“Upholding the dignity of the laborer.” “Seeking justice for workers.” Pastors, priests and rabbis who lend their support to striking fast food and retail workers use such high-minded language to describe their behavior.
But do any of these faith leaders understand the most basic concepts of economics or business? It would seem that, at times, the answer is “no.” And there are several good reasons why the faith leaders’ stance on labor and work is severely misguided.
It ignores a major player in the labor market - The protests and demonstrations centered on the plight of employees who work for a minimum wage all seem to conveniently ignore another important party in the labor market – employers. Gathering people to “rage” against business owners is consistent with the teachings of Karl Marx, but is it constructive, and does it fit with the faith leaders’ professed beliefs?
Presumably many of the pastors, priests and rabbi’s who are rallying for “worker justice” also provide pastoral counseling services as part of their professional and ministerial duties. But would any good clergyman attempt to do marital counseling with only one spouse? Probably not. And while the employer-employee relationship is not a marriage, it is nonetheless a relationship – so why are religious leaders championing the needs and interests of one party while ignoring the needs and interests of the other?
If the faith leaders involved in this activity actually cared for everybody involved in the labor dispute – and cared enough to actually listen to the local small business owners in their communities – they might actually learn why it is that some jobs are regarded as “entry level” and therefore don’t pay very well. It is sad to see clergymen, purporting to uphold the “dignity of the worker,” nonetheless withhold that dignity from business owners and instead demonize them.
It ignores another important player in the labor market - With all the attention showered upon the restaurant and retail workers who walk off the job so they can go chant, walk a picket line, and talk to news reporters, an important fact gets lost in the milieu: an overwhelming majority of workers earning minimum wage at restaurants and big box stores are – thankfully – NOT walking off the job. On the contrary, most of them are diligently performing the tasks assigned to them in the job they agreed to accept, and are perhaps focusing their energies on advancing within their existing company or eventually finding a better job.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.