At the opening gathering during my first year at Yale Divinity School, the new students met in the beautiful chapel, with its tall ceilings and clear congregational-style windows. Someone smartly bearded told us how lucky we were to be there. Meanwhile, in the old refectory with its paintings of various dignitaries on the walls, the university’s unionized workers were gearing up for yet another contract fight.
The students had to prepare for the impact of a workers’ strike. There were grumblings about the dirt in the bathrooms. “Did you hear,” a common complaint began, “that because of the union regulations, it takes three weeks to have an order processed to change a light bulb?” Some argued that the unions protected incompetent workers and thereby led to inefficiencies in the system. Those people didn’t seem bothered by inefficiencies created by the university’s tenure system.
Lillian Daniel is senior pastor at First Congregational Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a board member for Interfaith Worker Justice, and author of When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough (Jericho Books).