Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How the Jews stiff the help...

The Rabbinical Assmebly does it again:

A rabbinic opinion calling on Jewish business owners to pay their workers a living wage and hire union employees was stymied by the Conservative movement’s top lawmaking body after the opinion received fewer than the minimum number of votes needed for a paper to be approve

Maybe this is part of the reason why rabbis are loath to be more supportive of workers' rights:


For Vera Haim, teaching Jewish children about their religion, history and culture gave her life a deeper meaning. For 17 years, the 53-year-old Israeli-born educator taught at Jewish nursery schools throughout Southern California, most recently at Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills. Nothing made Haim happier than helping young students develop self-esteem and a curiosity about their roots.

But her dream job held the seeds of a nightmare. Earning just $15,000 annually and with no health-care benefits, Haim landed in dire financial straits after she and her husband divorced last year. Unable to support herself, she had to move in with her 31-year-old son. In short order, she left Kol Tikvah and nearly doubled her income by opening a home day-care business in her son’s house.

She and other Jewish day-school teachers are not alone in their frustration. From social workers caring for Holocaust survivors to cooks preparing kosher meals for the elderly, many Jewish communal workers complain that low wages make it nearly impossible for them to buy homes, take vacations or live a comfortable middle-class existence. Some even must work two jobs to eke out a living.

(Note that this person was trying to live on $15K in greater Los Angeles!)

I will tell another anecdote about an acaquaintance who teaches at a large Conservative syanagogue in a major metropolitan area. They told him last summer that his hors were to change this fall. They neglected to tell him, until it was too late to get another job, that the change in hours would result in a substantial reduction in pay. On top of that, he told a bunch of us that he has having trouble collecting back pay from these jokers! This, at a shul where they just let out a major contract for substantial renovations to a big fancy building that seems to be in decent shape as far as I can tell. They had no problem getting donors to have rooms named after them, but they can't even pay their own employees. about the only advice my friend got was "call the rabbi," and I'm not sure whether he did or not, but our people are in a hell of a state if a person has to call the rabbi to intercede with shul management in order to get what's due him by right.

Oh, yes, and I have another person I know who works for a Federation-run "newspaper" ("house organ" is more like it, considering it's lack of independent reporting on the Jewish community) where he get's constantly hassled about getting time off to observe the Jewish holidays.

No wonder less than 50% of American Jews bother affiliating with the organized Jewish community. Our community is primarily a corrupt vehicle for gratifying the egos and assuaging the consciences of rich businessmen. The sooner it falls the apart, the better off will be the House of Israel.

9 Comments:

Blogger Jack's Shack said...

My heart truly goes out to Vera Haim. I live in LA and I know what it costs to live here.

At the same time, treatment of personnel varies somewhat from shul to shul. It is inaccurate to paint this as covering all.

1:46 PM  
Blogger kishnevi said...

I suppose more than a few members of the panel realized that labor unions are not mandated by halacha. In fact, I seem to remember some points of halacha that point to them being forbidden.

Political agendas and Torah don't mix, unless you have a political agenda that seeks to stick to the Torah, and accepts no other authority. And when you do that, you're in danger of Gush Enumim. But without such a rule, you end up being nothing more than Tikkun Magazine.

12:11 AM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

Political agendas and Torah don't mix,

No, it's only bad when someone triesw to mix the wrong political agenda with Torah.

Rav Kook not only permitted strikes, but also forbade strikebreaking and compensate workers for the time they're on strike?

http://www.darchenoam.org/ethics/STRIKES/Biblio.htm

Rav Kook affirmed the right for workers to strike and forbade strikebreaking, but emphasized the requirement for labor to refer their claims to a beit din, a halakhic court, before striking. The article also mentions that the halakha would confirm the need to compensate workers during the period they were on strike in societies where this is common practice.

