Posts tagged with: labor

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, November 19, 2012

Timothy Dalrymple wonders whether education reform should be one of the great objectives for American Christians in the twenty-first century. Taking up that cause will require overcoming the intransigence of the teachers’ unions:

Try firing an ineffective teacher.  Roughly 1 in 50 doctors lose their medical license.  Only 1 in 2500 teachers ever lose their teaching credentials.  Process that for a moment.  It’s much easier to become a teacher than a doctor, yet teachers are fifty times less likely than doctors to be removed from the profession.  One of the statistics cited in Waiting for Superman, an extraordinary documentary on the crisis of American public education, is that only 61 out of Illinois’ 876 school districts have attempted to fire even one teacher, and only 38 of those districts were successful.  The tenure system — designed to give the most accomplished university professors the freedom to advance new ideas in their teaching and writing without fear of reprisal from their employers, and gained only after many years and rigorous examination — has become an iron shield protecting ineffective teachers who earned their tenure after two years.  Good teachers are a national treasure.  Bad teachers who refuse to change their ways are leeches on the system who cannot be removed and who miseducate our children into truancy and joblessness.

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Blog author: rnothstine
posted by on Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fr. Z’s Blog has a great post highlighting the Benedictine Monks at Norcia and their new brew.

Here is the motto from the Birra Nursia site. Wonderful stuff, really:

In complete harmony with the centuries old tradition, the monks of Norcia have sought to share with the world a product which came about in the very heart of the monastic life, one which reminds us of the goodness of creation and the potential that it contains. For the monks of Norcia, beer has always been a beverage reserved for special occasions, such as Sundays and Feast days. The project of the monastic brewery was conceived with the hope of sharing with others the joy arising from the labor of our own hands, so that in all things the Lord and Creator of all may be sanctified. In one word, “ut laetificet cor”.

I believe “Ut laetificet cor“ translates “to the heart’s joy?” I went to a Protestant seminary so I struggled with the translation. Here’s a great video on the brewing process Father Z posted. It’s a splendid story of entrepreneurship and labor:

I recently wrote about Hobby Lobby’s billionaire CEO, who, in a recent Forbes profile, made it clear how deeply his Christian faith informs his economic decision-making.

This week, in Christianity Today, HOPE International’s Chris Horst profiles another Christian business, Blender Products, whose owners Steve Hill and Jim Howey actively work to elevate the practices of the metal fabrication business and, above all, operate their business “unto the Lord.”

Their company’s foundational verse? Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

“The metal fabrication business is extremely cutthroat,” says Hill. “Workers are given a singular task, and maximum output is demanded. They’re simply a factor of production. As a general rule, they have no access to management. There is very little crossover between guys on the floor and guys in the offices.”

Hill and Howey aim to subvert the us-versus-them mentality. Many days they walk the shop floor, engaging their workers as peers. Employees on the floor are treated as importantly as the managers, undermining the adversarial culture simmering in many manufacturing businesses.

“The company has tried to abide by a simple philosophy concerning our employees,” Steve said. “Pay them well, provide great benefits, and invest in lives…The guys in our shop… know that I’m a human too. I have many of the same struggles they do. Showing humanness to people is key to disarming those stereotypes.”

And the employees aren’t the only ones who benefit:

The very work that Blender employees accomplish benefits a broader community. On the shop floor, talented metal artisans convert stacks of sheet metal—what looks like an oversized stack of paper—into massive fans that improve the efficiency of machinery by mixing airstreams. Their proprietary mixing designs decrease pollution, reduce machinery fire risks, and improve ventilation wherever they’re installed. Fastened in hospitals, schools, office buildings, and factories, they silently make buildings and machines work better and safer.

But although Hill and Howey’s Christian values inform the way they conduct their business and treat their employees, the approach has impacted far more than employee paychecks, customer satisfaction, and environmental stewardship:
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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, September 10, 2012

I thought this piece in BusinessWeek last month from Mark Oppenheimer was very well done, “The Rise of the Corporate Chaplain.” I think it profiles an important and under-appreciated phenomenon in the American commercial sphere. One side of the picture is that this is a laudable development, since it shows that employers are increasingly aware that their employees are not merely meat machines, automata whose value is only to be calculated in terms of material concerns, and that spiritual matters cannot simply be ignored or factored in as a variable included in the cost of doing business.

But this rise in corporate chaplaincy also reminds me of the comment by Walter Rauschenbusch (noted in this recent article from Hunter Baker) that “business life is the unregenerate section of our social order.”

If by some magic it could be plucked out of our total social life in all its raw selfishness, and isolated on an island, unmitigated by any other factors of our life, that island would immediately become the object of a great foreign mission crusade for all Christendom.

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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Work: The Meaning of Your LifeThe subtitle of Lester DeKoster’s little classic, Work: The Meaning of Your Life–A Christian Perspective, can be a bit off-putting. Is work really the meaning of your life?

On the one hand, when we understand DeKoster’s definition of work, we might be a bit more amenable to the suggestion. DeKoster says that work is essentially our “service of others.” This means that “work” as such is not strictly defined as waged labor outside the home, for instance.

