Dear friends in Christ,
“Seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its shalom, you will find your shalom.” Jeremiah 29:7
These words from Jeremiah were read at my installation as Trinity’s pastor and have always been very meaningful to me. I thought of them today as I gathered with other members of Trinity and many of our neighbors in front of the Saigon Grill restaurant. We were there to support worker’s rights, because worker’s rights are human rights and my relaxing dinner at a restaurant should not be the source of someone else’s abuse. I had the honor of speaking and would like to share what I said with those who could not be present.
“Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Unsafe, unjust working conditions led to the tragic deaths of 146 garment workers, most of the young immigrants. The fire that broke out on March 25th in 1911, had been smoldering for a long time. Strikers tried to put it out. Workers tried to stamp it out, but they did not have enough support and they were not successful. It took the fire itself to lead to a strengthening of unions that fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers. We are here today because the best working conditions for sweatshop workers are no sweatshops at all. We are here today because now there’s a fire smoldering on the Upper West Side. Let me repeat that: we are here today, 100 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, because there’s a fire smoldering here. Many people don’t see the fire. Many people don’t smell the fire-- unfair wages paid out of public view, unfair working hours, unsafe working conditions. There’s a fire smoldering on the Upper West Side-- worker discrimination and intimidation, violations of labor laws. There’s a fire smouldering on the Upper West Side. Thanks to the efforts of many here today, it’s been stamped out at Flor de Mayo and Arties Deli. It’s been stamped out at Café con Leche and Estihana. It’s been stamped out at Kim’s Vegetables and Intermezzo…at least for now…. but the embers are still hot. They might catch fire again as has happened right here at the Saigon Grill. And some places are ready to go up in smoke. because there’s a smoke screen. There’s a smoke screen covering up the injustice. There’s a smoke screen of greed. There’s a smoke screen of prejudice. There’s a smoke screen of apathy. There’s a smoke screen covering up the fire smoldering in our community. We are here today to sound the alarm. Lives are at stake. Justice is at stake. Shalom is at stake. Our community is at stake. There’s a fire smoldering on the Upper West Side and WE ARE HERE TO SOUND THE ALARM!”
I wish you all the shalom that comes from God alone and binds us to one another.
In the love of Christ,