Rav Feinstein rules that because of the sanctions against interrupting the Torah study of youth, their right to strike is severely limited. When, however, they are driven by “pain and poverty”, not only is the strike permissible, but they are entitled to wage compensation.

http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/970626_Striking.html

The right of workers or craftsmen to organize themselves into guilds or unions has roots in a Talmud law that asserts the authority of citizens to determine such matters as measures, exchange rates and salaries. The medieval commentators extended these prerogatives to professional organizations as well, granting them the privilege of enforcing their collective decisions upon individual members.

Yeah, yea,
some of these rabbis only allow it if the worker go to the rabbis first. But that's not really relevant in today's world where not all of the employees are Jewish.

But it's clearly valid to argue that Jewish Law not only permits this, but sides with the aims of the unions. The fact that the Conservative Law Committee stiffed this is probably more reflective of the fact that Conservative rabbis feel they owe more to the rich businessmen who pay their salaries than they do to the average worker.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Arieh Lebowitz said...

Hey: Here's a long list of readings on Traditional Jewish texts on Labor and Worker Rights, from the website of the Jewish Labor Committee -
http://www.jewishlabor.org/
>> Arieh Lebowitz
>> Communications Director
>> Jewish Labor Committee

anon., "Labor," ENCYCLOPEDIA JUDAICA Vol. 10, Keter Publishing House (Jerusalem, Israel 1972)

Ayali, Meir, "Labor and Work in the Talmud and Midrash," [Hebrew] Yad La-Talmud (Ramat Gan, 1984)

Baron, Salo, "Economics and Social Justice," in "THE ECONOMIC VIEWS OF MAIMONIDES" in ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL JEWISH HISTORY, ed. Arthur Hertzberg & Leon A. Feldman, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, 1972)

------- "Free Labor," op. cit. , pp. 248-260.

Bazak, J., comp. JEWISH LAW AND JEWISH LIFE: SELECTED RABBINICAL RESPONSA (pp. 75, 80), Union of American Hebrew Congregations (New York, NY 1979)

Bleich, J. David, "Organized Labor;" "Tenure," in CONTEMPORARY HALAKHIC
PROBLEMS (Vol. 1), KTAV Publishing House, Inc. / Yeshiva University Press (New York, NY 1977)

----"Severance Pay;" "Teachers' Unions," in CONTEMPORARY HALAKHIC PROBLEMS (Vol. 2), KTAV Publishing House, Inc. / Yeshiva University Press (New York, NY 1983)

----"Organized Labor - Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature," in Tradition 13, no. 1 (New York, NY 1972)

---- "Physicians' Fees - Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature," in Tradition 19, no. 4 (New York, NY 1981)

---- "Physicians' Strikes - Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature," in Tradition 21, no. 3 (New York, NY 1984)

---- "Rabbinic Contracts - Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature," in Tradition 11, no. 3 (New York, NY 1970)

---- "Severance Pay: Hired Servant or Independent Contractor - Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature," in Tradition 17, no. 3 (New York, NY 1978)

---- "Severance Pay," in Jewish Law Annual 3 (1980)

---- "Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature [particularly p. 126, Tenure on p. 129, and Employment During the Post-Nuptual Week on p. 136]," in Tradition 14, no. 4 (New York, NY 1974)

---- "Teachers' Unions - Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature," in Tradition 19, no. 3 (New York, NY 1984)


---- "Teachers' Unions," in Jewish Law Annual (1987)

---- "Tenure: A Review of a Rabbinical Court Judgment," in Jewish Law Annual 1 (1978)

Blumenfield, Samuel M., LABOR IN THE BIBLE, Dissertation Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati 1930)

Cronbach, Abraham, "Labor," UNIVERSAL JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA (New York, NY 1939-1943)

-----------------------, "Social Thinking in the Sefer Hasidim," in Hebrew Union College Annual 22 (1949)

Elon, Menachem, "Ha'anakah (Severance Pay)," in ENCYCLOPEDIA JUDAICA Vol. 7, Keter Publishing (Jerusalem, Israel 1972)

