Work Justice

Part 2 of a Two-Part Essay

Because of the plight of the poorer workers in the US such as we saw last week, I am able to conclude that the current economic system simply does not work because it is based on inequity and antiquated notions such as the American work ethic, which teaches us that a desperate person should take any job at all. No one should ever be that desperate. Desperation keeps people very short-sighted and exclusively concerned with personal and family survival. This means no one has the time or vision to challenge the employers who have most of the power. No one has the time or vision to work for social improvement at all. We can learn more balanced living from Europe. If we do not, we likely shall descend further into feudalism and only turn it back through another revolution.

“America’s failure to cut its work hours is deeply interwoven with its failure to reduce its inequality.”

Solutions are available, but none of them provide an instant fix, especially when most people cling to old values. Moving toward greater work equity will take time and concerted effort, as much that is taken for granted needs to be changed.

Some suggestions for change are

  • A six-hour workday or thirty-hour workweek is a good solution; it allows people to concentrate on their work the whole time they’re there, and provides more personal time. Any reduction of work hours should allow more people to be employed and enjoy greater work-life balance. People should have sufficient down time to regenerate in whatever way they need, whether it is time with family and friends or time to meditate on the gift of a sunset or a flower. A job should not prevent us from enjoying these things daily. Shorter workdays would allow more opportunity for the cultivation of spiritual awareness and practice, and for the enhancement and beautification of everyday life. More humane schedules would promote improved health and well-being. If we are to be whole, we need the time to do it.
  • Although shorter hours would employ more people, universal basic income would still be necessary since no system is foolproof. Universal basic income is the truly humane and civilized solution to prevent severe poverty. Workers would no longer be forced to take any job and employers’ power would be restrained, preventing the current feudalism from expanding.
  • Many people today have turned to self-employment and obtain income by doing projects rather than having an employer. Others have their own businesses, although they are still subject to market constraints. This sidesteps employers altogether, and allows individuals to take some power to themselves, away from the large companies.
  • Similar to this is creating what used to be called a composite career, where a person combines any number of small jobs and independent work to earn an income. In this way, one is not dependent on a single employer for income, and if one job ends, the worker still is earning while looking for additional work. This method is as empowering as being self-employed.

Contemplation shows us that injustice in work or anywhere else is simply unacceptable. No one should be made to suffer for the sake of profit. Work justice would enable us to enjoy more personal time and more flexible work, and an enriched life that includes volunteering, civic engagement, and of course, contemplation and prayer. If we do not have time to spend with our dear ones, and to wonder at the beauty of nature, then what are we working for? We must also try to put our work in alignment with our values, and not support the values of big business that value profit over human welfare. I support any effort to humanize work, and to elevate everyday life for all.

 

Copyright © 2015 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.

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