leave a message on my cell phone at 305-606-0923 and I can get back to you on Sunday afternoon.
Thank you for your continued prayerful support.
The Rev. Frank Corbishley, Chaplain,
Chapel of the Venerable Bede
Chair, SFICWJ Coral Gables Task Force