Fasman, Oscar Z., "The Attitude of the Hafetz Hayyim toward Labor," in ISRAEL OF TOMORROW, ed. by Leo Jung, Herald Square Press, Inc. (New York, NY 1946), pp. 117-184

Federbush, Simon, THE JEWISH CONCEPT OF LABOR, Torah Culture Department, Jewish Agency and HaPoel haMizrachi of America (New York, NY 1956)

Fendel, Zechariah, "Employer-Employee Relations [p. 77];" "The Abusive Employer [p. p. 80]," in THE HALACHA AND BEYOND: PROVIDING AN INSIGHT INTO THE FISCAL ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE TORAH JEW, AS WELL AS AN IN-DEPTH STUDY OF THE BITACHON CONCEPT, Hashkafah Publications (New York, NY 1983)

Heinemann, Joseph H., "The Status of the Laborer in Jewish Law and Society in the Tannaitic Period," in Hebrew Union College Annual 25 (1954)

Hirsch, Richard G., "Labor - Rights and Responsibilities," in THE WAY OF THE UPRIGHT: A JEWISH VIEW OF ECONOMIC JUSTICE [pp. 36-62], Union of American Hebrew Congregations (New York, NY 1973)

Horowitz, George, "Hired Workers/Further Rules Favorable to the Worker," in THE SPIRIT OF JEWISH LAW, Central Book Company (New York, NY 1963)

Jacobs, Louis, "Strikes," in WHAT DOES JUDAISM SAY ABOUT ...? [pp. 309 - 310], Keter Publishing (Jerusalem 1973)

Jakobovits, I., "The Right to Strike," in STUDIES IN TORAH JUDAISM: JEWISH LAW FACES MODERN PROBLEMS, Yeshiva University Dept. of Special Publications (New York, NY 1965)

---- "The Right to Strike - Review of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature," in Tradition 5, no. 2 [p. 273] (1963)

---- "Strikes - Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature," in Tradition 7,
no. 4/8, no. 1 [p. 98] (1965/1966)

---- "Workmen's Compensation and Severance Pay - Review of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature," in Tradition 4, no. 2 [p. 260] (1962)

Jung, Leo, "The Workingman," in HUMAN RELATIONS IN JEWISH LAW, Jewish Education Press / Board of Jewish Education, Inc. (New York, NY 1967/1970) [Reprinted in BETWEEN MAN AND MAN, Jewish Education Press / Board of Jewish Education, Inc. (New York, NY 1976)]

-----. "Labor in Jewish Law," in BUSINESS ETHICS AND JEWISH LAW, Hebrew Publishing Company in conjunction with the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (New York, NY 1987)

Katz, Mordechai, PROTECTION OF THE WEAK IN THE TALMUD, Columbia University Press (New York, NY 1925)

Klagsbrun, Francine, "Work, Wealth and Philanthropy," in VOICES OF WISDOM: JEWISH IDEAS AND ETHICS FOR EVERYDAY LIVING, Pantheon Books (New York, NY 1980)

Kogan, Michael S., "Liberty and Labor in the Jewish Tradition," in Ideas, A Journal of Contemporary Jewish Thought (Spring 1975)

Kohler, Kaufmann, "Labor," in Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 7, p. 590 (New York, NY 1901-1906)

Levine, Aaron, FREE ENTERPRISE AND JEWISH LAW: ASPECTS OF JEWISH BUSINESS ETHICS, KTAV (New York, NY 1980)

----, "Jewish Business Ethics in Contemporary Society," in BUSINESS ETHICS AND JEWISH LAW, by Leo Jung, Hebrew Publishing Company in conjunction with the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (New York, NY 1987)

----, "Labor Mobility: A Halakhic View, in Gesher 5, no. 1 [pp. 88-105] (1976)

Levinthal, Israel H., "The Attitude of Judaism Toward Labor," in JUDAISM: AN ANALYSIS AND AN INTERPRETATION, Funk and Wagnalls (New York & London, 1935)

----, "The Attitude of Judaism Toward the Laborer," in JUDAISM: AN ANALYSIS AND AN INTERPRETATION, Funk and Wagnalls (New York & London, 1935)

Neusner, Jacob, THE ECONOMICS OF THE MISHNAH, University of Chicago Press
(Chicago, IL 1990)

Perry, Michael S., LABOR RIGHTS IN THE JEWISH TRADITION, Jewish Labor Committee (New York, NY, n.d.)

