The Work Ethic

I love my job.

I love my job. It’s good, creative, and challenging work. I am paid well above a living wage. (In 2000, more than 25 percent of U.S. jobs paid less than $8 an hour—the amount necessary to lift a family from poverty.) I have health insurance (45 million Americans don’t) and a four-week vacation package (most Americans get two weeks, if that). Additionally, every seven years I’m offered a sabbatical to be used for renewal, education, and rest.

In 35 years, Sojourners has lived out its Christian values toward the dignity of work and workers in a variety of ways. The 1981 Catholic encyclical "On Human Work" summarizes these values well: "Through work we not only transform the world, we are transformed ourselves, becoming ‘more a human being.’"

Sojourners, unfortunately, is an exception. Too many U.S. workers do not labor under conditions that encourage them to be "more a human being." The guiding ethos in many U.S. workplaces has shifted toward prioritizing stockholder and CEO wealth over worker health and well-being. (CEO pay increased by 12 percent between 2003 and 2004, while rank-and-file compensation increased only 2.2 percent.) The systematic dismantling of labor unions by special interests and the inability of labor unions to retool themselves to meet the needs of a post-manufacturing job market have allowed worker conditions and management accountability to decline. The impact of corporate scandals such as the Enron and WorldCom bankruptcies, which left thousands of workers without their 401(k) savings, might have been lessened if those companies were unionized or had cultures that promoted worker dignity.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2005
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