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Unions (7)

Having discussed the question of corporate responsibility, and the implications for the members of a particular organization, we asked the question, What are the basic principles of the labor movement? For, to these principles a member must turn in order to determine for what he is responsible. We noticed that the goal of labor unions was the betterment of laboring conditions for the working force. And we noticed that in the striving to attain their goals, they have been in past years very successful. They have achieved all their aims and even much more. They have succeeded even in gaining from the government legislation which recognizes them, protects them and helps them to insure their achievements.

We may ask first of all whether or not their goals are goals which should be sought by the Christian. May a child of God conscientiously demand of management the things for which the labor unions have been organized and for which they have so successfully banded together? In general, may we say that the improvement of working conditions is a legitimate goal of the worker? Certainly it is not out of harmony with the principles of the Word of God to improve the conditions of working, and to demand these improvements. When management demands of its help the last ounce of strength, pays it so poorly that the worker can hardly keep his family alive; when it forces men to work in squalid conditions detrimental to health, forces and condones child labor, then the working man has a right to lift his voice in protest. It would appear therefore, that the goals of the union are certainly compatible with Christian life and conduct.

But the fact remains that the union has constantly increased these goals and laid down new demands as time goes on. Each time an end is achieved, another is thought up by the leaders of labor and demanded by the forces of unions from the management. And it is highly questionable, to say the least, whether the demands which labor now extorts from management are in harmony with the obligations which bosses have toward their help. The one who owns the shop certainly has responsibilities before God with respect to those who work for him. But I doubt very much whether it is the responsibility of management to provide for the men under its authority with all kinds of “fringe benefits” such as hospitalization, insurance, guaranteed annual wage, means within the shop for recreation, facilities for banqueting and partying, and all the many other delightful things which labor enjoys at the expense of management. Surely the God-given obligation of those who are in authority by virtue of their position of hiring help is to provide the necessary money so that the man who works for them may live comfortably and without fear of economic difficulties. He must see to it that the man who works has enough money to eat his daily bread, to have a roof over himself and his family, to clothe his wife and children sufficiently, and to provide the necessities of life. But it is another question, when management is forced to provide means of recreation and diversion, sufficient insurance to care for unforeseen hospital expenses or other expenses that may possibly be incurred in the unknown future by death or inability to work. I am not saying that those who manage factories and shops may not give these things to their help if they so desire, but I am saying that they are unjust demands of labor, for no obligation is involved. Certainly the management has responsibility for the immediate needs of labor, but not for needs certainly which may or may not exist several years hence. And if those who manage the shop are forced to curtail their labor force through inability for a time to make sufficient money to pay their help, the boss is not obligated to provide a guaranteed annual wage whether or not the men work.

Furthermore, I have read that the next aim of labor is to cut down the working week to 30 or 35 hours and still maintain the same rate of pay. Certainly 75 or 80 hours in a week are too many hours for the average man to work and still fil the obligations of church and home. But the fact remains that man is called in this creation to work. He must work in order that he may not be idle. If the hours that he does not work are filled by work of other types — work with his family and work in the church, all is well and good. But the inevitable consequence of a lowering of the working hours in a world of sin is that man is going to spend his time in idleness. He will have more time to devote his attention to the satisfaction and gratification of the lusts of the flesh. He will not have enough work to keep himself busy, and the consequence will be that sin will increase as he has time to make life enjoyable for himself. Certainly God has called man to work. It is not possible to determine a set number of hours that a man should spend on the job, but it goes without saying that the demands of labor are certainly invalid in this respect. 30 or 35 hours are not enough. I do not hesitate to predict that labor will gain also this objective. With the increase in technical development, with the advance in modern machinery when man-made tools do much of the work, when the labor force grows daily, the result will undoubtedly be that labor will again be successful. But I do not hesitate also to predict that the result of a shorter working week will be a tremendous increase in sin in the world. How much even now, as the demands of labor are met, does not the awfulness of the sin of the human heart reveal itself? In spite of all men may say, crime rapidly increases, moral standards are lowered, and the men of our time become entertainment crazy, supporting vast enterprises with billions of dollars just to divert their minds by all means of enjoyment. One need only think of professional sports, the theatre, the gambling industry, the tremendous amounts of money spent for television sets. Men have time for all these things because they do not work very many hours. And they have opportunity and money to gratify all the carnal desires within them, because time weighs heavily on their hands. They must be occupied, their minds must be diverted, they have the money to spend, and the sin which is within their depraved hearts, but which could not henceforth reveal itself now has opportunity to gush forth as a foul stream flowing from a foul fountain. And the result is that crime and immorality increase tremendously.

The conclusion is that although the demands of labor are sometimes just in themselves, the labor unions carry their demands too far, so that they are no longer just and warranted. Man was created to work. And he no longer works. From this point of view, labor should disband because their ends have been attained.

But we have said nothing yet about the means which they have used to gain their ends. We will, if the Lord wills, continue this next time.