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Churches call for living wages in the state

Actions include banners, visits to Walmart, and showing ‘Inequality for All’

Fourteen Seattle churches in eight denominations, including All Pilgrims and Plymouth in the UCC, are flying a banner that says, “Living Wages for All!” over their entryways as an expression of their participation in the Living Wage campaign of the Church Council of Greater Seattle (CCGS).

All Pilgrims and others at Walmart

Two members of All Pilgrims represented its Mission/Outreach Committee in signing and attending this presentation of a letter to Walmart Lynnwood management requesting that an employee fired for striking for improved safety at the store by rehired. Photos courtesy of Steve Clagett

The year after Jenn Hagedorn served as a UCC justice intern, living upstairs at All Pilgrims, she taught a class on living wages at Plymouth UCC that drew three members of Pilgrim, including Steve Clagett.

Class participants read a book, The Politics of Jesus by Obery Hendricks, and heard speakers who were involved in organizing workers in the hotel trade, who were in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and were involved with Puget Sound SAGE. 

“Out of that, All Pilgrims and Plymouth decided to join the banner campaign, and send representatives to the Church Council of Greater Seattle Living Wage Working Group,” Steve said.

The CCGS banner campaign was started by Darel Grothaus, an Episcopalian formerly with Plymouth, and by Briana Frenchmore, a former UCC justice intern with the CCGS.

Other churches displaying the banner are Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopal, Catholic, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ and Unitarian.

On Black Friday, the busy pre-Christmas shopping day, All Pilgrims Christian Church - Disciples of Christ/UCC and Plymouth were among churches that went to Walmart stores around Seattle to unfurl banners expressing solidarity with workers as part of the OUR (Organization United for Respect at) Walmart campaign.

All Pilgrims sign

Church and community members unfurl banner to express their solidarity with the workers.

There were more than 60 Black Friday actions across Washington.

OUR Walmart connects Walmart workers with the community, including churches, to pressure Walmart to offer living wages and better working conditions.  The campaign followed an unsuccessful effort   of the United Food and Commercial Workers union to organize workers about 10 years ago.

Six members of All Pilgrims went to the South Everett Walmart.  Plymouth sent 31 members to a Lynnwood Walmart where they delivered letters to employees that church members had written following worship services.

All Pilgrims Church members unfurled a banner in front of the store that read, “Members of All Pilgrims Church love Walmart Workers.”  The manager turned them away politely.  Then they unfurled a banner on the public sidewalk that read, “The All Pilgrims and Everett communities say ‘Walmart, share the wealth!’”

All Pilgrims banner

Banner hangs over entry to All Pilgrims UCC/DOC Church.

They handed out 38 refrigerator magnets inside the store to employees and stickers to customers expressing solidarity with Walmart workers’ efforts to seek living wages and better working conditions.

Steve and another All Pilgrims member recently went with a group of 20 to another Lynnwood Walmart to support a worker who was fired when he went on a strike that coincided with other actions nationally.  They read a letter to the store manager signed by 15 organizations, including All Pilgrims’ Mission/Outreach Committee.

After coming to Seattle in 1977, Steve, who studied economics and urban studies at Dartmouth and earned a law degree at Wayne State University in Detroit,  focused his career on low-income housing development.  He started Common Ground in 1980 with the CCGS and the YMCA. It grew to develop 7,700 housing units with social service and church groups in Washington.

Now retired, Steve is struck by the extent to which the U.S. has lost a large portion of its middle class since 1980 and the efforts of those getting richer to maintain that trend.  He now devotes significant time to combating income inequality.


Steve owns two copies of the film, “Inequality for All,” and arranges for churches to show his copies and a third copy that Plymouth purchased for the PNC.

Steve cites “as outrageous, if true,” stories he has heard of large low-wage companies teaching their employees how to apply for subsidized housing and food stamps rather than paying them living wages.

The CCGS’s web page on living wages asks: “What would our community look like if all people could find a job and if those jobs paid enough money for individuals and families to be self sufficient?  What if all workers earned a living wage?”

The CCGS wants people to learn how their faith calls them to work for economic justice. Living wages are about access to basics, such as nutrition, shelter, health care, transportation, education and good working conditions, so people can live in dignity and “participate in the fullness of life God envisions for all people.”

The website,, offers bulletin inserts, fliers, and information on its “God and Money” curriculum, living wage forums, living wage principles and the banners.

Steve invites UCC members to a meeting, organized by Plymouth member Don Bell at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 21 at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park.  Participants at this gathering will explore ways to help PNC churches implement the Living Wage resolution adopted by the 2014 PNC Annual Meeting.


Copyright February-March 2015 © Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News


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