Reines, Chaim W., "Labor in Rabbinical Responsa," in ISRAEL OF TOMORROW, ed. by Leo Jung, Herald Square Press, Inc. [p. 141] (New York, NY 1946)

----, "The Jewish Conception of Work," in Judaism, 8 [pp. 329-337] (1959)

Riemer, Jack, "The Jewish view of work (Avodah), in Jewish Heritage (Summer 1962), p. 21-23

Sacks, Eliot, "Teachers and the right to strike," L'eylah (New Year 5746), p. 16-17 [London]


Sacks, J[onathan?], "Halacha: Industrial Relations in Jewish Law," in Ha-Zvi 13 [p. 13] (Mizrahi Journal) (London Purim 5739)

Schnall, David J., BY THE SWEAT OF YOUR BROW: REFLECTIONS ON WORK AND
THE WORKPLACE IN CLASSICAL JEWISH THOUGHT, KTAV (New York, NY 2001)

Shapira, Abraham, "Work," in CONTEMPORARY JEWISH RELIGIOUS THOUGHT, by Cohen, Arthur A. and Mendes-Flohr, Paul, The Free Press (New York, 1987)

Sicher, Gustav, "Concept of Work in the Jewish Faith," in JEWISH STUDIES: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF G. SICHER, ed. by R. Iltis, Council of Jewish Religious Communities [p. 5] (Prague 1955)

Silverman, William B., "The Dignity of Labor," in THE SAGES SPEAK, Jason Aronson, Inc. (Northvale, NJ and London, England 1989)

Sulzberger, Mayer, "The Status of Labor in Ancient Israel," in Jewish Quarterly Review 13 (1922-23), p. 245-302, 397-459; reprinted separately (Philadelphia PA 1923)

Tamari, Meir, IN THE MARKETPLACE: JEWISH BUSINESS ETHICS, Targum Press
(Southfield, MI 1991)

-------, WITH ALL YOUR POSSESSIONS: JEWISH ETHICS AND ECONOMIC LIFE, The Free Press (New York, NY 1987)

Vorspan, ALbert, and Eugene J. Lipman, "Labor," in JUSTICE AND JUDAISM, Union of American Hebrew Congregations (New York, NY: 1956)

Warhaftig, Shillem, "Labor Law," in ENCYCLOPEDIA JUDAICA Vol. 10, Keter Publishing House (Jerusalem 1972)

Weisfeld, Israel H., "LABOR LEGISLATION IN THE BIBLE AND TALMUD, Yeshiva
University (New York, NY 1974)

Wigoder, Geoffrey, "Labor and Labor Laws," in ENCYCLOPEDIA OF JUDAISM, [2002]

Wolkinson, Benjamin W., "Labor and the Jewish Tradition - A Reappraisal," in Jewish Social Studies Vol. 40 no. 3/4 (S/F 1978)

Woll, Jonathan S., THE EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONSHIP IN SHULCHAN-ARUCH Dissertation Hebrew Union College (Cincinnatin, OH 1976)

Wolsey, Louis, "The Historic Attitude of Judaism to Labor," in CCAR Yearbook Vol. 38 (1928) [pp. 311-343]

Zipperstein, Edward, BUSINESS ETHICS AND JEWISH LAW, KTAV (New York, NY 1987)

This listing is a `work-in-progress' - additional suggested entries welcome.


Jewish Labor Committee
25 East 21st Street
New York, NY 10010

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