Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Importance of Protecting Labor



Blessed Are The Workers:

The Importance of Protecting Labor



A Pastoral Letter

by

Bishop James Alan Wilkowski


Evangelical Catholic Bishop
for the
Diocese of the Northwest


Introduction


In the beginning God Created...

In those first introductory words of Genesis, we learn that the creation of life came about through an unconditional act of loving labor. Genesis also teaches us that the weight of the labor involved was so tremendous that even God had to rest at the end of shift.
The fruits of God's act of labor has been the focus of joy, celebration and praise by peoples of faith. The oral traditions and sacred books of faith have never ceased to remind each and every generation of its obligations of stewardship for the welfare and enrichment of the fruits of God's labors.
Once upon a time in the ongoing story of the human experience, the act of labor was something commonly held in high esteem and reinforced with praise and gratitude. All forms of human labor were once considered as bonding acts which collectively served as the driving engine empowering the growth, happiness and welfare of a community. Working men and women were considered being an
equal partner in the welfare of the community.
Since the earliest days of the human experience there has also existed some form of economic system. Before the invention of the coin, there was the bartering system.



The Bartering System was simply an equal exchange of goods and services between parties. While no doubt that sometimes one of the parties might have gotten a slightly better bargain in the trade - exploitation was rather kept in check and societies flourished.

Since the period of post Civil War Reconstruction in the United States, the dignity, economic rights and social welfare of American Labor has suffered from generations of unchecked corporate greed and exploitation, political profiling, psychological rape and economic genocide.

Corporate Greed and
Exploitation

We do not know the exact moment in time in which the Merchant Class began to look upon the craftsmen and artisans with greed. Any student of economics knows that the fervent prayers of any merchant is for opportunities to buy goods cheap and to in turn sell for as much of a profit as possible. While nobody wishes to deny merchants their opportunities to earn a profit and to care for themselves and their families, their is a fine line between ethical and moral business practices and greed.
Greed is an addictive illness with grave moral consequences.

He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?
(Ecclesiastes 5:10)
As their addictions to greed consumed their ethics and morality, the merchant class and later corporations lost their abilities to see the humanity of the working class. Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. (Proverbs 27:20) Working men and women were looked upon as dairy cows to be milked and milked until they were dried out and then discarded.
Since Reconstruction, American Labor is suffered greatly from abusive corporate greed, racism, gender and ethnic bias - all of which have become part of the historical record of the United States.

Political Profiling

Maintaining our focus on the historical political record of the United States, the political interest of the hourly working person has been the one of the hallmarks of the Democratic Party and the political interest of corporate business is the fiefdoms of the Republican Party. In matters political and legislative, these two parties have represented their respect constituents with energy and dedication.

The needs and interest of hourly working people have traditionally been better served when the democratic party has an effective base elected to the local, state and federal government. It is when hourly working men and women fail to have enough of a representative base in governments, that they become vulnerable to political profiling.
For the purpose of this Pastoral, I am defining political profiling as:

the use of specific characteristics, as members of a social class or distinction, to make generalizations about a person, as whether he or she may be engaged in legal activities or actions to protect their political and economic welfare.

Those who represent the political agenda of the corporate business coterie have historically pursued an agenda punctuated with the mantra that hourly workers are over compensated in salary and in benefits. When we watch companies suffer from financial corporate mismanagement and teeter on the brink of economic collapse, we see them turn to their hourly workers and beg for "concessions" to bail them out of their self-created mess.
We have also seen in the past decade a recurrence in the campaign for "union-busting." Union busting is a practice that is undertaken by an employer or their agents to prevent employees from joining a labor union or to disempower, subvert, or destroy unions that already exist.
We have some individual states which have enacted laws crippling organized labor from offering their services to hourly working men and women. We have witnessed some states bringing foreign owned companies into their states to operate with a hourly work force unprotected by Unions. The ultimate goal of "union busting" would provide a blank check to corporation to strip hourly workers of their rights.


