Unified We Are a Force: How Faith and Labor Can Overcome America's Inequalities
By Joerg Rieger, Rosemarie Henkel-Rieger
A "Best Books of 2016" selection by Ponderings On a Faith Journey!
The American dream of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is no longer possible, if it ever was. Most of us live paycheck-to-paycheck, and inequality has become one of the greatest problems facing our country. Working people and people of faith have the power to change this—but only when we get unified! The American dream of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is no longer possible, if it ever was. Most of us live paycheck-to-paycheck, and inequality has become one of the greatest problems facing our country. Working people and people of faith have the power to change this—but only when we get unified!
In this practical and theological handbook for justice, renowned theologian Joerg Rieger and his wife, community and labor activist Rosemarie Henkel-Rieger, help the working majority (the 99% of us) understand what is happening and how we can make a difference. Discover how our faith is deeply connected with our work. Find out how to organize people and build power and what our different faith traditions can contribute. Learn from case studies where these principles have been used successfully—and how we can use them. Develop “deep solidarity” as a way to forge unity while employing our differences for the common good.
“This book is an invitation for us to listen, with God, to the cries of those who labor.” —Shane Claiborne, Author and Activist
“We are all trade unionists now. We are all civil rights activists now. … Unified We Are a Force is the handbook for all of us who work and are people of faith or goodwill, who believe in a moral universe, to join hands and march together.” —Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Author of Forward Together
"If you are looking to invest in the Hong Kong stock market, the book Unified We Are a Force won't help. But if you are looking for a way to repair the damage done to so many nations by the obsolete capital versus labor debate, then Joerg Rieger and Rosemarie Henkel-Rieger offer the best reconstruction of work that I've read. And you don't have to wait until Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Nicolas Maduro, or XI Jinping read it, get converted and start legislating it. It is a bottom-up 'how to' book founded on biblical principles, therefore perfect for a Bible study, one that will enable you to start making concrete changes immediately. It opens by affirming the value of work consonant with all that makes for the good life. You will have to read it for the specifics, but even if you are just reorganizing your worldview from the ashes of a post-World War II perspective to a global perspective, it is a must read." ―John Kenyon, Institute for Global Church Studies
"Dr. Rieger and Ms. Rieger’s call to reclaim the value of work is good news for the poor. As this book makes clear, it is also critically important for all of us and for the health of our society and our world. If you want to understand how to take this truth seriously and integrate the value of work and of workers into our personal and common life, this book offers a comprehensive set of prescriptions and proscriptions. Read it!"― Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, co-author, Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World
"Fifty years ago Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said America needed an economic Stimulus Plan with a bottom-up approach, not a banker-down approach. Together, we must form a grand alliance. Together, we must merge all people of goodwill. We believe labor rights and civil rights are one and the same, and you can't have one without the other. This approach must unite the issues of race and class, workers rights and voting rights. We are all trade unionists now. We are all civil rights activists now. As it says in Isaiah 10, 'Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights.' We can win against extremism if we get unified! Unified We Are a Force is the handbook for all of us who work and are people of faith or goodwill, who believe in a moral universe, to join hands and march together." ―Rev. Dr. William J Barber II, leader of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina and author of Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation
"I have learned a lot from Joerg Rieger. He is on the cutting edge of how to mix good theology with activism. I was impressed that he shared such similar perspective with social movements organizing in the grassroots -- except Joerg Rieger gives it a new language and perspective as a great theologian. I might call him the movement theologian. I am excited to see him work with his partner to produce writing for movement and activism. I think the labor movement, and the fight for $15 minimum wage could learn so much from this perspective. Sometimes we need to see our movements in dialogue with theologians to have new language and new eyes." ― Paul Engler, Co-founder, Center for the Working Poor; Author, This Is An Uprising
"Whether in faith communities or worker centers, this book is necessary! Joerg and Rosemarie articulate the relationship between labor and faith at the heart of all human living. Simply, working people are the vast majority of the 99%, not the 1%. Calling upon ancient notions of justice, faith communities and labor organizations have much to offer in our similarities and differences working indeep solidarity to positively change the growing inequality gap in the U.S." ― The Reverend Joan M. Martin, Ph.D., Episcopal Divinity School, and Author of More Than Chains and Toil: The Work Ethic of Enslaved Christian Black Women
"This is a most timely work on the unequal relationship between employers and the employed; the owners of capital and the working classes and the poor. In a world where policy decisions, corporate conduct and business practices increasingly reduce the bargaining power and quality of life of working people, the pertinence of what is termed 'deep solidarity' – advocacy, activism and generosity – between all workers and people of conscience against a system that enriches a miniscule elite cannot be overstated. Unified We Are a Force provides an excellent exposition on the inequality inherent in the current economic environment particularly in respect of labour. The authors furnish an extremely persuasive argument on how religion is --and not invariably -- complicit in economic injustice. Joerg Rieger and Rosemary Henkel-Rieger elegantly highlight the urgent need to reclaim the prophetic strands of our religious traditions to enrich the struggle for economic justice – and the process us becoming more human. By examining how power, privilege, injustice and unequal treatment against labour operate at the intersections of race, gender, ethnicity and citizenship, among other things, the authors sketch out an image of God as the companion of the powerless and not the protector of powerful elites. ― Farid Esack, President of the International Qur`anic Studies Association, and Department of Religion Studies chair at the University of Johannesburg
"Unified We Are a Force is a striking challenge to build an alternative future. Constructed from a powerful reflection on twenty years of social struggles, Joerg and Rosemary Rieger offer an unparalleled critique to the naturalization of inequality in general and understandings of labor and wealth production in particular. They urge religious communities to go beyond simplistic ideologies or parochial positionalities to create networks of true deep solidarities. This groundbreaking book is a must read for anyone interested in constructive theologies, inter-religious conversations, sociology of grassroots movements, labor studies, and globalization, religion and politics." ―Santiago Slabodsky, Hofstra University