Labor Pains

It’s Labor Day in these United States. I plan to enjoy the collective day off to rest, relax, maybe barbecue or mow the grass. We laborers need a break, but I’m not sure what we have to celebrate.

Jobs are being eliminated, mine included. Some companies have cut pay or laid off workers and left the jobs vacant to save money. Workers who have found new employment don’t always have something to sing about.

A relative started a job riding the back of a sanitation truck in Russell County, Alabama. This guy has been out of work nearly two years, so he’s grateful for the work, but it sounds more like legal slavery to me.

His day starts at 6:30 a.m. on the back of a smelly, jerky garbage truck and ends whenever the route is finished. He gets no bathroom breaks, no lunch stops, no air-conditioned rides in the cab. The ice-water that’s supposed to keep the workers hydrated in the record Dixie heat, is lukewarm after only a few hours.

He’s hanging from the back of a truck 8 or more hours, lifting one rancid, maggot-infested garbage can after another. If the route’s not finished by 3:30 p.m., the crew is clocked out anyway. Some of them have been on the back of a garbage truck for 15 years… and still make the minimum wage – a whopping $7.25 an hour!

Small wonder workers staged a “sick out” this summer, complaining of faulty truck brakes, low wages and no AC in stroke-inducing temperatures. It’s also no surprise some lost their jobs for daring to speak up. It’s like Memphis 1968 all over again!

Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis to support black sanitation workers who were on strike for job safety, better wages and benefits, and union recognition. King was assassinated in that city while planning a march on their behalf.

Seems our respect for the American laborer is equally dead. The well-fed dump their garbage for the poor to carry away with little regard for their humanity. The office bureaucrat eliminates jobs with no concern for people’s futures or the sacrificial contributions they may have made to the company’s long-term success.

As the child of a union organizer, this maddens me. As a Christian, what troubles me most is our blatant disregard for biblical admonitions not to cheat or mistreat workers.

No matter what happens on Wall Street or how many jobs are created next quarter, the U.S. economy cannot truly prosper while we muzzle the ox that treads the corn and pervert the justice due to the working poor. Scripture is clear:  The laborer is worthy of his wages.

One thought on “Labor Pains

  1. What an awful job. No bathroom breaks? They clock them out even if they are still on the job? That sounds oppressive! Sorry that your relative had to take that job – and that we allow such undignified labor. Thanks for sharing.


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