From what I hear, there’s a lot of commotion going on in Chicago related to jobs and justice. I don’t live there anymore, but waves of excitement and hope are flowing toward me at my new home in Wisconsin.
You may have heard about the Chicago Teacher’s Union strike. It’s a pretty big deal.
But, I was thinking of another group of hard-working people who are worthy of media attention and support. What about those who fuel the teachers (and a lot of people) by getting them started in the mornings, and then keeping them fueled throughout the day? Ha! Yes, what about our beloved coffee shop workers, baristas, and coffee roasters? I am an addict of the brew too so I know that I truly love my suppliers. I want all the people behind my daily coffee fix to have some basic peace and dignity in their lives. That’s why I am a fan of the work that Peet’s Workers Group is doing to help all workers earn a living wage.
Yes, even people who work in coffee shops are trying to make a living off of what they earn. And yes, they are deserving of a fair, living-wage just like teachers and everyone else. A living wage means that working full-time hours should provide enough income for any employee to be able to live a safe, comfortable life where all her basic needs are met. Economic poverty is not something anyone should be forced into because of an unjust system. All people have dignity- value and worth- because they are made in God’s image and likeness. I’d love it if everyone’s paycheck reflected that!
It’s very, very difficult to try to survive on minimum wage. I did it before and I was hungry. A lot. I was at the mercy of others for food. A lot of people have trouble paying their rent bills and are narrowly avoiding homelessness. It’s no wonder. Simple math shows us it’s pretty much impossible to do it. This is ridiculous.
Political discussion and debate seems to be centered around the need for more jobs in our nation, as if it is the best solution. There’s a few problems with this proposal, such as: the economy should be serving people; the people are not supposed to work to create an economy or keep it going. In other words, we need an economic system that honors the dignity and rights or all people, whether they have jobs or not.
Yes, jobs are important. Work has a certain dignity- value and worth- in itself. And, oftentimes, people can experience their dignity and worth through the experience of contributing and producing. When we participate we feel like we belong. And we all really do belong! That’s what it means to be community and Church.
OK, sure, let’s create more jobs and offer more opportunities for the unemployed. But, please, let’s also discuss the problems with underemployment (situations where people are working jobs that they are over-qualified for) plus make sure that every job provides a living wage income, no matter the job.
It’s really not impossible for companies to do this, actually it’s completely natural. God created us in a way that makes it easy to care for others and do what’s right, like share our wealth and blessings. I guess we just have developed some bad selfish, greedy habits and attitudes of entitlement.
Some corporations and companies are right on track. At Ben and Jerry’s ice cream all employees, top-to-bottom, earn enough money to live. On the other hand, a barista at Peet’s Coffee and Tea starts at only $8.50 an hour ($17,680 a year) while the CEO is earning over a million dollars in a year. I’m pretty sure that this is not the way God designed it!
Justice, fairness, sharing and honoring all people and work are the ways of Jesus and the Gospel. It’s the natural, human way. Everyone and every job has a part in the great human story and therefore needs to be honored and respected. Let’s unite, sip our tea and rally and rejoice. Let the truth and power resound: all of us need to work for a living. So, may all our work truly let us live!
Amen, jobs with justice! Yes, indeed!