JUSTICE IN THE WORK PLACE
By Jim Jordal
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming on you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten….Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of those who reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Armies. You have lived delicately on the earth, and taken your pleasure…. James 5:1-5a WEB
Justice in the work place takes back seat to the mad international corporate dash for increased efficiency, return on investment, and profits, no matter how they can be had. Who cares about wage slavery, unpaid overtime, bad working conditions, oppression of minorities including women and children, unemployment, family collapse and all the other outcomes of a world gone mad over money. It’s the mammon of Bible times reincarnated.
One hears much these days about minimum wages and their impact on businesses and families. Some cities recently raised the wage for full-time workers to $15 per hour, and speak of going even higher. But we don’t hear much about what God says concerning labor and wages.
God says “a laborer is worthy of his hire.” In modern society this could mean a wage sufficient for an adult full-time worker to support a family, have a little for pleasure, and to even save a small amount. During our early years as a nation such wages were generally determined by small employers who worked and lived with their employee in a local community, thus giving them a good understanding of what workers needed and employers expected. But this ethic of fairness seems mostly lost in today’s market-driven economic system that openly admits that morality has no place in their decision-making process, including the way wages are determined.
A just wage is a moral issue because it follows universal principles of justice and right conduct by matching human need with availability of income. There was once a time when this process actually existed in America before the major impact of the Industrial Revolution after the Civil War.
But today wages are determined, not by moral principles of human decency and need, but by the morally-obtuse market for labor in a virtual race-for-the-bottom. Decency no longer counts—just employ all the factors of production, including labor, as cheaply as possible.
Recently Eighth District Congressman Rick Nolan posted on the internet his views concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that just gained “fast-track” approval from Congress. This means that when it comes before Congress for final passage it will proceed toward an up or down vote with no discussion, amendments, or hindering procedures.
According to Nolan, this new trade agreement between 12 Pacific-rim nations is a “job-killing debacle certain to inflict terrible economic damage on middle class Americans.” Nolan goes on to say that “In every case, the TPP would force Americans to compete against foreign operations that provide little or none of the wages, benefits, health, safety, environmental and human rights protections that have helped us build the strongest middle class in history. In order to complete we would have to give up much of the progress we have made in becoming a great nation, and that’s not an option….We will leave no stone unturned to send it to the scrap heap of history’s worst ideas.”
And that’s not even the worst of it: Hidden away in the so-far mostly uncontested recesses of the bill is the provision that for example, if a corporation in one of the signing nations finds its profits threatened by some environmental consideration in another country, the “damaged” company can sue before an insider court for damages that, in the case of a small, poor country, could lead to loss of sovereignty and even independence. In other words, corporations can become more powerful than nations.
How’s that for justice in the work place?