National Presbyterian Church Passes Fair Development Overture
The Presbyterian Church USA became the latest to endorse our Fair Development struggle, passing a Fair Development Overture at their 220th General Assembly held in Pittsburgh, PA this past June. An overwhelming majority voted 68% in favor of standing with low-wage workers to demand that developers including Inner Harbor developers, GGP and Cordish ensure that their developments respect human rights, maximize public resources and foster sustainability.
Both United Workers Leadership Organizer, Luis Larin, and movement leader Rev. Roger Powers of Light St. Presbyterian church in Baltimore spoke before the Social Justice Committee before the overture’s successful passage. Rev. Powers explained why Fair Development matters:
The United Workers have now turned their attention to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. If you’ve ever visited Baltimore, you’ve probably seen the Inner Harbor. It is the major tourist destination in the city, with lots of restaurants and shops to attract visitors. It’s a nice place to visit, but it’s not such a nice place to work. The people who work in the restaurants and retail outlets receive poverty wages with no benefits. They experience poor working conditions and have their rights violated again and again. (You heard Luis Larin speak about this during the Open Hearing.) The United Workers Association has been organizing low-wage workers in the Inner Harbor to demand living wages, better working conditions, and respect for human rights.
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 11-02 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 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.”
To read the Fair Development Overture go here: at https://www.pc-biz.org/Committee2.aspx.
The successful passage of the Fair Development Overture is just the latest in a growing chorus of faith, community, and labor organizations across the United States to publicly call for justice at the Inner Harbor and more broadly for Fair Development that re-imagines economic development – not as a “race to the bottom” where public resources go to create low-wage work but instead we begin to create spaces where human rights are restored. We have seen our movement grow over the last year as more and more become clear that key to ending poverty is addressing what our development priorities. In February the Presbytery of Baltimore voted to approve our Fair Development Overture sending this on to the Assembly in Pittsburgh. This was followed by our Spring National Day of Action where groups protested at GGP malls across the country including Vermont, New York, Minnesota and Florida culminating in our March to Occupy GGP this past May.
With this great national call for support by the Presbyterian Church USA, United Workers now has bases of support across the nation. We look forward to our future work with the Presbyterian community. This decision is a powerful example of how Christian faith communities continue to grapple with the fundamental teachings of Jesus and their particular denominations and traditions to genuinely understand and live out the charge for love and justice for all in their local, national, and global contexts. May this fight for human rights now move beyond into the pulpits, the pews, and into the streets.