Hi hi hi!! Remember how we’re in the middle of the middle of the Torah now—Leviticus 19? The Holiness Code. The heart of the Torah. Literally getting to the core stuff, if you will. Aaand what’s one of the key messages Torah wants to make sure that we hear?
Here is an unexpected tale of the importance of unionization. Our county’s public defenders office is unionized. No one may think of lawyers as needing union representation - after all, they are lawyers. But in our county the public defenders do not have outrageous caseloads. (Because of the union). They are paid the same as the attorneys at the county’s district attorney’s office - which attracts better lawyers. (Because of the union). They have the necessary resources at their disposal to represent clients. (Because of the union). And the indigent clients in our county get better representation. And it’s all because the attorneys are unionized.
What gets me most is the "metaphorical blood".
Especially because, as I read this, the main form of abuse suffered by the workers is that they were expected to be super efficient. (As my bosses are fond of exhorting, "dig deep" to "do more with less".) (And the echoes of Exodus and the brick-making on that just hit me.)
So, not only "don't beat your workers" and "don't withhold pay" but also "don't stress your workers" ("don't distress your workers") and "don't treat them as production machines".
I love the idea of kashrut being as much about the ethical treatment of workers as it is of livestock.
I'm also reminded me Isaiah 58, an all-time favorite verse:
"'Why, when we fasted, did You not see? When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?' Because on your fast day you see to your business and oppress all your laborers! Because you fast in strife and contention, and you strike with a wicked fist! Your fasting today is not such as to make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast I desire, a day for people to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day when God is favorable? No, this is the fast I desire: to unlock fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke. To let the oppressed go free; to break off every yoke."
Reading this post literally brought tears to my eyes. I’m not Jewish or even religious, but to see people treating the humanity of others (and not just others who are like them) as a central concern is very moving. Thank you for sharing this.
YIVO Announces Major Project to Digitize Its Historic Jewish Labor and Political Archive
Feb. 2, 2023 / YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
"The materials documenting the activities of the Bund help illustrate how the transnational activities of the Jewish working class were instrumental in the international labor movement.
In addition to providing fascinating material about Jewish political activity in pre-Revolutionary Russia and interwar Europe, these collections reveal the impact of an important aspect of the Jewish immigrant community on American politics and social life and deepen our understanding of the American Jewish experience,” said Jonathan Brent, CEO and Executive Director at YIVO."
“And back over here in the late capitalist wasteland, it’s sure looking like it’s Union O’Clock. 🔥 “. As much as it makes feel better that unions are on the comeback, as a retired unionized government employee, it wasn’t just capitalism that led us to this moment. The unions couldn’t pivot any better regarding the massive changes in technology than the owners/managers/shareholders. Even unions had to ask newer employee to settle for less, so employees with seniority could keep some benefits. It does feel that things are going to have to get worse, as if they are not bad enough. I have no desire to return to the conditions of the Gilded Age for the poorest and most marginalized. But I am leery of the “isms” capital, social, commun, etc, as solutions. One did thing has given me a bit of hope over time. A number of years ago we switched to a union affiliated AFSCME https://afscme.org/about/history . Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in Memphis, helping the Memphis Sanitation Workers who were striking for union representation when he was assassinated. If you haven't done so in awhile, I encourage you to read the speech Dr. King gave on the eve of his death. https://www.afscme.org/about/history/mlk/mountaintop