Seventy five years ago today, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) into law. For the first time, protections long sought by workers and the labor movement became part of our social contract. In the middle of the Great Depression (as all those who worshipped on the altar of the market prophesied doom) basic standards like the minimum wage, child labor protection and overtime were established. We, as a nation, recognized that neither the ethical character of corporations or the market would consider the common good.
As I attended my first IWJ board meeting last week, I could not help but consider whether we have kept the faith with those who fought for FLSA and every labor reform since. As we discussed how best to support Walmart workers’ efforts to build OUR Walmart and bring meaningful change to America’s largest private employer, it seemed like not so much had changed in 75 years. Workers are still fighting for living wages, fair benefits and schedules that make healthy family and community life possible. As we heard of the successful efforts by Peabody Coal to eliminate pension obligations to its retirees, it felt like the measures of progress working people have struggled to lift up are eroding. As we determined key places to put our immigration reform resources, I wondered if we have lost touch with our values as a country.
In spite of these realities of our day, I was deeply encouraged by my time with the remarkable members of IWJ's board, Kim and the staff. In numerous ways, all the faces around that table have found in their faith a deep hope for a better future and the strength to live out their values. Christians, Muslims, Jews, together in common purpose, are hearing God’s call in many ways to exercise prophetic voices and work for the common good... the good of all God’s people.
Many years a whole cloud of witnesses has planted a passion for justice in our shared economic life deep within me. Kim, her staff and many past board members have long been part of that cloud. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to live out my faith and my vocation as part of this Board.
Join The Rev. Doug Mork, new to IWJ's Board of Directors, in calling for stronger worker standards, starting with a raise for minimum wage workers in America!