Monday, June 19, 2006

Payday Someday

I'll be speaking at the Raise Oklahoma Rally on the steps to the Oklahoma State Capitol this morning. Here's what I plan to say:

I'm here today because raising the minimum wage is a moral issue. Life is short. None of us has time or energy to waste. "It is appointed unto man once to die" and after that comes judgment. On judgment day we all must give an account for how we used our time and energy. Some of us must also give an account for how we have used and misused the time and energy of those that were entrusted to our supervision.

Refusing to fairly compensate workers for their time and energy is an egregious injustice. It is the moral equivalent of theft and murder. It's theft because it wastes time that is precious. Everyone's time and everyone's life is precious. It's murder because it depletes the vital energy necessary to sustain life. That's why the Bible says, "the workman is worthy of his hire." Paying less than a worthy wage robs people and kills them slowly.

Society's minimum standard for a worthy wage is the minimum wage. A standard that is now so low that people are forced to work more than two full-time jobs to eke out a subsistence existence. That says something about our society and it tells us something about our attitude toward working people. Every time a minimum wage worker draws a paycheck he or she gets another notice that, in the eyes of our society, his or her life is cheap -- very cheap -- and getting cheaper every year.

We're here today to deliver a message about the value of those lives in God's eyes, but I'm not sure that the people in this building can hear me. You can help me amplify it. Help me remind them that there will be a payday someday.

Governor Henry! You live in a mansion at taxpayer expense while the children of the working poor go begging for food and shelter. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!

Oklahoma State Senators! Year after year, you reduce assistance to the working poor. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!

Oklahoma State Representatives! You give yourself pay raises while the minimum wage remains the same. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!

Oklahoma Business Leaders! You have compounded your salaries and benefits by the hundredfold while freezing wages and reducing benefits for your minimum wage workers. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!

Oklahoma News Media! You've become a megaphone for the unconscionable rationalizations of a society that treats the lives of the working poor with contempt. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!

Oklahoma Religious Leaders! You are standing in line to siphon off faith-based funds that were formerly distributed directly to the working poor. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!

Mark my words. There will be a payday someday. God's standards of justice will not be mocked. What goes around, comes around. You reap what you sow. Sow to the wind and you'll reap the whirlwind.

Why must Oklahoma be an economic dustbowl for working people?

Sow some seeds of respect for the lives of working people. Let justice roll down like waters. Raise the minimum wage. Let the working people of Oklahoma enjoy some of the fruits of their own labor and productivity.

10 comments:

Jeff the Baptist said...

The minimum wage rhetoric doesn't work for me. While ultimately people should be able to earn a living wage for work deserving of a living wage, the moral imperative that a living wage should be the bedrock of salary scale seems weak to me.

The US workforce is a diverse one. There are major segments of the US workforce who don't require a living wage. Both the very young and very old do not require a salary that actually pays their expenses because their expenses are being paid by other means (like parents or pensions). So paying them a sub-living wage is fair because these groups are only working for spending money not for subsistence expenses.

If we require a living minimum wage, this is going to completely screw up these employment segments for no good reason. There are some jobs that should not be subsistence jobs and I've worked some of them (like seasonal retail).

And of course none of that even touches on questions like:

How is worth determined? By you? By the government? By the free market?

Morally and biblically shouldn't workers be using the wisdom God gave them to train themselves for subsistence level work? Especially when the people are footing their bill through public ed?

Why does the government get to exercise God's judgement on this matter? Isn't this usurping divine authority over the employers?

Howie Luvzus said...

You go girl!

Nice to see a Baptist stirred up about important things for a change.
Howie Luvzus

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Ahemmm, Howie, I'm a guy.

Jeff,

God didn't create our economy. Men did. Men can make it just or unjust.

Why is it that in America all the talk about sinfulness and human depravity seems to focus on the working class? The cost of living goes up for teenagers and retirees like it does for everyone else.

