Sunday, January 4, 2015

On The Eleventh Day Of Christmas--Intercede For Fair Wages For the World's Workers

Bangladesh garment workers, paid $68 a month
"You have made a fine pile in these last days, haven’t you? But look, here is the pay of the reaper you hired and whom you cheated, and it is shouting against you! And the cries of the other laborers you swindled are heard by the Lord of Hosts himself. Yes, you have had a magnificent time on this earth, and have indulged yourselves to the full."
James 5:3-5 (J.B. Phillips translation)

We hear lots of talk about income inequality in the U.S. these days. There's a widening gap here between rich and poor that's only getting worse.

Of course, even the minimum wage working class in this country has benefits most of the world's poor would envy, most of whom will never enjoy amenities like air conditioning, flat screen TV's, cell phones, and in some cases, subsidized housing, access to food stamps and other forms of public assistance. Thus poverty in this country often means something different from that experienced by most of the world's poor, a point I make in a 2011 blog "Two Levels of Poverty".

But a God of justice calls for some reasonable form of equity and equality everywhere. Surely the Creator never intended some of his children to a enjoy a surplus of wealth while others barely survive and millions around the world are malnourished to the point of starvation.

On the home front, a young adult friend of mine was told he no longer had a job at a Walmart in Richmond, not because he isn't an excellent employee, but because it is their policy to hire as many people as possible for only three months at a time so they do not have to provide health insurance. An older friend of mine, a department manager with a local Walmart for years, can barely make ends meet, and is seldom able to get any overtime pay because of their strict policies against it. Yet this corporation, said to be the most profitable in the world (and with the majority of its stock owned by members of the Walton family) threatened to not build another store in the D.C. area a year ago because the city was about to raise its minimum wage.

It may be OK for us well-to-do folks to disagree over how to best provide a needed safety net for the poor, but it's not acceptable to keep people in poverty because we're afraid we might have to pay a dime more for a hamburger if fast food workers got a fair raise.

And let's not whine about government benefits for those below the poverty line while overlooking all of the ways the wealthy, with the help of a well paid cadre of lawyers and lobbyists, manage to get their own forms of government welfare through tax loopholes large enough to drive their RV's through, along with generous federal subsidies for corporately owned farms and by having poorly paid workers subsidized with food stamps and other benefits so they can afford to work at barely subsistence wages.

The solution to poverty is not more charity, but more opportunity for the able-bodied to earn a living wage, here and everywhere. The Bible says so.
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