23 October, 2008

Corporate Reform = Community Renewal

In light of the great financial meltdown the world has been witnessing these last few weeks, wouldn’t it be fantastic if instead of financial reform for the purposes of attaining a greater profit margin, we saw financial reform for the purposes of abolishing slave-labor and/or sweatshops? For the last 6-8 months, an idea has been rattling around in my brain that I haven’t shared with too many people. I’m not sure why I haven’t shared this idea with more people, frankly. But today, I’m ready to share it with the world…

First, let me start by saying that perhaps the Christian community shouldn’t be on the front lines of those who are battering the major American corporations who employ (a term used rather loosely) cheap labor in small, developing countries. We know that it’s not ethical; we know that it is most definitely a form of slave-labor, but perhaps we can alter our tactics. In an article posted in June 2008 on the Christian Vision Project website, author Fleming Rutledge suggests that “the bosses of workers in unjust situations are not evil in themselves. They are in bondage to the desire for profit, so that they think of their workers as means to an end, if they think of them at all. Who can loosen such bonds? God alone. Therefore, social action undertaken in the sight of God has the potential to liberate not only the workers but also the bosses, not to mention the activists themselves!”

So, here’s my idea: If The Salvation Army is “America’s Favorite Charity,” and if we are included in the top ten of “The World’s Most Enduring Institutions,” and if we’re “Doing the Most Good,” and “Giving Hope Today,” then we ought to be able to wield some clout in corporate America when it comes to corporate ethics and social justice. We could leverage the influence of our Advisory Boards to gain access to the corporate boardrooms so that they’ll listen to what we have to say.

And what would we tell them?

Let’s not begin by beating them up over their capitalistic strategies. Let’s suggest that we could help improve their bottom line. We would ask for access to their workforce for the purposes of health and education. We would ask them to build us a health clinic and an education center on their property, and we would provide education and health professionals, in addition to our ministry personnel to ensure those employees and their families were getting better than adequate health care and education. Again, with the assistance of our Advisory Boards, we could get equipment and supplies sent to furnish such places. With healthy and educated workers, productivity would increase. By providing basic health and education, morale would increase. By providing basic human needs in his name without discrimination, God’s Kingdom would increase!

This theory would help such corporations see the value of all human life to the extent that when profits increase, then wages could rise to match. With wages increasing, quality of life would improve in the surrounding communities. With morale being lifted, dignity would be restored – or in many cases, arrive for the very first time – and people who were once on the fringes of society would begin to feel like they belonged to the human race as full-fledged members and participants.

I’m sure there are flaws in what I’ve suggested as written. But, I’m also sure that with some modifications, this could actually work and succeed. Care to offer you opinions and/or suggestions?

~ Rob


armybarmy said...

great ideas Rob.
I think sometimes the reason more of this doesn't happen (and I do think it is also happening in some measure) is simply because we (meaning the church/army) fear the wrong thing. Instead of fearing that we may not change the world or that we may not answer God's heart cry for justice on earth... we fear not making our target for fundraising or we fear losing an 'important' person from our advisory board.

I think if we let go of the insecurity and fear of 'losing what we have' and just threw it (our reputation, finances, futures...) on justice it would bear fruit. It may die... but live again.

Here's to a glorious future.

Amy said...

I think this is exactly what should happen, though I wouldn't stop preaching abolition in slave situations. It would be great to find a way to work with "the bosses" without watering down the fact that we find slavery morally repugnant. It would require tact, and perhaps the spiritual gift of manipulation. :)

But the easier place to start, I think, would be in places where workers actually make some sort of wage. It might feel like less of a reproach to them.

In regards to the quote, I'm not letting the perps off that easy. We're all responsible for our own sin. Everybody can trace their sin to some reason - "I was raised that way," "I was abused as a kid," etc. - but you can't be free of sin until you claim responsibility for it. This is just a side note - not pertinent to the discussion.