CLUE is a powerful movement of people of faith in Southern California working to create an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.
As Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, we educate, organize, and mobilize faith leaders and community members to accompany workers in their struggle for good jobs, dignity, and justice.
Solidarity is Sacred:
CLUE works as a coalition of diverse congregations with a progressive agenda around workers’ rights and issues of economic justice. Clergy and lay people involved in this work occupy a very specific place within the larger social justice landscape, and they bring the following unique gifts to the struggle:
Places of worship are social centers for large and diverse communities. In privileged areas, they provide a space for families to come together in worship. In poor neighborhoods, religious congregations are among few functioning institutions.
Call to Humanity:
Faith communities call people of all races, occupations, and identities together to consider their place in the world and their responsibilities to each other, including seeking justice for each other. All walks of life, all nations, and all colors cross in pews and pulpits. And when we speak to the outside world, we are rooted in the conviction that faith demands justice always and everywhere.
Inspiration and Support:
Workers seeking justice face intimidation, unfair treatment, retaliation and harassment, which rob them of energy. Clergy and lay leaders are expert counselors, chaplains, and allies of people facing oppression. And faith communities have resources to directly help those facing hardship.
Employers discourage solidarity between community and workers through messaging that portrays the struggle as a private competition between economic interests. We know better. Workers aren’t just workers – they are friends, neighbors, spouses, children, parents, parishioners. When we speak out for them, we are helping our own and ourselves.
“Jesus of Nazareth said, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’ The church cannot be the church unless we get into the marketplace and insist that work is dignity, and that every employee, every worker deserves those benefits that enables them to indeed attain an abundant life that is full of the spiritual riches as well as the riches of bread.”– Rev. James M. Lawson Jr.
Facing formidable opposition from local politicians and business leaders to a living-wage law in Los Angeles, progressive faith leaders and allies worked to convince a decisive majority of City Council members to support the measure and commit to overriding a threatened veto from then-Mayor Richard Riordan.
“We pray for the poor, the unemployed, the oppressed. But pushing for implementation of the Living Wage Ordinance is a way to do something.”– Rev. Dick Gillett
The law passed in March 1997, assuring a livable wage for thousands and making it very clear that the progressive agenda had room—no, it needed—religious voices. A conversation began among clergy, social justice advocates and union members with a view to creating a faith-based nonprofit to organize the faith community to speak out for workers’ justice claims.
Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, a Lutheran pastor, became CLUE’s first full-time director. She developed a theory of social change, rooted in faith and scripture, that combines the moral authority and witness of faith traditions with real-world political advocacy for workers. The vision: creating a just and sacred society.
Those early CLUE clergy and lay leaders blocked streets, met with politicians, and opened space for negotiation among employers and workers, figuring in some of the most important social justice struggles in Southern California in recent decades.
We were a major force in the New Sanctuary movement that involved churches opening space for persecuted immigrants, helped with unionizing efforts in Santa Monica and Anaheim hotels and resorts, and advocated for important local and state laws that protect workers and immigrants, including a $15 per hour local minimum wage in Los Angeles and a state law that separates the function of local police and federal immigration agents.
CLUE also founded its Black Jewish Justice Alliance: a faith-rooted group fighting for economic opportunity and racial justice. CLUE has helped rebuild the historic social justice partnership between African-American and Jewish leaders, working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California (SCLC-SC), Dignity and Power Now, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, and the Youth Justice Coalition. While there are plenty of differences, those should not dictate coalition partnerships.
Over the course of many years, CLUE built relationships through the BJJA, so more than 50 rabbinical signatures could be secured on a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors demanding a Civilian Oversight Commission for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The Civilian Oversight Commission was stablished in 2016. The coalition convinced Inspector General Max Huntsman to support subpoena power and to demand transparency for the commission, though that remains a goal. In November 2016, BJJA member Rabbi Heather Miller was appointed to that commission.
Since then, the BJJA has convened around issues of ending gun violence, checking law enforcement and over-policing of communities, and ending the mass jailing of people of color.
In recent years, CLUE and the BJJA have ramped up efforts to Check the Sheriff, demanding the resignation of Sheriff Villanueva and encouraging the LA County Board of Supervisors to demand accountability through a charter amendment that would allow them to dismiss an elected Sheriff for misconduct.
When COVID19 first arrived in Southern California, we activated our networks of clergy and lay leaders to provide services and necessities to those who were hit hardest by the pandemic.
While our world remains forever changed by the Coronavirus, CLUE is steadfast in its dedication to fight for low-wage workers, immigrant workers, and workers of color.