In 2013, UUJEC began writing and working for a CS/AI on Escalating Inequality, with Dr. Dick Burkhart taking the lead. The process is similar to writing a grant proposal, writing about goals, documenting authorities and listing references.
Winning approval is like running a political campaign, with buttons and flyers to pass out and publicizing the value of studying inequality. The rules on winning approval meant that we needed a run-off vote. With the UU Service Committee (UUSC) working hard on fair compensation, Rev. Dr. Bill Schultz, the UUSC President, got up and endorsed our CS/AI. And we won!
As soon as we won, we began lobbying for an effective curriculum. At the same time, we authored our own curriculum to make sure that it was cutting-edge and penetrating—income inequality is very complex! Sources of inequality come from extreme taxation variables, with middle-income people paying two to three times as much of their income in taxes as wealthy people. With free-trade agreements, American workers compete with almost-free labor—pushing down unions and income. Everything has worked against workers and for the wealthy. Laws worked against thrift and caution and for unlimited speculation—and when the economic house of cards collapsed, it collapsed on everyone but the top 2–3% of earners.
Rather than just passing the CS/AI, we have chosen to be actively involved in helping UUs to use this curriculum. This was the purpose of our UUJEC conferences held in 2015 in Evanston, Illinois, and at UUA headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. Also, we will be presenting workshops in our own congregations. To help other congregations, we had workshops on how to use the CS/AI at the Mid-America Assembly, the Metro New York Assembly, and at General Assembly in Portland, Oregon. We expect to have another conference in southern CA this fall. If you would like help with a workshop or would like to host a conference, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Text of the CS/AI
Congregational Study/Action Issues (CS/AIs) are issues selected by Unitarian Universalist member congregations for four years of study, reflection, and action.
Upward mobility—the American Dream—has become a myth. Concentration of wealth and power has skyrocketed. Dr. King’s dream of justice and equality has fractured. Half of all Americans are impoverished or struggling, as the middle class shrinks and billionaires take the profits. Where’s our commitment to the Common Good?
Grounding in Unitarian Universalism
Our Unitarian Universalist (UU) tradition places its faith in people to create a more loving community for all, guided by “justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.” Challenging extreme inequality has now become a moral imperative, just as prior generations have led movements from abolition to civil rights and marriage equality.
Topics for Congregational Study
- What do the numbers show about the expansion of extreme wealth and increase in struggling households?
- What are the lessons to be learned from the history of movements for economic justice, here and abroad, dating back to the last Gilded Age?
- How are social classes formed and what practices will help us transcend class barriers in our congregations and communities?
- What do studies say about the indirect social outcomes of growing economic inequality? These include hidden effects on hierarchy, discrimination, segregation, minorities, physical and mental health, education, violence, punishment, political polarization, and public services.
- Study root causes of inequality, such as corporate globalization, “free trade,” outsourcing, privatization, tax shifting and evasion, subsidies and bailouts, monopoly, suppression of labor, money in politics, “externalizing” social and environmental costs, “free market”/libertarian ideologies, deregulation, unlimited income/wealth.
- Where to begin: Money out of politics, minimum/living wages, debt servitude/predatory lending. Justice and fairness in taxes and trade. Re-regulate Wall Street and empower workers. Grow opportunity through better healthcare, education, public services, cooperatives, media, democracy. Develop a deeper understanding of classism.
- Distinguishing among the moral, social, economic, political, and sustainability implications of inequality, imagine a new strategy for the Common Good—“caring and sharing” on a societal level.
Possible Congregational / District Actions
- Collect current and historical resources on inequality, written and online, from here and abroad.
- Enlighten yourselves via discussion/film/study groups on the effects, causes, and history of inequality.
- Develop a variety of spiritual experiences to inspire UUs to transcend barriers of class.
- Organize action agendas on select issues, networking with other congregations and allied secular and interfaith groups. Collaborate, as feasible, with UU organizations like state Legislative Networks, UUJEC, and UUSC.
- Join to develop a vision of the common good that animates a movement toward sustainable well-being for all, to reduce demands on the earth’s resources, and to nourish the soul by sharing life’s essentials.
Related Prior Social-Witness Statements
- Amend the Constitution: Corporations Are Not Persons and Money Is Not Speech (2013)
- Raise the Federal Minimum Wage to $10 in 2010 ( 2008)
- Single-Payer Health Care (2008)
- End Present-Day Slavery in the Fields (2008)
- Support Immigrant Justice (2006)
- Support for the Millennium Development Goal One: Ending Extreme Poverty (2005)
- Economic Globalization (2003)
- Economic Injustice, Poverty, and Racism: We Can Make a Difference (2000)
- Working for a Just Economic Community (1997)
- A Job, A Home, A Hope (1995)
This CS/AI was passed by the delegates of the UUA General Assembly 2014.