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Justice for All?

Issues in this session

Poverty, wealth inequality, worker productivity, globalization, outsourced jobs, workforce redevelopment, gentrification,

The Message

There is a growing gap between rich and poor in this country which is becoming a divisive force in our society that threatens democracy itself. Changes in government policies and corporate practices could reduce these inequalities. Globalization is here to stay and has implications for local communities. Corporations moving out of communities in the U.S. leave devastation in their wake without adequate planning and workforce redevelopment.

The Process

This session incorporates our second role play exercise.

The session opens with an illustration of the increasing gap in wealth in our country and moves into a presentation of the role play scenario. The main business in Center City, Acme Textiles, is going to move off shore to Haiti. What impact will that move have on the community? How far reaching will it be?

Five townspeople will discuss the implications using headlines from three different pages of the local newspaper. Brad Cantrell is the CEO of Acme and is not happy to leave but knows the company needs to move to prosper. Marta Fernandez is a seamstress for Acme who will lose her job. John Daley is a retiree from Acme and has really mixed feelings like most of the participants. Louise Sherman is a buyer who does a lot of business with Acme and has close ties to Center City although she does not live there. Susan Rogers is an attorney for the second largest business in town, Talo Plastics.

Participants soon find that these characters are not caricatures. Feelings are as mixed as are the outcomes for almost all participants. Participants find that their lives are interconnected by more than just geography. The discussions include economic, employment and housing impacts, personal relationships, responsibilities to family, church and community. The discussions can be as far ranging as participants want to make them and as time allows.

The Just Neighbors toolkit contains four sets of the five character cards so the role play can involve twenty participants. Additional “Justice for All” cards can be ordered if the group is larger than 20.

“This session was particularly helpful for those in our groups who were unemployed as a result of factory closings. They learned that losing a job was not a personal failure on their part but the result of an economic system in transition. Globalization helped some and hurt others. Participating in Just Neighbors might not have given them their jobs back, but they understood more about why they were unemployed.

Sarah Sommers,
Cleveland, OH