Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Working for a Daily Wage

In the bulletin for priests, we're told about a parish that gives over 10 percent of its income for welfare projects, and sets aside money in its budget to aid the poorer countries of the world. However, the treatment of the workers in its own parish is poor. Their hours are long, there are no benefits for overtime, and some of the workers are getting the lowest wages on the pay scale. And there are no procedures in place for recourse. We see this in a number of parishes.

Of the 33 countries of the Organization for Economic  Co-operation and Development, the writer mentions that Korea is the country with the  longest workweek.  To improve the quality of life of the workers and increase productivity, the Labor Ministry recently decided to decrease the number of hours. From July  of this year, those who are employing more than five workers will have to decrease the hours of the workweek from 44 hours to 40 hours, for an eight hour day and a five day workweek. At present, those who are making the minimum wage would be making under $1,000 a month.

The cleaning people in a number of our colleges have been striking for an increase in pay. They are receiving the minimum wage and asking for half of what the average ordinary laborer would be getting, but it was refused. 70 percent of the students signed a petition in favor of the laborers. Some of the colleges, along with the service providers, have asked that the workers  leave the labor union. If  they don't agree to the current minimum wage they will all be fired, despite the millions, the writer says, that colleges have in endowments. He mentions that this happened in the States a few years ago and the students all sided with the laborers, and the wages were increased.

The laborers in the court offices did go on strike for an increase in pay from the minimum wage they were receiving. It was ironic, the writer laments, that from the  stronghold  for human rights, there was a cry for help to live more humanly. 

It is shameful that this is happening  in our colleges and other institutions of learning and in our courthouses.  However, our Church should also be embarrassed about a similar situation in our parishes. The law will not affect the parishes, for those employed there are less than 5, but the workers' rights to a living wage should be respected, nonetheless. The one who started us on our journey of faith, we should not forget, was a laborer. And mindful of this, we should be even more sensitive to the needs of workers who are alienated from society. The Church has spoken clearly and forcefully with its many encyclicals and documents on what our relationships with workers should be. In reality, he concludes that we are in many cases not living up to this standard, and in some cases oppressing the workers.