Category Archives: Sister Spirit

Reflection: A Modern Day Ark

Reflection: A Modern Day Ark

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
November 1, 2018

As the midterm elections near, events are unfolding with disturbing, rapid-fire developments, and the partisan, hate-fueled rhetoric is only ramping up.  What I’m feeling is, I imagine—along with the majority of other Americans—is akin to a child helplessly watching her parents bicker and demean each other, all the while sensing that the marriage is failing.

Last week I sat out a few days from the Nuns on the Bus tour and worked back at our office in Washington, D.C. During those days:

  • A caravan of thousands of desperate Honduran migrants gathered at the border of Mexico, preparing to head north. The President pounced on the optics to whip-up fears among his supporters in advance of the election and transformed the Hondurans into a dangerous threat.
  • A man mailed over a dozen bombs to high-profile progressive “targets” around the country. He had never been interested in politics before but was inspired by the President’s call to “Make America Great Again”.
  • Finally, a conspiracy fueled anti-Semite entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and massacred eleven Jewish brothers and sisters for their work with refugees.

In so many ways, these are feeling like “Biblical times.”

I could not have planned a better way to spend the month leading up to the midterms than riding on Nuns on the Bus—it’s like an antidote to the deeply unsettling news cycle.  The gifts of the bus are manifold.  First, I am surrounded by spirited, kind women with a hope-filled vision that resists that downward spiral.  Second, we are driven (figuratively and literally) by the mission of sharing that hope with other like-minded people who desperately yearn for it.  We also visit communities where people of goodwill and creativity collaborate to lift up human dignity and support the most vulnerable, which in-turn inspires us.  There is a buoyancy and joyfulness to the Bus that is ineffable.  In Biblical terms, I’d compare it to a mini-Ark where hope and a vision for a better future manage to float just above the deluge of fear and violence.

When it came time to get back on the Bus after my hiatus I felt unsure whether a pre-election road-trip about tax justice was appropriate on the heels of the worst anti-Semitic act of violence in our nation’s history.  We would be kicking-off the final homestretch to Mar-a-Lago just as families of the victims began sitting shiva.  Would a “Fiesta for the Common Good” celebration seem callous and insensitive in light of the tragic happenings taking place?

Now, heading into the final day of the trip, I’m confident that this is exactly when and where we should be.  The Nuns on the Bus demonstrate our support and commiseration with the members of the Tree of Life Synagogue in the best way we know how: by carrying on, maintaining hope and spreading the message of social justice.  We can’t look away from the kind of hatred and evil that led to the murder of 11 innocent people. But we also have to leave room to remember the love and goodness that exist in this world.  We travel in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters from the Tree of Life, inspired by the words of their Talmud:

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.  Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now.  You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Staff
October 29, 2018

After a would-be assassin mailed pipe bombs to 14 prominent Democratic figures, including the families of 2 former Presidents; after a gunman tried to enter a Black Church in Kentucky intent on doing harm but was unable to gain access so walked to the nearest Kroger grocery store and killed two people instead; after all of that, there was the terrible mass shooting of Jewish worshippers at a Pennsylvania synagogue.  It was a devastating week and we are still reeling from it.

Nevertheless, we join the country in offering our most heartfelt and sincere condolences to the family and friends of those 11 people who were killed in Pennsylvania and the 2 people in Kentucky.  No words can express how profoundly we grieve with you in your time of need.  We stand together as the nation mourns your, and our, loss.

At the same time, we condemn, in the strongest possible language, these senseless murders of 13 ordinary people, worshipping at Tree of Life Synagogue and buying groceries at the local Kroger store.  They were simply going about their day until two white men, fueled by anti-Semitism and racial animus, attacked them.  These innocent people lost their lives to hate and fear in a country founded on freedom, opportunity and religious values.

But our Catholic faith tells us that we are all created in the image and likeness of God.  No exceptions.  And as a result, every human being is imbued with an essential dignity that must be honored, respected and protected.  The hate-filled actions of the gunmen belie that fundamental truth.   Whether or not you are religious or have some faith-based beliefs, there is something profoundly wrong in society when people turn to violence against others simply because they belong to a different religious tradition or have a different skin color.  We condemn every action based on hatred, bigotry and violence.

