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Working & the Economy

With Labor Day approaching, Moore worships with union members at Silver Spring mass

Gov. Wes Moore (D) greets parishioners at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring on Wednesday following a Labor Day mass. The Rev. Brian Jordan, who led the service, is at left. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

The working class neighborhoods near St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring are some of the most polyglot in the state. And the parish, just south of the Capital Beltway off of congested New Hampshire Avenue, serves as a hub of the community, with a school, a seminary, after-school programs, a food pantry and senior housing in addition to the church itself.

In 1995, as the neighborhood was struggling with gang violence, then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) used the church parking lot to unveil a gun control package that he planned to push through the General Assembly. A year later, Glendening traveled just a few blocks up the road to the campus of the AFL-CIO’s George Meany Labor Education Center — now gone — to announce the state was starting a labor education program with local community colleges.

In a similar spirit, Gov. Wes Moore (D) came to St. Camillus late Wednesday afternoon to attend the church’s annual Labor Day mass. The service attracted roughly 150 union members, most wearing T-shirts or golf shirts from their unions. Some, including at least three Montgomery County police officers, came in their work uniforms.

Moore, wearing a dark blue suit, did not speak during the hour-long service. But he sat in a front pew, sang along to all the hymns, and took a socially distanced communion when it was offered. Later, he spent about 15 minutes outside the church, greeting parishioners and posing for pictures.

For Moore, it was clearly an opportunity to express solidarity with organized labor at a time of year meant to celebrate the union movement, which has gained some high-profile victories in recent months. Moore picked up some key union endorsements during the 2022 Democratic primary campaign and was universally supported by labor in the general election.

“We believe in labor and we believe they continue to serve as the backbone of our communities,” Moore told reporters after the mass. He said he was also inspired to come by the work of one of the senior pastors at the church, the Rev. Brian Jordan, who has long been associated with the labor movement and other community projects at St. Camillus — named for the patron saint of nurses and other health care personnel.

“Father Brian, I’ve admired his work for a while and having an opportunity to come worship with him was important,” the governor said.

Jordan, a wise-cracking New Yorker who has been a priest for 41 years, led the mass with visiting Franciscan priests from El Salvador and the Republic of the Congo. But he was clearly the star of the show, offering a full-throated endorsement of the labor movement and spotlighting the dignity of work.

Jordan began by quoting from Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Jordan then spoke of the role of organized labor in U.S. history.

“God made the world in six days, rested on the seventh,” he said. “But in the United States, in the really competitive capitalist system, work is often seven days. No rest. No collective bargaining. No benefits. No child labor protections. The fact is, unions created weekends as we know them. And I believe Labor Day is a sacred day, just as Christmas, just as Easter is a sacred day. Because I believe labor is sacred.”

Jordan called out Kay Clark, mother of Tom Clark, an executive board member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26, for her devotion to the labor movement, and told the worshippers that his own mother had been fired for trying to organize the tellers at a bank where she worked in Lower Manhattan.

“Motherhood is akin to labor,” Jordan said. “Remember Mother Jones? She was a mother of the labor movement. A lot of people praised Mother Jones. And a lot of industrialists hated her.”

The Maryland Historical Trust and the Maryland State Highway Administration erected a historical marker in Mary Harris “Mother” Jones’ honor on Adelphi Road, near St. Camillus, because she was living on a farm nearby when she died in 1930.

After quoting Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, Jordan turned his attention to the governor. He said he met Moore earlier this year at a reception for Steamfitters UA Local 602.

“I heard the words of the governor and I was mesmerized,” Jordan said. “I don’t get easily mesmerized.”

The priest recalled that Moore talked about his own family’s history and their dependence on the labor movement to tentatively enter the middle class and gain a measure of dignity.

“It was in the top three of the pro-labor speeches I’ve heard in my 40 years,” Jordan said. “I’ll tell you later about the two others.”

He never did.

Speaking to reporters after the mass, Moore ticked off some of his administration’s early accomplishments for working Marylanders, including accelerating the full implementation of the $15 an hour minimum wage. Asked whether he would support legislation to offer collective bargaining rights to faculty members and other staffers at state colleges, universities and community colleges, Moore answered in the affirmative.

Moore also weighed in on negotiations between the state and the Baltimore Orioles on a long-term lease that would keep the first-place ball club in the city. Asked to comment on recent remarks from Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), who represents the Camden Yards area, that the state ought to pursue a lease deal with the team before committing to major improvements in the stadium district, Moore replied, “We need to get all of it done.

“My lens on how I view this — and I’ve been very consistent on it — is I want to make sure that we have Orioles baseball in Baltimore for generations to come,” he said. “I want to make sure that we’re being smart and real stewards of taxpayer dollars. And I want to make sure that this is not just going to produce winners on the field, but that it produces winners off the field.”

Asked whether he had a major policy agenda to announce at St. Camillus, as his predecessor Glendening had decades ago, Moore did not answer directly, but promised an aggressive agenda for his second legislative session in 2024 that would focus on empowering forgotten communities.

“You are going to see that we came out with bold initiatives in our first year — we’re going to do that in our second year as well,” he said. “The neighborhoods that have been chronically neglected and neighborhoods that have been chronically challenged, these are neighborhoods that are going to come to the forefront.”


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With Labor Day approaching, Moore worships with union members at Silver Spring mass