By LRC’s Lead Organizer and Acting Director, Rev. Joe Paparone
We’re here today in grief and mourning. For our friends, family, and fellow workers who lost their life while on the job. But this year, perhaps more than other years, we know that countless lives have been lost, not necessarily on the job but almost certainly because of the working conditions they faced or their family members faced. The false choice placed on so many workers, to risk their lives and the lives of their family members with COVID, or stay home and fall into poverty.
We’re here today in grief and mourning but also in anger - because we know that many of the lives lost were not inevitable, but were directly the result of decisions made - decisions made by people in power to prioritize profits over healthcare and safety, to force so many into unnecessary risks, with deadly consequences.
The organizer, General Baker, taught us, about the famous union song solidarity forever - he said “when we raise our voices to sing solidarity forever, we’ve got to fight to give it meaning. You know the song says solidarity forever, it don’t say solidarity for eight hours, it don’t say solidarity until the midnight hour in case you’re working the second shift. That song says solidarity forever, and every time we raise it and fight for it, we’ve got to fight to give it meaning.”
We’re here in grief and mourning and anger and determination - and we’re here to give that song and that phrase meaning. Because if we mean it when we say Solidarity forever then our task carries forward that work of solidarity, that struggle of solidarity, back into the past, picking up the lives and legacies of those who died while on the job and those who struggled and died so that we could have better jobs - and our task is to bring that solidarity forward, in word and action, to continually organize and fight against the ongoing injustices - the injustices that we know, if left unopposed, will bring us together with a new list of names next year.
Solidarity forever means we fight to make sure these deaths were not in vain.
Let us pray. God of grace and justice we come together with our pain. We pray for families, friends, and neighbors who have lost their lives at work - that your grace and peace be with their loved ones. We pray for those whose lives were lost due to our unjust systems and the circumstances of their work. We carry all these names with us in our hearts and we pray for the strength to move forward together in struggle - to honor them, and all those who came before them, by fighting for justice for all.
In your many names, we pray, amen.