A Statement that Troubles Me

It’s a statement that troubles me! I have heard or read about it several times – from a union executive to a newspaper columnist. And it is very offending. At least, to me it is. It’s a line used to discuss the new minimum hourly wage increase here in my province of Ontario.

The statement goes something like this: “if an employer cannot pay his employees a livable wage – i.e. $15 an hour, he should not be in business.” It’s almost dictatorial, demanding. It’s survival of the fittest. Our way or the highway mindset.

And there is just something wrong with it!!

A male employer would never say to his female employee: “if you don’t “put out” or dress a certain way that I want, I don’t want you working for me.” But aren’t we saying basically the same thing only in a different context to the businessman or business woman who cannot provide livable wages for his employees.

Now, I have no problems in raising the minimum wage if the employer can afford it. And, yes, there are employers who can as well as corporations who can pay the tab.

But I am thinking about the small business owner who may have a few employees where raising the wages at a drastic rate may put him or her out of business. Or, at least, raise his costs. And who do you think pays for that?? You and me – the consumer.

There are people who want to help set up businesses – they love the entrepreneur spirit. They love being their own bosses. But they cannot afford the $15 an hour rate. Should we stop them from trying to set up their businesses because they cannot afford the new wage increase? From an employee’s stand point, isn’t it better working at a lower wage than possibly being laid off, forced onto welfare or unemployed insurance which is lower than their old wages as well as demeaning – provided that they qualify – competing with countless others for jobs?

How many employers would love to set up their own businesses but cannot afford the high labor costs or other hurdles that they cannot jump? Their dreams go down the toilet before starting out. How many people have dreams to fulfil but cannot because they could not get the proper support. Yes, determination and persistence are part of the success equation but success is based on other factors like free will, lady luck, good timing.

In pursuit of our dreams no matter what they may be, we must realize that we are all connected and that when one fails, it is a failure for all of us. When one succeeds, we all benefit. We become richer.

According to Dr. Leo Buscaglia in his book “Personhood”, “we are all dependent one upon the other” and our journey through life is effected by “even one person’s nonbeing.” English poet John Donne (1572 –1631) wrote: “no man is an island of itself. Each is a piece of the continent a part of the main.” And according to the Christian faith, we are all part of the body of Christ and each has a part to play. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1Corinthians 12: 12 – 27)

Sadly, we live with a “survival of the fittest” mentality, each person for himself. It’s no wonder we don’t trust one another.

So, if someone isn’t going to help us in our time of need, then why should we help them in their time of need? It’s the old Golden Rule at work. We all want it to be recipients of it but few willing to practice it.

We either are helping or hurting, we are either giving life or taking life away. We are either our brother (or sister’s) keeper or we are not.

If we are not going to be our brother or sister’s keeper, then, why should we help people in their time of need? Why should we pay through our taxes, for example, for the health care when the patient is suffering from “diseases of choice”, diseases caused by smoking, excessive drinking, obesity, etc.?

Much has been given so that we can have a better life. Scientists who work tirelessly to find the latest cures for the diseases that have been plaguing us. Individuals who create technology to make our lives better. Service personnel who fought and died for our freedoms. We need to give because much has been given.

Dr. Leo Buscaglia wrote in his book “Love” that “man has no choice but to love. For when he does not, his alternatives lie in loneliness, destruction and despair.”

Paraphrasing Dr. Buscaglia, “man has no choice but to help and give. For when he does not, society becomes poorer, more destructive and less humane.”

We reap what we sow!!