Sadly, this is not the first time we have witnessed, endured and decried the presence and menace of such evil in our midst.  But this can be the last.  This is a time when the whole country can stand up and speak out against it.  This is a time when we must demand of our leaders and each other the guarantee of civility, respect and safety for everyone.  For our sake.  For our children’s sake.  For the sake of our country’s future.  We must not let this hatred, violence and division defeat us.  The only question is:  will we do it?  Or will we once again pay a terrible price for our silence?  People are fond of saying “we are better than this.”  Now is the time to prove it.

May God grant eternal rest to those who were slain.  May God shower peace and consolation on all those who mourn.  And may God have mercy on all of us if we fail to stand up to this moment in history.

Reflection: Encounters of a Recurrent Pilgrim

Reflection: Encounters of a Recurrent Pilgrim

Sister Jan Cebula, OSF
October 23, 2018

The following is a reflection by Sister Jan on her experience during Week Two of Nuns on the Bus

During our morning prayer before we first boarded the Bus for the second leg, we talked about Nuns on the Bus being a pilgrimage. Having ridden the Bus before, I had a sense of what that meant. I knew I was going to enter into a sacred experience. I was ready to become a pilgrim; being on a journey, open to discovering sacred places.

Pope Francis has repeatedly called us all to foster a culture of encounter– reaching out, engaging in dialogue and friendship outside our usual circles. Stepping out. I’m not sure he imagined riding on a Bus, shining a light on economic disparities, calling for tax justice.

As I stepped off the Bus in Cleveland at the end of the week, I realized that the encounters we experienced had been the sacred places of our pilgrimage. Images of people we met cycled through my mind and will continue to do so. Diondai, Faith, Trisha, Maria, Cassie, Gladys, Cheryl and . . . Even more so, their spirit of dedication, serenity, creativity and focused dedication continues to reverberate. I can sense a presence, a change within. Sacred people.

But I also realized there was another dimension of encounter we experienced, a communal one. We met people at every stop who understand that we’re all sisters and brothers AND also ACT like it. What a blessing to be on a pilgrimage to these sacred communal spaces.

We encountered the dogged persistence of constituents on behalf of others and our democracy in the face of indifferent elected representatives; the persistent widows of the Gospel.

We encountered the resilience of St. Sabina’s, Sr. Maria, and the women of “Chopping for Change” in Cleveland. Their voices and strength glowed, blessing us and everyone with their courage.

We encountered the creative, innovative and collaborative service programs focused on the whole person at YESS in Des Moines, Heartland Health Services in Des Moines, Cass Community Center in Detroit and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries in Cleveland. They understand both sides of the coin: It takes community/collaboration for healing and that wholeness is communal.

We encountered the openness at every location to learn through our visual town hall human graph experience, releasing more creativity and energy for advocacy.

By witnessing the risk-taking of both staff and the people being served at site visits and of advocates at rallies, we encountered communal courage and hope.

We were blessed by the joy of the solidarity among all of us “nuns” from all different communities who rode on the Bus and who offered us hospitality.

Sacred people, sacred places of encounter.

Reflection: Nuns on the Bus Week 1

Reflection: Nuns on the Bus Week One

Sister Phyllis Tierney, SSJ
October 16, 2018

My sleep-deprived body is home after an exhilarating and exhausting week with Nuns on the Bus, joining Sister Simone Campbell and NETWORK staff to spread the message that tax justice is not achieved by permanent income tax breaks that benefit the wealthy but deprive people in poverty of programs that help to maintain their health and wellbeing.  On Sunday, October 7, I took an early morning flight from Rochester to Los Angeles to join nine other Sisters and NETWORK staff on a week of adventure and spreading the message of the need for economic justice for all.

Monday morning began with an opening rally and bus blessing on Santa Monica Beach.  Sister Simone greeted the crowd and explained our mission, “Reasonable revenue for responsible programs.”

