Wednesday, August 30, 2006


A man I know has worked for the same company for over 13 years. Today he earns just $9.50 an hour, even after all of these years of back breaking work for the same organization and owner.

This man is a father and a husband. He has beautiful children and a wife whom he loves.

He is a leader at work. When his crew is assigned a job, he oversees the work. He is held responsible for the outcomes. He never misses work. He travels when it is required. I doubt that there could be a better employee anywhere.

Still, after all the years and all the commitment and all the hard work, this man earns only $9.50 for each hour he works. Only recently has his employer begun paying extra for overtime. The man works all of extra hours he can every week.

This man is poor, not because he refuses to work, but because his employer does not pay him a fair wage.

Do the math.

Working 40 hours weekly, 52 weeks annually, the man can gross just $19,760.00 in wages. Of course, overtime would mean more earnings.

This man receives no benefits through his work--no health or life insurance, no retirement plan.

The facts of this man's life came to my attention just as the reports were coming out that while American worker productivity is at an all-time high (it is just not true that American workers are not productive), real wages and salary income is in decline.

The national labor data fits the profile of this particular worker.

Hello? Is anyone listening out there?

Here's the kicker: this man's boss proudly makes it known that he is a Christian.

Giant disconnect.

This man's situation has me thinking.

What if every Christian business owner and employer took to heart the values and teachings of the Bible when it came to their employees' salary, wages and benefits?

Might it make a difference?

Here's a novel idea: what if America's preachers forgot about who cared or who might be offended and simply decided to tell the truth about the biblical record and fair wages for hard work?

Labor is in trouble in this nation.

Millions of hard working Americans aren't making it today.

Work doesn't pay.

Work doesn't mean a person or a family will avoid poverty.

It should.

Faith needs to be redefined.

Don't talk to me about theology unless you agree to begin with what it means to your neighbor or, even better, your employee.

Blog campaign update: So far we have painted 17 homes green thanks to contributors from all across the nation! Thanks to all who have joined this special community of support. We are attempting to raise $100,000 by October 31, 2006. These special funds will help Central Dallas Ministries pay for food at a time when demand is at an all-time high and growing each month. We also will use a portion of the fund to pay the State of Texas the fee owed as a result of our recent award of low-income housing tax credits. See the rows of little houses at the top right of this site. You can click there to read more detail and to find out how to join this grassroots effort.


JD said...

Larry, when I drive by the housing projects and see young capable men sitting around drinking hooch and selling drugs, I get a bit incensed and think, 'why don't you get a job?'... And then there are the honest hard working guys like you describe today ... who have a job ... and still really can't make it. It truly is an injustice. But I will say that I admire greatly a man who keeps working as he does ... knowing it must break his heart that he cannot provide more for his family. It's an economic issue that no one wants to talk about. I'm glad you keep our attention in the right place.

RC said...

Larry, What concerns me the most is that this guy who works so hard has no health insurance. A little over a year ago I underwent quadruple bypass surgery. Without insurance I would have been destroyed financially. Today I preach for a church that cannot afford to provide health insurance. Even if they could I would probably be uninsurable. Thankfully my wife has a great job with good health insurance. I cannot imagine life without health insurance. There has to be a way for working people to be able to secure affordable health insurance. I don't know how to bring this all about, but something is bad wrong.

Larry James said...

jd, thanks for your post. Yep, you really are talking about two different issues, aren't you? The negative reality is tough, but we work at it daily here. It is about accountability and understanding. . . sometimes people do what they do because they haven't had the training they need. Sometimes they decide that doing what you describe is more satisfying than flipping burgers for $6.50 an hour. Values involved here--both theirs and ours in the culture. Hard and challenging deal when you get into it.

The other shows why some people opt out. But, like you, I admire my friend who works so hard and models work for his family.

rc, thanks for your post, as well. Single-payor, national health insurance system is the only answer. The major barriers are private sector insurance companies--can we be frank here? The day will come when business realities drive us to the moral high ground on this issue. Japanese and European automakers already have major competitive advantage because of their nation's single-payor health plans. It is just a matter of time.

Eric Livingston said...

To learn more about this very subject via a few individual case studies, I highly recommend Roger Weisberg's film "Waging A Living".

The film clearly demonstrates how hard workers can still be trapped in poverty conditions. It also examines the plight of people who are trying to get off of social assistance programs, but find that the more wages they earn the less assistance they receive which tends to motivate them to "hustle backwards".

Jeremy Gregg said...

A few interesting facts from the Dallas Morning News article that recently featured you:

- "In Dallas County, the median household income fell 16 percent."

- "The percentage of people in the D-FW area living in poverty rose from 10.8 percent in 2000 to 13 percent in 2005."

- "Economic experts say the biggest reason for a six-year slump in median household income has been the migration of more low-income people into the region."

The article is posted here.

Anonymous said...

" The vice of capitalism is that there is an unequal share of the blessings; the virtue of socialism is that there is an equal share of the misery."

Winston Churchill

David Michael said...

The solution in large fortune 500 companies is to close the gap between what the executives are paid and what the lowest wage workers are paid. What executives are paid in these companies are outrageous.

In small companies, it is more difficult, but one solution is co-ops, like in Agriculture. Associations are able to get competitive pricing, so they can provide insurance at a lower cost.

Something that has hurt Texas construction workers the lack of licensing and a liberal view of who can be considered a subcontractor.