Rev. Roger Scott Powers introducing Fair Development Overture to Maryland Presbytery
The pressure on Inner Harbor developers is mounting. As we saw with our Fair Development Conference and recent spate of “Letter Drops” at GGP malls, the community support from every sector – students, unions, neighborhoods and faith is growing tremendously.
On Feb. 11, 2012, more voices joined this growing chorus demanding Fair Development. The Presbytery of Baltimore held their annual governing meeting. Over 100 representatives from Presbyterian churches from Baltimore City to Maryland’s western most Garrett County came together and voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Light Street Presbytery’s Fair Development Overture, with over 94% voting for passage. This brave act for social justice sends a powerful message of unity with United Workers’ Campaign for Fair Development at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The Overture now goes before that national Presbytery at their Gathering in Pittsburgh this Summer.
Rev. Roger Powers of Light St. Presbyterian and a long time leader in the struggle for Fair Development at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, introduced the Overture with these words:
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history of supporting economic justice. Our church has stood in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed, called for reform of corporate misdeeds, proposed living wages, supported economic boycotts, demanded safe working conditions, and supported collective bargaining.
Our own Confession of 1967 says “a church that is indifferent to poverty, or evades responsibility in economic affairs . . . makes a mockery of reconciliation and offers no acceptable worship to God.
Ten years ago, the 214th General Assembly endorsed a consumer boycott of Taco Bell started by the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The community group sought better wages and working conditions for Florida farm workers who pick tomatoes that go into Taco Bell products. With the support of the PCUSA and that of other denominations, the farm workers won.
In recent years, the United Workers Association of Baltimore has been organizing low-wage workers in the Inner Harbor to demand living wages, better working conditions, and respect for human rights. They have received our financial support in the form of Self-Development of People grants. They are now asking for our moral support.
Developers such as General Growth Properties and the Cordish Company, which control the Inner Harbor, receive large amounts of public money for what are billed as “revitalization” projects for depressed areas. Yet the jobs created by these projects are unregulated, minimum wage, seasonal, and rife with human rights abuses.
Overture 2012-2 asks the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to call for an end to this kind of Poverty Zone Development and to advocate for Fair Development that respects human rights, maximizes public benefits, and fosters sustainability.
The Session of Light Street Presbyterian Church recommends that you send this overture on to the 220th General Assembly for action.
The Fair Development Overture included this instruction to national General Assembly:
The Presbytery of Baltimore respectfully overtures the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to:
(1) commend the United Workers Association of Baltimore for its efforts at organizing low-wage workers to demand living wages, better working conditions, and respect for human rights.
(2) support the call of the United Workers Association of Baltimore for Fair Development Standards that will improve working conditions and alleviate poverty conditions for millions of workers across the United States.
(3) direct the Stated Clerk to write a letter to the prominent national developers General Growth Properties and the Cordish Company, the Mayor of Baltimore City, and the Governor of Maryland, calling for an end to Poverty Zone Development and urging the adoption of Fair Development that respects human rights (Work with Dignity, the Right to Health Care and Education), maximizes public benefits, and fosters sustainability.
(4) urge Presbyterians to:
a) support the organizing of low-wage workers at malls to improve working conditions;
b) join together with low-wage service workers to pressure developers to respect human rights and pay living wages in cities and towns across the country; and
c) hold developers to account through worker-driven corporate accountability campaigns, changing the relationship between developers, the community, and workers, to secure human rights standards and Fair Development Agreements.
(5) request that the Presbyterian Hunger Program, the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, and/or other appropriate entities of the church, help build a national public policy dialogue about how to ensure that public resources are used to benefit the public good rather than private interests.
Thank you to the Presbytery of Baltimore for standing strong with low-wage workers in the struggle for Fair Development!