With nine affiliates and numerous partners, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) is a leading, California-based member of the progressive faith movement, advocating for social and economic justice, open-borders legislation, and the expansion of new labor. CLUE partners most closely with Kim Bobo’s Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and the Jim Wallis-cofounded Faith in Public Life (FPL) network. Established in 1996, CLUE-Los Angeles County (CLUE-LA) was one of the first interfaith organizations in the United States. That same year, CLUE gained momentum by promoting and facilitating the passage of a living-wage law which raised the hourly wages of, and provided additional benefits for, contracted workers throughout Los Angeles.
Rev. James Lawson was one of CLUE’s the most prominent early leaders. He co-founded the group and served as a longtime chairman on its board of directors.
CLUE leaders commonly portray the targts of their criticism as racists and as enemies of civil rights. One such target is Wal-Mart, against which CLUE has directed a negative-publicity campaign depicting the store chain as “one of the most infamous and well-documented anti-union companies.” According to James Lawson, the “Wal-Mart model of low costs, underwritten by low wages, has cast a shadow on Dr. King’s dreams of an American economy that provides stability and prosperity for all workers. Just as the Memphis sanitation workers were asked to work without dignity, so too are Wal-Mart’s.”
In 2005, CLUE-LA joined with the Interfaith Council on Economic and Social Justice, the East Bay Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, and the San Diego Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice to found CLUE-California, further solidifying its working relationship with the progressive labor movement. CLUE’s primary partner, the Interfaith Council on Economic and Social Justice, for instance, is a project of Working Partnerships, USA, whose board is composed of labor leaders from the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, and UNITE HERE!.
CLUE has become a particularly fierce advocate of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and its controversial provision to ban secret union ballots. Indeed, CLUE’s living-wage ideology runs parallel to progressive labor’s interests in EFCA. As Pastor Bridie Roberts, CLUE’s Program Director, argued:
“We really believe that the Employee Free Choice Act is the best legislative option right now for lifting the working poor out of poverty. When workers’ right to organize is protected, when they can form a union, they make 20 to 30 percent more an hour almost immediately, and they almost always have access to family health insurance.”
In 2006, CLUE worked alongside UNITE HERE!, a union federation that regularly uses “card check,” the most controversial provision of the EFCA, to boycott and protest a number of hotels, including Hilton LAX in Los Angeles. This campaign was ultimately successful in passing a living-wage law that covered all tourism-industry workers in luxury hotels in the LAX area.
In 2007, CLUE partnered with Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and the Faith in Public Life network to establish the New Sanctuary Movement (NSM), which aids illegal immigrants facing deportation. While IWJ’s Executive Director Kim Bobo heads NSM, CLUE helps to run the open-borders group out of its California offices, with Diana Mendoza directing the organizing efforts of both CLUE-CA and NSM.
“Sanctuary is an act of compassion, an expression of mercy. It is, however, not mercy at the expense of justice. Participants in the New Sanctuary Movement believe that our current immigration system is profoundly unjust—so unjust that we believe that we are facing one of those unique moments throughout history when divine law and human law are in conflict and God’s justice demands that we stand with those who break unjust laws even at the risk of sharing their punishment.”