JULY 31, 1958
NEW YORK—The wife of one of the strikers at the Kohler Company in Kohler, Wis., has written a letter to me protesting the purchase of that company's products by the government. She said:
"Since this strike has dragged on for four years, it has become a bitter cross for some of us to carry in view of the unfairness we often see on so many sides of us."
The strikers, she continued, cannot make friends with the people who have been brought in to take their jobs and whom they consider "scabs". And she feels that as long as the strike is not settled, the Army should not have bought Kohler plumbing fixtures. In her own words:
"The strike is no more than a struggle to see whether or not Mr. Kohler has to have a union in his plant, and we think it's no more than right that the government at least wait for the dispute to be settled before buying that ware."
This woman's objections seem difficult to answer, for I think that nearly all employers in the United States today find their plants run better when they recognize the right to have a union, if they desire it.
There are a few exceptions, such as the International Business Machines Corporation, which gives, if anything, more to its employes than any union asks for.
But workers by and large usually find a union advantageous to their interests, and gradually most employers are agreeing with enlightened union leadership. A strike that goes on for four years shows a real desire by the workers for unionization.
Eight miles southwest of Americus, Ga., on state Route 49, is the Koinonia Community, which many people may never have heard of. It was started in 1942 when Clarence Jordan and Martin England bought 400 acres of eroded Georgia farmland.
Since then the farm has grown to more than 1,000 acres, and more than 60 men, women and children, about three-fourths of them Southerners, have joined the original purchasers. They came together "in search of the intense fellowship and way of life which in the New Testament Greek is called Koinonia." They say further:
"We have come together seeking to express to the fullest in our daily lives the Kingdom of God as Jesus revealed it. We have come from many denominations, occupations and sections of the nation. Some of us are whites, some Negroes. Our education ranges from illiteracy to Ph.D. Our economic backgrounds are from middle class to poor. Some have been present from the beginning in 1942. Other have come quite recently."
Many communities similar to this one have been established in this country for common living, for common worship, without regard to race, creed or color. But the Koinonia Community has been singled out as an object of hatred by the Klu Klux Klan and other Southerners who believe there must be compulsory segregation in the South.
The community has been subjected to every kind of persecution and violence, even shooting at its members and destroying their property. The citizens of the community feel that they must stay there if they possibly can, to prove their belief in their convictions.
All of us who believe that there are no second-class citizens in the United States, and that we must learn to live together peacefully regardless of race, color or creed, have an obligation to give what help we can to those in the Koinonia Community.