ITHACA – Today St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church will celebrate Labor Day through worship services highlighting the Living Wage Campaign in Tompkins County. The services are part of “Labor in the Pulpits,” an annual event honoring the relationship between faith and labor. At St. Paul’s, Laurie Konwinski of the Finger Lakes Labor-Religion Coalition will speak about the living wage campaign during the service, while Pete Meyers, Coordinator of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, will do the same at First Baptist.

Since 2003, the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (formerly the Tompkins County Living Wage Coalition) has been advocating living wages for all workers in Tompkins County. The local living wage – defined as the wage necessary to support a single person working full time – is calculated every two years by the Alternatives Federal Credit Union. In 2013, they set the wage at $12.62 per hour with healthcare and $13.94 without. The Workers’ Center has certified 85 local employers who meet this standard.

“These living wage employers are truly leaders in our community,” said Meyers. “Their commitment to paying a living wage benefits not only the 2,905 people they employ, but also our whole local economy, which is strengthened when workers can afford housing, healthcare, childcare, and the other goods and services they need.”

The Labor-Religion Coalition of the Finger Lakes – an organization of people of faith, union members and community leaders – is a longtime supporter of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center and the Living Wage Campaign.

“Our faith compels us to advocate for and with those on the margins of our community,” said Konwinski. “Ensuring that workers make enough to provide for their basic needs is a fundamental part of protecting the rights and dignity of our neighbors. That’s why we’re continuing to work toward the day when all workers in Tompkins County earn a living wage.”

Rev. Rich Rose, pastor of First Baptist, said Labor in the Pulpits helps to remind both people of faith and labor and community groups of their shared values. “Our Christian faith calls us to build a community that meets the needs of all people. We share that goal with people of many faiths -and of no faith. When religious and community groups come together to advocate for justice and serve those who are struggling, Ithaca and Tompkins County are stronger,” Rev. Rose said.

For St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, participating in “Labor in the Pulpits” is an opportunity to raise awareness about a significant justice issue in Ithaca, said Rev. John McNeill.

“Part of our mission as a congregation is to serve God by serving people in our community, both by meeting immediate needs and advocating for just policies. Labor Day is an ideal time to learn about the needs of workers and to reflect on how our faith calls us to respond,” said Rev. McNeill.

Cities across the country will participate in the 2014 Labor in the Pulpits program, initiated nationally by Interfaith Worker Justice. Services will lift up the belief in justice for all workers and will educate congregants about the work of local labor activists, new or ongoing struggles for worker justice, and initiatives designed to secure dignity and respect for all workers. This local event is being coordinated by Labor-Religion Coalition of the Finger Lakes, the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, and New York State Labor-Religion Coalition.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.