Though our proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI) of Ending Slavery was not chosen, I wanted to sare with you what I read, with many words provided by Lucas Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Elena Stein of Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida.

Congregational Study/Action Issues (CSAIs) are issues selected by Unitarian Universalist member congregations for four years of study, reflection and action. In the third year of this process, delegates at General Assembly (GA) can vote to approve a Statement of Conscience (SOC) resulting from congregational feedback on the CSAI. A fourth year is devoted to implementation.  This year’s chosen CSAI centers around reproductive justice, an issue near and dear to UUCFM hearts!  To stay abreast of how UUCFM can study this issue, check the UUA website.

Here’s what I shared on Friday during Plenary:

This year will mark the 150 years since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Yet today, fields across
the United States remain mired in a human rights crisis that enables slavery to flourish still.
To some, my home state of Florida is “ground zero for modern-day slavery.” This is my backyard. I am the minister of one of our congregations in Fort Myers, Florida, and the most recent indictment of slavery occurred at my county’s courthouse in 2009. The employers were charged with beating workers who were unwilling to work or who attempted to leave their employ picking tomatoes, holding their workers in debt, and chaining and locking workers inside u-haul trucks as punishment.  Please know, there are more cases pending in my state right now.  What is happening in yours? 

The good news?  Change is already underway, and UUs are a part of it.The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)
— an internationally-recognized farmworker organization — has reached groundbreaking agreements with ten of the
world’s largest food retailers, including McDonald’s, , Subway, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods. My congregation, as well as many other UU congregations, have been allies in the struggle.  Hailed by the New York
Times as “possibly the most successful labor action in the U.S. in twenty years,” the Fair Food Program establishes a code of coduct to protect farmworkers’ rights, creating a culture that has zero-tolerance for slavery. CIW member Lucas Benitez, states, “There is a new day dawning in the fields of Florida.”

Should this Study Action Issue be chosen, not only will we UUs have opportunities to learn about modern-day slavery, we will also grow in partnership with organizations like the CIW who are already engaging deeply in abolition work.”