All those who are really serious about opposing the minimum wage, ought to demonstrate it by trying to live on the same salary they made nine years ago -- the last time the minimum wage was raised.

Congress has raised their own salaries eight times in that interval. If our legislators had to roll their incomes back nine years, I suspect they'd have a new appreciation for the financial hardship they've caused for minimum wage workers.

SpookyRach said...

Way to go!!!

Chuckle said...

Sorry, Jeff the baptist. But your rhetoric (it is certainly not theology nor free market economic principle) does not work for me, as either a Christian or American.
First, Jtb you make grossly general statements with no basis in anything other than opinion when you say, "the very young and very old do not require...[a living wage]." As Norm once said to Cliff on Cheers, "What color is the sky where you live?"
Second, Jtb says that a living minimum wage will "screw up these employment segments for no good reason." For no good reason? No good reason????? Most of the last several thousand years in what many would mistakenly describe as advanced civilization has been marked by huge, HUGE gaps between the powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor, and the hungry and the filled. So here comes a few men with the opportunity to write a brand new government for a brand spanking new country (so to speak) and even they fight strongly over how much power should the common person have. In other words, will the country be governed representatively or solely by the aristocrats (read rich-to-crats) and religious rulers. It was an argument that threatened the new country before it even started. And that battle still rages on.
But fortunately, we have a government that some of the time allows people to pull themselves up by their bootstap and do fairly well. And most of the time with a little help, often through government entitlement. In such a system, a "RESPONSIBLE free market enterprise economy," I believe that it is essential for those with, to share with those without. And with human nature what it is, that should be done through a government that provides the infrastructure to make that happen. This is not socialism, not communism. It is a democratically mandated, RESPONSIBLE free market enterprise economy. This I believe, is our civil (and Christian) duty, not to speak of the best way to keep our system stable without oppression of one population or another, leading to destabilization and possible anarchy.
Jtb questions that government does not have the right to exercise God's judgement on this matter. However, it scares the bejeebers out of me to think of who will. Christians you say? Perhaps baptists or fundamentalists you mean!! In reality, divine authority was rejected by mankind and made practically impotent as a operational governing force with our dismissal from Eden. And no theocratic system has EVER worked, whether on a large scale or small one. That is why we can anticipate heaven with joy . . . and relief.
So watch the rhetoric, Jeff. God does not want you to check your hat and common sense at the door when you sign up for your [republican] membership card.

TammyJo58 said...

The government wants to involve themselves in matters that are between God and the individual - abortion and marriage. Why shouldn't the government be involved in the fight for fair wages also? A lot of people want the government to police morality very selectively.

Jo Davis said...

Dear jeff the baptist,You seem to think that wages should be determined by the needs of the worker. If that were the case then all the rich kids who go to work for their wealthy friends and families should work for nothing.

You also imply that only some work is truly deserving of a living wage, yet you do not define the criteria that determines the what jobs should be included as deserving.

Yes, we have a diverse workforce and yes, some people only work for spending money. Now, lets talk about the real working class that works to live and how many of them are trying to exist on the current minimum wage. I don't know the exact figure, but I do know that it is more than half of the minimum wage workforce. I also maintain that if it was only 2 people it would still be morally wrong to deny people who work full time the dignity of a living wage.

You seem to think that changing the system would mess everything up for no good reason. Well, moral values and ethical treatment of all human beings is a good reason for doing anything in my book.

Marty said...

I'd like to add that paying a "living wage" rather than a "minimum wage" is not only a "moral" issue, it is a "life" issue as well. I should think those that consider themselves "pro-life" would have figured that out already.

Bob Ferguson said...

Bruce did you ever R. G. Lee credit for "payday someday" ... I thing he must have trademarked or copywritten that expression.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Bob,

I'm not sure what R.G. Lee would have said about the minimum wage, but I definitely learned the phrase "payday someday" from his famous sermon about Ahab and Jezebel.

I saw a film version of his sermon when I was a pre-teen and have never forgotten the title.