But there is another sense in which even this more restricted and perhaps common sense of work has under-appreciated significance. As DeKoster opens the book, he puts it plainly: “Work gets the largest single block of our lives.” Doubt this assertion? Take a look at this infographic from Planet Money that breaks down a typical day for someone with a full-time job:

Time spent on something is only one measure of importance, to be sure, but it is an important one. And the fact that, as DeKoster puts it, “work gets the single largest block of our lives,” makes it even more critical that we understand what makes work meaningful. For that understanding and as we approach this Labor Day weekend, DeKoster’s book is a great place to start.

Wis. Gov. Scott Walker

On National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg demolishes the left’s knee-jerk explanation for labor union decline, which blames “the machinations of conservative intellectuals, free-market-inclined governments, and businesses who, over time, have successfully worked to diminish organized labor, thereby crushing the proverbial ‘little guy.’”

Gregg writes:

“The truth, however, is rather more complex. One factor at work is economic globalization. Businesses fed up with unions who think that their industry should be immune from competition are now in a position to move their operations elsewhere — ranging from the southern states of America, to China, India, and other developing countries — where people and governments enthusiastically welcome the influx of knowledge, capital, and jobs. In this regard, it’s always struck me as ironic that unions in developed countries regularly act in ways that essentially hamper economic and employment growth in developing nations. So much for the “international solidarity of workers.” Comradeship apparently stops at the Rio Grande. (more…)

Donald Trump's tagline: "You're fired."

Last week I raised the question of whether being a Christian businessperson means you do some things differently, and particularly whether some of these things that are done differently have to do with terminating an employee.

Here’s a snip of what Kenman Wong and Scott Rae say in their recent book, Business for the Common Good:

Although periodically companies may take on certain employees as an act of benevolence, it is not the norm. Employees are bound by mutual obligations to the company, and when they do not live up to them, leaders are not being unjust or unfair in holding them accountable and firing them if necessary. Of course, servant leaders will work with employees at risk and attempt to redeem the relationship. But if the employee must be let go, the leader will give a truthful reason for termination, provide input to the employee so that a pattern does not repeat itself with the next employer, and treat the person with dignity and respect throughout the entire process.

You may not be doing someone a favor by keeping them on in a position that is not a good fit, or which does not challenge them appropriately or help them to develop themselves and maximize their own potentialities. As Wong and Rae continue, “Remember, people need to accomplish something significant and in a way that fits their gifts. Serving them best may involve letting them go so they can find a more suitable place to develop and contribute.”

As for the propriety of prayer in these contexts, it seems obvious to me that the employer should be praying for the well-being of his employees, and vice versa, throughout this entire process and beyond. It would take the application of insight into a particular situation to determine whether a prayer with the employee at the time of termination would be appropriate or not, however, and the content of the prayer would need to reflect the dynamics of power that are apparent in the context of the termination of employment.

Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser explains why entrepreneurs are important for our struggling economy:

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Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

Today marks the feast day of St. Benedict of Nursia, one of the fathers of Western monasticism. One of his most famous dictums was ora et labora: “pray and work.” His Rule served as the standard community rule for monasteries in the West for hundreds of years.

Consistent with his dictum, the Rule of St. Benedict contains some wonderful passages about the value of work in addition to other pious practices. For example, Benedict writes,

Idleness is inimical to the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be occupied, at
fixed seasons, with manual work and again at fixed seasons with spiritual reading….

Knowing the spiritual dangers of idleness (such as boredom, depression, and gossip), Benedict prescribed regular daily work for the monks of any monastery that followed his rule. However, he did not absolutize the value of work, recommending time for rest and “spiritual reading.”

Furthermore, he offered consolation for those who labor in poverty:

And let them not be distressed if poverty or the needs of the place should require that they busy themselves about gathering in the crops with their own hands; for then are they truly monks, when they live by the work of their own hands, as did our fathers and the apostles.

Yet, he tempered even this by adding: “Let everything be done in moderation however on account of the faint-hearted.”

Indeed, we can see in St. Benedict’s Rule an excellent expression of the basic Christian view of the merits of work as well as its limitation for the sake of the worker:

To weak and delicate brethren let there be assigned such suitable occupation and duties that they be neither overcome of idleness nor so oppressed by exhaustion through work that they be driven to flight [from the monastery].

Due to the current economic condition of our country, many have had to settle for less than ideal work in order to make ends meet. St. Benedict provides a wonderful reminder about the honor inherent in all honest work, especially when enlivened with prayer.

I for one have worked at plenty of restaurants and factories and cleaned my fair share of toilets. Looking back, the best jobs (until I got my job here, of course) were not necessarily those at which I was the most comfortable but those in which I embraced St. Benedict’s dictum and united my labor with prayer. On this, his feast day, I hope others too, through him, can find satisfaction even in less-than-ideal jobs, embracing the vocation of prayer even if their desired vocation of work remains out of grasp.

All quotes from the Rule of St. Benedict are taken from The Rule of St. Benedict, translated into English. A Pax Book, preface by W.K. Lowther Clarke (London: S.P.C.K., 1931), which can be found online here.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement began to be implemented in 1994, the United States has raised farm subsidies by 300 percent and Mexican corn growers complain that they have little hope of competing in this protected market. In this week’s Acton Commentary (published Feb. 29) Anthony Bradley writes that, “U.S. government farm subsidies create the conditions for the oppression and poor health care of Mexican migrant workers in ways that make those subsidies nothing less than immoral.” The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

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