Psychological Rape and
Economic Genocide

All who labor desire to take pride in all that they accomplish. Regardless if one mops a floor or building a skyscraper - when any worker can look at what they have accomplished with pride and gratification they become self-empowered to continue to work well and to complete their tasks at the very highest of standards.
When unprotected hourly workers are subjected to verbal harassment, indifference or denied the opportunity for advancement - these are the characteristics of psychological rape within the work place. Sadly, the titans of corporate American are blind to the fact that workers who are subjected to repression and all other forms of psychological rape are less able to perform their jobs at the highest possible levels.
Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee. (Deuteronomy 24:14-15)


For those corporations saddled with the illness of greed, it is not surprising to find their agendas, policies and practices causing economic genocide for the hourly working class in America. People are now working longer hours for less and many have been forced to take on second low sub-paying jobs to keep their homes, put food on their tables and clothes on their backs. All one has to do is to compare the salaries of management vs. the hourly workers to see where greed exists.
Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (Matthew 23:2-4)
We also see how the corporate practice of "outsourcing of American jobs" has contributed to the economic genocide for the hourly working class in America.


The illness of greed has manifested itself within corporations to completely bypass the American workforce to outsource American job to countries where labor costs are not better than pocket change. These acts of economic genocide against working class Americans will destroy families and have a wide ranging devastating effect on local communities.

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The Pastoral Call to Action


Unions modeling the example

of

Jesus the Good Shepherd




This Pastoral is to generate support for those who have been blessed with the vocation to help, support and protect all hourly working men and women - namely all Labor Unions and Professional Guilds. This Pastoral is being offered at a time in which all hourly working men and women are besieged with unprecedented threats to their welfare.
Hourly working men and woman, once considered being equal partners in the growth and welfare of the community, are again being used as the scapegoats for the plight of America's current episode of economic recession and they need to be protected by their adversaries. This is the vocational role of Labor Unions and Guilds.
As the scope and role of Labor Unions and Guilds evolved and developed in the United States since World War II to today, their primary orthodoxy remains the same on three historical issues:
1. fare and just compensation for one's work.

2. job security and protection from subjective and arbitrary managerial actions.

3. the role of worker's offering suggestions or ideas to improve and/or enhance the quality of job goals.
These three issues do not, in our opinion, represent any acts of greed on the part of labor. Rather it is testament to Labor's commitment and stewardship of their collective works.
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Since we have returned to a period in time in which the pendulum has returned to a period of anti-Unionism, the necessity for Labor Unions and Guild to protect hourly working men and women are paramount, for Unions are Guilds must lift the burdens of fear and corporate intimidation from their minds.
I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favor in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness. And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knows to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. (Numbers 11 13:17)

For once again, the hourly working men and women has become vulnerable as lambs to corporate and political predators.


Every working person must be afforded the opportunity to become members of Labor Unions or Professional Guilds.
Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other mutual aid or protection. {National Labor Relations Act 1935}
To deny or to impede this right of workers is morally wrong and must be unconditionally challenged at all levels.
The historical record shows that that most employers take full advantage of the opportunity to tread on workers’ rights to a “free choice” before a union representation vote. They do this by aggressively intimidating, harassing, and coercing workers in an effort to undermine union support.

In a study published by the American Rights at Work Committee, among employers faced with organizing campaigns:

  • 30% of employers fire pro-union workers.
  • 49% of employers threaten to close a
    worksite when workers try to form a union, but only 2% actually do.

  • 51% of employers coerce workers into
    opposing unions with bribery or favoritism.

  • 82% of employers hire high-priced
    union-busting consultants to fight union organizing drives.

  • 91% of employers force employees to attend
    one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors.
This study also confirms that union membership in the United States is not declining because workers no longer want, need, or attempt to form unions. Instead, the falling membership rate is related to employers’ systematic use of legal and illegal tactics to stymie union organizing.
  • Aided by a weak labor law system that fails to protect workers’ rights, employers manipulate the government-supervised union recognition process in a way that allows them to abuse their power and significantly influence the outcome of union representation elections.
  • In 91% of the union recognition petitions filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in the survey, a majority of workers indicated they wanted a union before the process began. In several cases, workers demonstrated more than 80% support.

  • However, unions were victorious in only 31% of the campaigns in which they filed a petition.



