Interfaith Worker Justice has just launched its annual “Labor in the Pulpits/on the Bimah/in the Minbar” initiative, encouraging houses of worship around the country to dedicate Labor Day weekend (September 3-5) to worker justice awareness.
You can access the resources and materials by clicking here. I encourage you to share them with your Priest, Rabbi, Pastor or Imam, as the case may be. (I contributed a piece to the Jewish resources – click here to download the pdf.)
Thanks for always saying what needs to be said so eloquently.
Lately I have been thinking that there are at least two different categories of work relationships described in Jewish texts. One, the master-servant relationship, is the kind represented by texts like Deuteronomy 24:14. But there is another kind, the guild relationship, represented by texts like Tosefta Bava Metzia 11:24-26 which begins: The wool workers and the dyers are permitted to say “we will all be partners in any business that comes to the city.”
This same distinction between the master-servant relationship and the rights of guild members existed in British common law and other legal systems. There is a sense in which the struggles for the rights of all people to form unions and bargain collectively was a movement of people who had the status of servants to gain the status of guild members. While the opposition to this movement was an attempt, largely successful in the U.S. to give all workers, including those in positions that used to have guild rights, the legal status of servants. That is why in the U.S. most non-union workers are categorized as at-will employees and can be fired at the will of the employer. In Europe employers generally need a just cause to fire someone.
When asked to make decisions about unions, post-industrial revolution rabbis generally agreed with the labor movement and applied the guild texts to all workers instead of the servant texts. Rabbi Jill Jacobs has compiled a selection of important statements by pro-union rabbis and the texts that they used for their decisions:
Click to access Workers%20and%20Unions.pdf