Written by Daniel Hazard
Owners of the newly constructed Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, as well as an adjacent Marriott Hotel - site of the UCC's 2007 General Synod - are refusing to enter into a labor peace agreement that would allow the workers at both facilities to decide whether to unionize, according to UCC officials.
The General Synod, one of the first major conventions to be hosted by the new city facility, is finding itself drawn into the middle of a complicated, ever-protracted labor dispute. The UCC's Connecticut Conference also is scheduled to have its 2006 Annual Meeting at the convention center this fall.
In keeping with the church's longstanding support of workers' right to organize, Associate General Minister Edith A. Guffey said UCC leaders have sent letters to the owners and operators of the hotel and the convention center, urging them to enter into a labor peace agreement with their workers.
"The UCC has long been on the record with its support of the right of workers to organize if they choose without fear of retaliation or intimidation," said Guffey, who also serves as administrator of the General Synod. "This is a clear issue of justice, and the kind of issue that the UCC has long been committed to."
Church officials are hoping the dispute will be resolved soon; however, alternative venues in Hartford, and perhaps even beyond, are being considered.
"I don't know how all of this will play out, but I do hope it gets resolved," Guffey said.
On April 22, while in Hartford for joint board meetings of the UCC's four Covenanted Ministries, dozens of UCC members joined hundreds of local union members and advocates outside the convention center to advocate for a just resolution to the dispute.
UCC General Minister and President John H. Thomas pledged that the denomination will consider alternative locations for the next General Synod - which also marks the church's 50th anniversary celebration - if labor peace is not achieved.
"The UCC has stood with farm workers in California and with workers in Ohio and Michigan and other parts of the country," Thomas said. "Now it is time to stand with convention workers and hotel workers in Hartford."
"Jesus grew up in a working-class family," Thomas continued. "He knew what it was like to earn a living with his hands. And he knew what it was to understand the dignity and the respect of all people."
The Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, Connecticut Conference Minister, promised that unless workers are given the right to decide whether they want to form a union, the Connecticut Conference will hold its annual meeting elsewhere.