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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Challenging Limericks and Fair Wages

A limerick that I posted the other day  was challenged on Twitter by my friend, Thom.

To which I responded:

1) Agreement doesn't necessarily mean "just" or "fair."  If I convince someone to do backbreaking labor for me for $1 dollar a day - that doesn't make it right.  If I take advantage of people's ignorance or desperation in order to pay them as little as possible, I am not paying a fair or just wage - even if they agree to accept it.

This give me opportunity to quote from one of my favorite books - The Grapes of Wrath

Pa and Uncle John squatted with a group of men by the porch of the office. "We nearly go work today," Pa said.  "We was jus' a few minutes late.  They awready got two fellas.  An', well, sir, it was a funny thing.  They's a straw boss there, an' he says, 'We jus' got some two-bit men. 'Course we could use twenty-cent men.  We can use a lot a twenty-cent men.  You go to your camp an' say we'll put a lot a fells on for twenty cents.'"

The squatting men moved nervously.  A broad-shouldered man, his face completely in the shadow of a black hat, spatted his knee with his palm, "I know it, goddamn it!" he cried. "An' they'll git men.  They'll git hungry men.  You can't feed your family on twenty cents an hour, but you'll take anything.  They got you goin' an' comin'.  They jes' auction a job off.  Jesus Christ, pretty soon they're gonna make us pay to work."

John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath - page 461-2

2)The parable cited from Matthew 20: 2- 15 is not really about fair wages.  It uses a discussion about wages in order to talk about something else, namely the Kingdom of God.  Nevertheless - that story is about being MORE generous, not less.  To use this parable as justification for paying people less runs counter to the story itself.

(of course these responses here are a bit expanded.  My twitter responses were necessarily constrained by the 140 character limit...)

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