Take-Aways from this experience:

The first evening that we gathered, Simone gave each of the bus riders a simple bracelet: a piece of elastic with one glass bead that symbolizes Hope: a hope that we bring with us and a hope that we share with all that we encounter, that together we can bring about a change, a conversion of heart, metanoia, so that we will see tax justice as caring for our neighbor in need, and not just the accumulation of wealth for ourselves.  From the Kick-Off Rally with Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Jimmy Gomez to the Town Hall for Justice in Tucson that was attended by approximately 200 people (by my scan, at least!) there was great enthusiasm and appreciation for Nuns on the Bus and our message. We also encountered those who didn’t like us and really didn’t like Democrats, but it was important to hear those voices because they signify the deep divisions in our country. We were blessed by the visit to Homeboy Industries founded by Fr. Greg Boyle.  Workers shared their stories of “Fr. G.’s” belief in them when they had given up believing in themselves.  My eyes teared when George shared with us that his son asked “Are you ever going to love us? Do we even exist for you?”  Today, he can say “I can only save myself…I do this because I have to give back to my community.”  Today George has his family back and George is here to help others who are trying to fight their way back from addictions and gang membership.

Tuesday in Las Vegas we met members of the Culinary Union 226 who are fighting for hospitality workers in the casinos. This union represents immigrants from 173 countries.  Its composition is 54% Latino and 55% women. Its diverse membership speaks over 40 different languages! They are working for new contracts for 2000 workers in three casinos whose owners have refused to give them the pay and working conditions they are entitled to, yet spend millions of dollars on their own personal entitlements and gifts to charities where their name is recognized.

On Wednesday morning we accompanied workers who took voluntary furloughs from their jobs and cuts in pay to work for the union canvassing the community to identify residents who have not voted in recent elections and to encourage them to register and vote for candidates that will support workers and fight for tax laws that benefit the working class, not corporations!

These dedicated canvassers have been working from 9 am to 7 pm six days a week!  They return to addresses where no one is at home during the day to try to personally speak with voters they are trying to reach.  We spent only about an hour and a half in the morning but we had a taste of what workers do every day, trying to find voters at home, encountering those who are angry and even those with fierce dogs who will not answer the door!

In Phoenix, we visited the Human Services Campus where we witnessed all the social agencies sharing a common area where people in need of assistance could obtain central access.  This vision has enabled agencies to concentrate on their own specialty instead of trying to stretch resources across multiple needs. The sign at one agency, St. Joseph the Worker, reads “No one can go back and make a brand new start.  Anyone can start from now and make a brand new beginning.”

Town halls each evening had their own flavor.  Each one was different!  Sister Simone and her staff have a well-demonstrated scenario that describes people of different income levels and the effects of the Trump tax cuts on each.  Each night, we drew names to see which part we would take. Most of us had the opportunity to represent a different income quartile and the benefits given to us by the tax cut, as well as the losses we can expect when social programs are cut. These cuts affect people at the bottom levels the most as we to try to finance our extraordinary financial debt, which will not be recouped in our lifetimes or beyond!  Audience members raised issues and concerns regarding the Republican tax plan.  When they were asked to generate solutions in every audience someone said, “we have to build community.”  We can’t talk to each other on a political level before we share with our neighbors.  We have become a society of isolated individuals who thrive on fear rather than hope.

At the end of every gathering, participants were invited to sign postcards and then sign the bus!  We passed out copies of NETWORK’s Connection magazines, stickers, and postcards.  We listened as people told us their very personal stories, including their faith journeys.  What I realized is that tax justice may be the message, but it is our presence and persistence that are so valued in these times when so many feel isolated and disenfranchised.

Finally, I need to say a few words about my traveling companions! We were ten Sisters: Simone and two NETWORK staff, Mary Ellen Lacy, Quincy Howard, and seven of us: Julie Fertsch, Reg McKillip, Bernadine Karge, Dusty Farnan,  Michele Morek, Chris Machado, and me. We were joined by NETWORK staff members and Abbey Watson, trip director.  Melissa Regan, videographer, has been filming Nuns on the Bus events since 2012 and has hopes of finishing her film soon!  We were a congenial group, sharing stories, singing songs (a few!) and keeping busy with e-mails and writing blogs!  Abbey kept us on track down to the minute for take –offs and arrivals. The staff kept us well-fed with meals and snacks!

As the Bus continues its journey, I send prayers for the safety of the occupants, for the audiences that hear the message, and I pray that many will find hope in the message and in the messengers.

View photos from the trip at www.networklobby.org/photos.

Reflection: YESS Site Visit in Des Moines, IA

Reflection: YESS Site Visit in Des Moines, IA

Sister Jan Cebula, OSF
October 17, 2018

“The kids need us. The community needs us,” said Julie Schneider, interim CEO of the Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS) in Des Moines, Iowa, at the Nuns on the Bus stop there Oct. 16. Julie captured in that one phrase what we all need to be about.

