Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Hyatt 100, Praying With Our Feet

I went to the picket line on Tuesday. It’s an activity I really enjoy, walking the picket line. It’s repetitious like drumming, round and round. I see the same faces over and over. Little bit by little bit, I start to see people as individuals, pick up a little of people’s personality. Since we’re chanting various things, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” we don’t have to make conversation, so we start to make silence acknowledgements of each other. I was wearing my collar, and the priest wearing his collar, Catholic I guessed by demeanor and carriage, gave me a big thumbs up, again and again as we passed each other. What was he making of me, I wondered. Was he wondering what I was making of him?

Molly Baskette, our lead pastor came along in a bit. She grabbed a plastic laundry detergent jug, empty of detergent, but full enough of rocks to be a great shaker. She joined the picket conga line. By that time I was helping out with the drumming. Molly walked around and around me and the other drummer and we grinned at each other. So fun.

There were other folks on the picket line, folks I didn’t know, but types of characters. There was the white elderly educated straight couple – earnest, respectful, not calling attention away from the workers, not calling attention to themselves, except for their vibrational intensity for justice. You just know they were from the people’s republic of Cambridge. There was the Local 26 president, Janice Loux, a working class woman in her union jacket, who when she spoke, you could see other campaigns for justice in her eyes. She is a practiced speaker and knows how to connect up different movements, how to persuade folks who have different circumstances that this fight is in a way everyone’s fight. Marjorie Decker, who will run for State Senate since Anthony Galluccio was taken away in handcuffs, she came. And she was the most clear as she spoke. She said that Hyatt forgot that the workers were real people, people with dreams of financial security. She said she knew that at first, when the workers were fired, the workers were embarrassed, thought that despite their hard work or sometimes mediocre work, they’d done something to deserve being fired. But Marjorie Decker said to the fired workers, “Thank you for standing. Thank you for fighting back. If Hyatt can fire workers here in this blue labor state, they can do it all over the country. “Marjorie said, “I know that it feels like you’re in trouble because you are,” and the workers nodded. “But thank you, thank you. I will fight for you.”

A rabbi flew to Hyatt headquarters in Chicago. She took a petition signed by 200 rabbis. A priest from the archdiocese called all over the country to ask folks to boycott. Some white guys from the carpenter’s union came over during their lunch break to walk around and round – big white working class guys walking for Latina women, Dominican and Trinidadian housekeepers.

When describing who might enter the kingdom of God, Jesus who inherited the moral imperative of caring for the immigrant, for the widow and the orphan explained that it was this practice that would allow entry in to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said when I was hungry, you fed me, when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink. You clothed me, visited me in jail. Folks asked when did we do this, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked? Jesus said, when you fed these, you fed me. OK.

Maybe the kingdom of heaven, the phrase is a metaphor for what yesterday seemed like to me. And that is this: even though those workers are in trouble and there is no retirement for them, and even though they have gone through their little savings accounts, a woman from Tobago, and Molly Baskette, and an old white couple from Cambridge, and Latino from Centro Presente, and Anthony Zuba, a fair drummer and great organizer, and a bunch of other people and I got to do the dance of justice together, seeing each other, imagining each other’s lives, remembering the times when folks came to rescue us, hoping that if ever we needed food, rescue, help pulling a building off of our beloved’s body, someone would come for us. God’s hands in this world are ours.

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