Given this period of sophisticated corporate and political predation being waged against hourly working men and women, it is essential for all Labor Unions and Professional Guilds to renew and reclaim their vocational orthodoxy to become the protective Shepherd of the Lambs of Labor.

We of this age and time have forgotten the many examples of gains earned by Labor Unions on behalf of the hourly workers. According to many historian, the most recent period of labor growth and advancement peaked and came to an abrupt stall in 1981 when Ronald Regan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Union. Since that defining moment, many labor unions and their members began to see the gains they had earned fade away and many hourly workers had their faith and confidence in their Unions severely diminished.



One of the reasons attributed to the gains labor unions and guilds were able to provide for their members prior to the 1980s was found in the unbreakable fidelity and confidence that members had with their unions and guilds. For when those times came in which unions and guilds had to call upon their members to man the picket lines - union members were on the streets in full force and with pride and determination in their cause. Corporate predators could seldom prevail when faced with a work force prepared to stand up for their rights.
We have chosen the model and example of Jesus the Good Shepherd for two simply reasons. The first is the model of unconditional commitment to the flock and the second is the willingness of Jesus to lay down his life for his flock.

Jesus the good shepherd is referenced in the book of John, chapter 10. In His own words, Jesus tells us in verse 11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And in verses 14-15: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep, and they know me just as my Father knows me and I know my Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Jesus is the good shepherd to His believers just as the shepherds were of their livestock. A shepherd tended his flock day and night. He would gather the sheep into a sheepfold at night for their protection. The sheepfold was a pen, a cave, or an area backed by stone walls. Since there were no doors, the shepherd would often sleep or sit in the opening, ready to guard his sheep from harm. Given this moment in time, it is incumbent for all labor unions and guilds to be "ready to guard their sheep from all harm." - day and night. This role of leadership will also require those in position of labor leadership to be ready to take any and all steps necessary in protecting their members from any and all form of predation.
The single most important qualification for protective shepherds is unconditional and single-minded fidelity to the flock in their care. A distracted shepherd risks the welfare of their flock. Unions and Guilds that permit themselves to become distracted from either external or internal influences cannot effectively shepherd those in their care through difficult times.

One of the most severest forms of distraction that can undermine a union or guild is the perception that a union or guild is in "the pocket" of corporate management. Unions and guilds must avoid any perception of a conflict of interest or diminished independence.
Hourly workers once again have powerful forces working against them and they do not need any of their predators working against them in the guise of a unionist.
This Pastoral calls for a renaissance within the Labor movement - a renaissance that refuses to surrender the rights and needs of hourly workers through unjust "givebacks" and re-negotiations which refuses to permit the hourly workers to be made the scapegoats for corporate corruption and greed.
This Pastoral calls also for a renewal of commitment in the relationship between Unions and Guilds and their members. This Pastoral calls upon those who hold positions of leadership within Unions and Guilds to strive to make labor a just and equal partner in the all workplaces.

And finally, this Pastoral calls upon all corporations and businesses to respect the rights and dignity of the hourly worker, for it is their labor that fuels the success of all corporations and businesses are dependent upon. The exploitation of any worker for any reason is immoral and unjust.


Let us Pray,

Loving Father, creator of
all that is just and good,

we give you thanks for Your loving act of creation.


Your labor of love is the model which we strive to follow

as stewards and caretakers of Your creation.



We place in your care the needs of all who labor.

We ask You to protect them from all forms of exploitation.

We ask You to convert the hearts of all those who engage in labor exploitation.

We ask You to send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts to renew our commitment to justice.

and

We ask You to guide, strengthen and give wisdom to those whom

You have called to serve and protect the needs of all who labor.


for

Blessed are those who labor

for their works maintains Your gift of creation.



Respectfully Yours in Christ,



Evangelical Catholic Bishop for
the Diocese of the Northwest

Chicago, Illinois
and
Member of SEIU Local #73

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January 1st, 2009

The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

Dedicated to all who labor.

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1 comment:

Chicago Shadows said...

Nice post Jim. Let's pray for less greed for 2009! I think what's going on in the US and the rest of the world is God's way of sending us a wake up call. God Bless!