So aptly named, YESS is the largest crisis emergency shelter for children in the state of Iowa. As we toured the brightly painted facility decorated with inviting and energizing art, we learned that more than providing a safe place, as important as that is, healing is what they are about.

“How can we help them heal?” they ask.

Children can visit Chillville, a sensory room specially equipped for those with autism or hyperactivity or who just need a place to relax. Playville, the play therapy room, gives children a space to express themselves when words fail. So does art and music therapy. All steps in healing.

As we listened to the staff talk about their programs and challenges, we were inspired by their dedication and their commitment to an integrative, holistic approach, not only for the children in the shelter but for children throughout the community through their case management and mental health services. Healing individual children, healing a community. A whole-hearted YESS! for children.

And it happens through relationships. Not only child with parent or care worker with child, but also the community with the child or children.

YESS couldn’t happen without both government funding (read: our tax dollars) and the generosity of the Des Moines community of people.

 

 

There are 10 of us currently on the road, talking about tax justice:

  • Comboni Missionary Sr. Ilaria Buonriposi of Baltimore;
  • Social Service Sr. Simone Campbell of Washington, D.C.;
  • Joseph Sr. Mary Ellen Gondeck of Kalamazoo, Michigan;
  • Sister of the Third Order of St. Francis of the Holy Family Gwen Hennessey of Sioux City, Iowa;
  • Dominican Sr. Quincy Howard of Washington, D.C.;
  • Sister of the Precious Blood Mumbi Kigutha of Dayton, Ohio;
  • Daughter of Charity Mary Ellen Lacy of Washington, D.C.;
  • Francis Sr. Robbie Pentecost of Stanford, Kentucky;
  • Mercy Sr. Linda Werthman of Farmington Hills, Michigan; and
  • me, St. Francis Sr. Jan Cebula of Clinton, Iowa.

It becomes clearer every day that to make up for the loss of revenue from the tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, the plan is to slash programs that provide food, housing, quality education and medical support to struggling families. Even chipping away at them with work requirements, increased co-pays and frozen allocations has devastating effects.

So often, when we talk and think about these programs, we focus on the adults. During our visit to YESS, I know I realized I do.

What about the children? To our elected representatives, to the candidates running for office, we ask, “What about the children?” We all need to knock on doors, asking, “What about the children?”

Julie described how touched she has been by a young boy, perhaps about 2 years old, who was not speaking when he arrived. After just two weeks of loving care, he is starting to talk. One day, Julie came into the nursery, and he begged to be picked up and held. All kids want to be loved. All kids need a caring, loving, supportive home.

“Is this a turning point for this child?” she wondered. “Can we provide a turning point, a fork in the road for these children to put them on a different path?”

We’re at a fork in the road right now in this country. Are we going to choose a path toward healing for our communities, our nation? Do we realize that together, we can provide the turning point to put us on a different path?

Vote Nov. 6. Wake up Nov. 7 and continue to work for reasonable revenue for responsible programs.

Our kids need us. Our communities need us.

 

This post originally appeared on the Global Sisters Report website.

Reflection: Paying Our Union Dues, Then Heading South

Reflection: Paying Our Union Dues, Then Heading South

Sister Michele Morek, OSU
October 12, 2018

This post originally appeared on the Global Sisters Report website.

The Nuns on the Bus canvass Las Vegas neighborhoods with members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 on Oct. 10. (Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice / Colleen Ross)

 

Si, se puede! U-nion! U-nion! 2-2-6! 2-2-6! We vote, we win!

We got right into the spirit of the vigorous chants of the members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

After a long drive from California, we joined them Tuesday afternoon for a meeting with a large group in the union hall, listening to the issues they have with some of the casino owners. Most of the big casinos have come to an agreement with the workers on living wages and benefits, but there are still a few holdouts. The workers suspect it is not lack of funds that stands in the way — one owner just spent over $20 million on a daughter’s wedding. (One of the workers whispered into my ear that $2 million of it was for the cake!)

There are about 50,000 workers in the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which includes food service industry workers in the big casinos and hotels as well as people in housekeeping and other aspects of the industry. Of these, 54 percent are women and 55 percent are Latino. There are workers from 173 countries who speak 40 languages. That they can organize themselves at all under those circumstances is a minor miracle, and that they have managed to do it so effectively is a major miracle! They have some talented and dedicated leaders.

