“I just want what is fair for everybody…”
If I’ve heard that line once, I’ve heard it hundreds of times on those occasions when I end up discussing business, economic, and public policy issues with members of the clergy. With the uptick in minimum wage worker strikes over the past few months (we saw another “round” of them at Wal-Mart stores this past week), I’ve had these conversations quite frequently.
What is striking to me is that the starting point for many of these Pastors, Priests and Rabbi’s is to say that they are standing up for “workers’ rights.” But often when I ask them the most basic questions about business and economic matters – “why do some jobs pay better than others?” “What wages and salaries are fair for business owners?” “How are jobs created?” – the answer I get is “I don’t know much about economics…I just want what is fair..”
Karl Marx would certainly appreciate this stance on labor relations – it presumes the absolute best about workers, and the absolute worst about business owners, no matter how virtuously or how poorly either party behaves. But Marxism aside, 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 faith leaders crying out 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 in the room? 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 not even considering 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 acting as though business owners themselves are something less than a “worker,” and thus seeking to demonize them.
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.