The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Ten days ago I noted that "Wherever a large corporation attempts to save consumers money, the left will tell you that this will lead to the consumers' impoverishment, and is the next step on the road to fascism." I did not mention the religious left, which sees lower prices as violating the gospel of Christ, the Nicene creed, et al. From today's San Jose Mercury News:

Lowe's issue is about working families, not a building
By Father Jon G. Pedigo

As a leader within the faith community of San Jose, I am concerned with the effect that pending construction projects and business enterprises have on the life of all persons, not just those within my congregation. I therefore take exception with the underlying assumption that discussion about the proposed Lowe's store at the old IBM site should only be about bricks and mortar.

A community is more than a collection of tract houses and wide streets; so too a building is not just a building. A community is defined by the relationships that bind residents to one another. Thus, when new buildings are to be built within the community -- especially large commercial buildings -- we cannot assume that a new building (and the commercial enterprise connected with it) will have a positive effect in the neighborhood.

The conversation about a commercial building cannot take place only between planners and developers. The conversation must include members of the community at large. I applaud labor leader Neil Struthers' attempts to broaden the conversation.

This is not just an attack on Lowe's rights to conduct business as it sees fit. Pedigo has penned an attack on freedom. If there can be a "conversation" about whether Lowe's is good for the community, why not a "conversation" about whether Catholic churches are good for the community? Would America have been a better place if the anti-Catholic bigots who were a significant proportion of the nineteenth century American population were able to determine whether cathedrals for Irish and Italian immigrants would "have a positive effect in the neighborhood"?

Before we congratulate ourselves on fast-tracking another box store, let us consider this unfortunate reality: My parish has gone from supplying emergency food for 250 persons a month two and a half years ago to more than 1,200 persons a month as of October. Many of those who come to us for help have two to three low-paying jobs; most have no health-insurance coverage. These folks make just enough money for rent and food.

So I ask the question: Will the business that is to come into our community hire mostly part-time workers, thereby avoiding having to cover a bulk of its work force with health insurance? Will this business accommodate hiring people with special needs?

My faith tradition (Catholic) is particularly concerned about the right that all workers be given the opportunity to form labor associations (unions) and collective bargaining in the pursuit of a dignified life. Will this business provide dead-end, low-wage jobs, or will this business provide its workforce with a livable wage and insurance for families? Will the workers in this business be given the opportunity to explore the possibility of collective bargaining in an atmosphere free from intimidation from management?

I was raised a Catholic, and attended Catholic elementary and high schools. I don't remember our religion classes discussing how the right to form a union was part of the religion's creed. Nor do I remember being asked during confession if I had sinned by objecting to an employee's attempt to unionize. We were counselled that our teenage hormones would cause us to have strange and sinful desires -- but I don't recall that those desires would include the sin of working in a low-wage job.

(And what is this nonsense about a "dead-end job"? How can a job at a hardware store be anything other than a "dead-end job"? Is there some expectation that the job of a clerk in a hardware store in 2003 is to scan items for checkout, but in 2013 that clerk position will involve investment consulting? Would it be my duty, if I were still a Catholic, to refuse to patronize all gas stations, fast food outlets, and department stores?)



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