Members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 rally Oct. 10 in Las Vegas to hear us talk about the tour and about our support of their work before we all left for canvassing. (Provided photo)

I talked to one leader, Rashauna, who had taken a three-month “political leave” to work at turning out the vote for a candidate known to be more friendly to unions; she and many more had sacrificed their $20-per-hour earnings for $12 with the assurance of continued employment at the end of their leave thanks to the union. Their enthusiasm, love and respect and support of each other was inspiring to all of us.

It had been a long and exhausting day, so we were glad to see our rooms at the end of the second day: rooms at one of the less expensive casinos on the old Las Vegas Strip. There are no motherhouses or big convents in Las Vegas, and the casinos like to lure customers in with inexpensive rooms and food!

As tired as we were, there were some who ventured out to see the bright lights, and one sister even found a zip line to try. In spite of a few bleary eyes, we were at the union hall bright and early the next morning for our adventure in canvassing.

Sr. Michele Morek, OSU, left, and Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, show off their red shirts from the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 for canvassing Las Vegas neighborhoods (Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice / Colleen Ross)

We helped prepare packets and distributed ourselves among the groups going out to canvass the neighborhoods to push their candidates for the 2018 midterm elections and urge everyone to get out the vote. First, the leaders outfitted us with red shirts and hats and assigned us to teams. That was after a few more rousing choruses of “Si, se puede!” and “U-nion! 2-2-6!” and “We vote, we win!”

After we returned to the union hall and the workers signed the bus, we left Nevada, eating lunch on the bus, not for the first time. What gorgeous desert and mountain scenery! We enjoyed seeing Lake Mead and going across the Hoover Dam into Arizona; when we saw our first saguaro cactus and Joshua trees, we knew we were ready for our next adventure in Phoenix.

We are educating ourselves by site visits and talking with people; that’s part of the listening mission of Nuns on the Bus. But we are also determined to educate people about what the tax policy really means for real people and to encourage them to use tax policy as one of the most important norms of who should get their vote.

Each day, we begin with half an hour of prayer together: once in a motherhouse chapel, once in an unused convent chapel, once in a convent community room, and once in Sr. Simone Campbell’s hotel room at the casino. That and a cup of coffee gets us going.

One of the best tools of the bus is the town hall developed by Network staff as an educational illustration, an effective graphic description of the effects of tax inequity. Without giving away the plot, let me just describe it as a human bar graph that introduces the audience to a real character NETWORK has encountered in the process of listening to people all over the United States.

The exercise dramatically illustrates how much that person benefited (or not!) from past and current tax policies. If you figure in other events likely to result from the tax changes, the lower economic quartiles of people even go backward.

Of course, the talented Nuns on the Bus take the parts of the characters. Doing the actions the exercise called for made me feel in my bones and muscles the desperation and despair of people in the middle and lower quartiles. The take-home lesson is (and you have heard this before): The lower economic groups suffer while the upper ones benefit.

A new insight I gained from the exercise is an understanding of why the richer people often cannot even see the suffering of the less privileged. They just do not move in the same circles — they are so far away from the other’s reality. It may also explain why some feel isolated, lonely, angry, and threatened by any discussion of tax justice.

Members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 sign the bus after an Oct. 10 canvassing session in Las Vegas (Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice / Colleen Ross)

When we finish tonight, Thursday, we will have done this in three parishes or churches, each with its own personality and challenges. The discussion after the activity has been lively as the audiences discussed how the tax changes would likely affect their area or city or state and what they could be doing about it. Some great ideas have been suggested! The people have the answers. NETWORK then collects their input and uses it in later educational activities.

In legislative visits, we generally try to meet with a congressperson (usually one we know voted for the tax bill and does not agree with us!) to explain our position. We are meeting with them to hold them accountable for what their votes are doing to their constituents.

The first had to postpone the meeting with us but promised to meet with constituents on this topic later. We are heading for a meeting with office staff of U.S. Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona as I write this on the road to Tucson.

More later!

Travel Log: Tucson

Travel Log: Tucson

Sister Michele Morek, OSU
October 11, 2018

The Nuns on the Bus visited Tucson! Local advocates for justice were successful in securing a lobby visit in the district office of Representative Martha McSally (AZ-02), so four of our Nuns on the Bus joined two constituents, Christine Krikliwy of Vincent de Paul and Jeanette Arnquist, a local justice-seeker, at the visit, while Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Sister Mary Ellen Lacy, DC, Sister Dusty Farnan, OP, and Sister Chris Machado, SSS, attended from the bus. There was a large police presence at first: four cars, due to intense protests the week before.

