Home EVENTS UAW President Shawn Fain Uses Christianity To Rally Workers As Auto Strike Expands

UAW President Shawn Fain Uses Christianity To Rally Workers As Auto Strike Expands

UAW President Shawn Fain Uses Christianity To Rally Workers As Auto Strike Expands


Keeping the Faith

It’s unclear what denomination Fain is – both he or the union won’t say – but he does make it a habit to travel with a Bible given to his grandmother for Christmas in 1933 when she lived in an orphanage.

“Like my grandfather’s pay stub that I carry with me every day, I’m proud to have inherited my grandma’s Bible and her faith,” Fain said during a recent video address to members, holding up the tattered black book.

Fain “has a style, a personality, an approach that is different from what has been used in the past,” said Arthur Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Fain, a UAW negotiator in 2009 during the Chrysler bankruptcy, is a 29-year member of the union, according to the union’s website, and hails “from a family of UAW members, Shawn got his start with the union in 1994 as an electrician for Chrysler at Kokomo Casting Plant in his hometown of Kokomo, Indiana. Two of his grandparents were UAW GM retirees and one grandfather started at Chrysler in 1937, the year the workers joined the union.”

While unions are largely secular and politically progressive organizations, Fain’s use of religious language to galvanize his union has, according to the New Republic, “ignited conversations about the intersection of faith and labor activism in America.”

He told UAW members how his daily Christian devotional reading on “fear and faith” resonated with the union’s mission. In doing so, Fain quoted Matthew 17:20-21 in a broadcast message: “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move — and nothing will be impossible for you.”

UAW’s membership is made up largely of Catholics and Protestants, groups that have a history of labor activism in this country.

“I’m looking at that scripture — have faith and move that mountain,” Jeff Ringer, an expert on religious rhetoric at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, told Axios. “From an American protestant, evangelical perspective, you hear that invoked all the time in evangelical circles.”

While evangelical Christianity has become identified with right-wing politics, especially since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Fain’s use of faith could broaden the UAW’s blue-collar constituency who has increasingly voted Republican in the last few presidential cycles.

But Fain is no fan of the former real estate mogul-turned-president, saying “people like Donald Trump” shouldn’t hold political office.


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