Letter from Reverend Joseph Lowery to the Emory Administration

This letter was read at the Emory Seven Respond the day after 7 students were arrested for protesting on the Quadrangle.

To the Emory Administration,

Students from Cairo, Madison, and now Emory University here in Atlanta are standing up for human rights for the working people of the world. They are standing up against the current attacks on the middle class way of life and for the inherent dignity of each worker.

While I cannot be here today in person, I am with you in spirit. I am proud of the courage you show to stand with the people that prepare and serve you food every day. With each new generation, the students continue the tradition we started in the Civil Rights Movement not to rest until there is justice for all.

President Wagner, I call upon you to uphold your moral responsibility not only for the students but for the entire community. Once again, in times of moral upheaval, it is students that point us toward the right course of action.

As a community leader, you have a responsibility to make sure the rights of workers at Emory are protected. We have a moral responsibility to make sure the rights and dignity of Emory workers are protected. Trans Africa forum and other organizations have cited violations of law, labor standards, and human rights agreements by Sodexo in Columbia, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, and the United States. In your response letter to the students, you say the workers have access to vote for a union through the NLRB. In light of the Trans Africa forum findings, how would Emory work to make sure Sodexo would not coerce nor intimidate the workers into voting no for the union?

We have seen too many cases of threats, intimidation, and action meant to create fear among the workers to take Sodexo at their word. The workers at Emory need to be able to exercise their right to form a union without fear of reprisals from their employer. Let us heed what the students are saying: Emory needs to take an active role in protecting the rights of workers.

As another class of students prepare to graduate, they look forward to having the prestige and credibility that an Emory diploma brings them for the rest of their life. We also need to make sure that it also carries the moral credibility that Emory’s mission and values aspire to the local and global community. As you know, Dr. Lowery, Dr. King, and others formed the Southern Christian Leadership and therefore, as Dr. King said before, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Well, today, the arc moves us toward justice once again. Please take the moral stand by taking action with the students and community to protect the Sodexo workers on your campus.

In Solidarity,
Reverend Joseph Lowery

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