The Sisters returning from the visit did not look too happy; indeed, one looked a little “steamy.” CJ Karamargin, Representative McSally’s District Director, was not very receptive to their input or ideas. He said the Representative thinks the economic benefits that will come with the bill will help businesses hire more people, who are hoping for more construction.  Thus far, Representative McSally has not looked at the Affordable Care Act or possible healthcare solutions, but she voted against provisions protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps.

Local people I met at the bus-side rally and the evening Town Hall told me that Representative McSally does not like to talk with local constituents, and usually refuses to see them.

Christine, one of Rep. McSally’s constituents, talked about the level of poverty among Arizona children (24%, higher than national average): Arizona is #45 of 50 overall in the level of poverty. Next, fellow constituent Jeanette talked about the local area’s interests and programs , such as AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System).

The crowd of about 75 was very receptive, consisting as it did of a large number of justice-seekers. The AFL-CIO was there with a big banner, and they brought us a cooler of drinks; in return, we left them with a box of Connection magazines and Nuns on the Bus signs, which they requested and said they would put to good use at their own events.

For our evening Town Hall for Justice at St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church, the crowd was large, noisy, enthusiastic, indignant about “the way things are,” and very welcoming! There was a friendly, comfortable spirit, with popcorn, drinks and snacks for the attendees.  Fr. Bill and the “Raging Grannies” warmed them up very effectively.  I believe it was our most enthusiastic Town Hall, and certainly the most fun.

The attendees loved the exercise we used to demonstrate the impacts of the Republican Tax Law and encouraged us to get the information out there in a form they could share, so attendees could convert their families and teach their children and co-workers.  Put it on YouTube , they said! There were some common themes that had arisen the previous night: win trust/make friends, and concern over voter suppression.

I met a woman who had dragged her Republican husband to the event, and she said he was absolutely converted by the end, saying, “I just didn’t REALIZE.”  People were offering generous donations to the Nuns on the Bus; we later learned that the sum we collected that night was the largest yet.  What fun!

Travel Log: Las Vegas Canvassing

Travel Log: Las Vegas Canvassing

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
October 10, 2018

We started our second day in Vegas after a late night of heavy drinking and gambling (I’m joking, of course).  We were warmly greeted by the Culinary Workers Union 226 at their headquarters, joining a large room crowded with culinary workers diligently prepping canvassing materials.  Their morning briefing before heading out was raucous and full of energy—a great primer for a quick rally with the nuns to follow.  Sister Bernadine Karge, OP and Sister Simone were joined by two female union members to address a crowd of 150 or so unionized workers.  They spoke powerfully about human dignity, the need to respect workers, especially women (54% of their union members are female) and the importance of communal action and unity to bring about change.  The idea of solidarity and shared responsibility is especially crucial for a union that consists of 50,000 members from 173 countries that speak 40 languages.

Since over half (55%) of Union 226 members are Latinx, Sister Chris Machado, SSS and I had the opportunity to canvass with two Spanish-speaking women from Mexico and Cuba.  Most of the union workers had taken a political leave of absence—one of the contract provisions won through years of hard-fought negotiations.  Maria and Martha were both proud to take a leave—along with a pay cut—in order to put in their share of hours canvassing.  They want to promote candidates who will, in-turn, support workers’ rights and strengthened collective bargaining.

During their familiar routine going door-to-door, they explained that the names and addresses were of residents who did not, or rarely, voted in past elections.  As non-partisan participants, for myself and my fellow Nuns on the Bus, our primary push was to stress the importance of voting on November the 6th—that their vote and who we elect makes a difference. Most knocks had no response, so we left the materials at the door and Maria and Martha would return to follow-up.  Each time Maria saw that a resident was a registered Republican she would make the Sign of the Cross before approaching the door—but she did it anyway.  Needless to say, they are sometimes turned away with harsh words, but these workers are a persevering bunch.  They are driven for the sake of their families and inspired by their fellow union members who they consider their sisters and brothers.

 

To view more photos of the canvassing event, visit our Flickr album.