Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Christian View of Striking.

I can pretty honestly say I don't ever think I've thought through what a "Christian view of Striking" might be. Thanks to Ref 21 for linking to this brief but thorough and balanced essay.

Should Christians Teacher's Strike?

Given some of the things going on in the US, especially New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin, I think Christians should think through a Christian reason for striking or not striking. 

I appreciate how the article breaks down the issues:

(1) Submission to our authorities. --Christians are supposed to submit to our bosses. 1 Peter and Ephesians tell slaves to submit to their masters. It is even in the face of cruel treatment and low pay that they were supposed to submit. This is not to say the Bible endorses owning people as human property--and while slavery in the Roman world was not ideal, it was also different from the slavery in America's past. The point is though that Christians model Christian conduct by working hard even when they are not treated fairly.

(2) Christians need to consider the issues of justice. --Christianity should be concerned with the poor and really injustice. Yet, in an American context, I find it hard to consider grave world-collapsing injustice when teachers go on strike because they might have to pay a slightly larger portion of their health care (usually something like going from paying 0% to 3-5%) but in most case are still with the proposed increase going to pay far less than than the average private sector employee.... it's tough to see how this anything but greed when it is the taxpayer footing the bill. This is hardly the equivalent of striking because your working conditions are so poor that will result in or strongly contribute to your death. 

(like the article I quote, I am in favor of paying teachers fairly and even well if we also have assurances that we are receiving quality staff and effort [which sometimes unions do shield those who have not demonstrated consistent skill])

But the issue of justice and righteousness is important to think through as it relates to striking. So we read:
"I’m not saying that Christians should never strike. There may be circumstances where that’s the right thing to do. The reason that I don’t think that loyalty to our employers is absolute is because there are situations where we need to be loyal to a greater cause. And that greater cause is justice and righteousness. There’s something godly about sticking up for the poor and the exploited. Even if we may be willing to work for an employer who treats the staff unfairly there will be times when we feel it’s appropriate to join in solidarity with our fellow workers and oppose the perpetuation of injustice."

(3) Harm to third parties. The article summarizes it well: 
"Whilst the intention of industrial action is always to harm the employer, it often ends up being misdirected towards third parties. When the employer is the Government, it’s the general public that tend to bear the brunt. When it’s the educators who withdraw their labour, it’s the kids who miss out. And so it’s worth asking what the effect of the strike will be on them and how you’d explain and justify why you’re choosing not to teach them. "

Something further to add is that strikers should conduct themselves according to the Law. Some (but not all for sure) of the action taken recently in places like Wisconsin seem to border on mob violence and intimidation by power rather than peaceable assembly and protest.


Sadly I think most Christians in America determine their view on Strikes based upon their political views. It seems to that the issue of striking from a 'Christian view' leads more naturally to: what is a Christian view of "unions" (or at least: the tactics of unions)? This question should be just as natural as: how should a Christian business owner conduct himself?

For me, I tend to be conservative so while I see the value of the historic rise of unions, I also tend to think they can today turn into a racket and a new form of bullying--I fully admit this is largely a political opinion and of course things vary on a case to case basis. 

I do have a concern that unions, (especially in the public sector, which even FDR opposed) can become a new form of thuggery. For example: trying to force Boeing from opening a plant in South Carolina because its state compel works to join union. Or denying the worker the right to a private ballet for whether he/she wants to join a union would seem to be a denial of a basic right. Don't ask me to weigh in on all the details or the letter of the law, I'm just saying if you get enough people together at some point the potential is that you become the bully even if you think you're "sticking up for the little guy."

What's more is that it is always injustice to show favoritism in deciding cases whether you show favoritism to the rich or favoritism to the poor, Ex. 23:1-3; Deut. 1:17; 26:19; Lev. 19:15; Prov. 24:19,23; 31:9 (sadly the latter is often not considered just as much an injustice but consider 'setting things back in balance' but see Ex. 23:3; Lev. 19:15). On the other hand, I can think of one person in my congregation who is in a union and I am glad that when he was the target of unfair accusations and conduct and when he filled a grievance he did have support of a union representative.

Yet, I have friends more politically liberal who see more value to unions. My take is that those more political conservative would do well to ponder point #2 of the essay cited while those leaning more to the left would do well to consider #1 and #3.

I would commend to your reading "Should Christians Teachers Strike."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is an article on this at

http://www.icf-online.org/professions/strike.pdf which seems quite helpfil

"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...