Day 05 Devotional & Discussion – February 23, 2015

Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14

The Apostle Paul applies the Law that gives oxen the right to eat grain to the rights of human workers to fair compensation for their labor. Have you ever felt “muzzled” in your workplace?  If so, what did you experience and how did you feel?  Thousands of employees experience “wage theft” which occurs when employers pay less than minimum wage; refuse overtime pay; force workers to work off the clock; hold back final paychecks; misclassify employees as independent contractors; steal tips; and fail to pay workers at all.  What do you think Paul might say about wage theft?  Low wages?  Two local and national organizations are working to fight wage theft.  For more information, go to Interfaith Worker Justice and Arise Chicago.

Be sure to take a few minutes to watch the short clip about low wages and wage theft, “Made in LA”.

7 comments

  1. Yesterday, we heard Nancy Salgado share her story of struggling to make ends meet for her family while working for McDonalds at minimum wage. The company had a policy that employees could eat anything from the menu for their meal breaks. But that all changed when the company was forced to raise wages when Illinois increased the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour. After that, employees were told they could only select food items from the $1 value menu for their meals—mostly items that were low in protein and high in calories. The reason given for the policy change? The company couldn’t afford it. Yet McDonalds was making billions of dollars in profit.

    In 1913, Henry Ford shocked the economic world by raising employee wages at the Ford Motor Company to $5 a day–double the prevailing wage in the auto-making industry–and he shortened the work day in his factories to 8 hours (versus the 9.5 hours in other companies). It was shocking because there seemed to be no logical reason since there was no labor shortage. There was much speculation about why he would do such a thing. The Wall Street Journal demeaningly suggested that Ford might be applying “Biblical or spiritual principles in a field where they do not belong.” (That’s a fascinating statement about faith in a capitalist economy.) Whatever his reason, the pay increase eliminated employee turnover and absenteeism. And it created a new middle class that spurred the consumer economy. Henry Ford wasn’t the world’s best boss by any stretch of the imagination. But he understood that muzzling workers wasn’t good for his business. With a stable workforce he was still able to turn a tidy profit on every car produced.

  2. I have worked low pay and no benefits and good pay with benefits. Neither was an accident. The situation that has always governed has been the strength of the organized workforce. Concessions require a determined and well organized number willing to fight for the reforms. Historically every concession wrung from the capitalist has been bought with blood. Ford , of course, was not above employing thugs and strike breakers when he thought it necessary. Today it is so important that people hold a new vision very different from the “New Deal” or any previous pertaining social contracts. Our times are governed by the absolute elimination of human labor. Understanding the motion and direction of this “content of the time” will inform our direction strategy and tactics. Kimball is at the forefront. Exciting and heady situation to be in.

    1. As to your pronouncement “Our times are governed by the absolute elimination of human labor”, I appreciate the video that shows how robotics are replacing humans at Amazon. Twenty years ago, Amazon would have hired 600,000 workers to do the job that 60,000 workers do today. I could count the number of humans in the video on one hand! What happened to all the people who would have filled the other 540,000 jobs? Probably chronically unemployed. There is a prevailing sense that this is the future of the workplace and that we cannot stop the train now that it’s out of the station. If it cannot be stopped, we have to have a long discussion about what the social contract will look like.

      Here’s the video: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=800660460012853

    1. Can you share more about Robert Owen? Milton Hershey is often lifted as an example of caring for the needs of workers. I’m sure he wasn’t perfect, but from what I’ve researched, not one employee of Hershey’s Chocolate was laid off during the depression. He continued to pay them all to do building projects throughout Hershey, PA, at great cost to himself. Unfortunately, the current Hershey Corporation does not share the founder’s faith or his social ethic.

  3. I don’t think I ever experienced wage theft personally. To your question about the Apostle Paul, I suspect he would loathe wage stealing. His interaction with Onesimus in regard to Philemon reveals his heart. As I’m reading more about fair wages, there seems to be not only an ethical side, but also a pragmatic one. It is right that workers would receive all their wages, and a fair wage at that. It is right because, as today’s passages indicate, it flows from the heart of God. But it also makes good financial sense. Companies like Costco are saying that paying high wages has led to wonderful benefits to their companies.

  4. Regarding Andy’s comment about the “absolute elimination of human labor”: it is true that machines are increasingly replacing human labor, however if they completely replaced human labor there would be no source of profit for the capitalist. This is perhaps a longer discussion, but I don’t believe machines will completely replace human labor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s