Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Movie, Solidarity and a Commandment

A few months ago I saw "Up in the Air" starring George Clooney. It had some humorous elements. However, there were a couple of very serious themes in that movie: an obvious one was the disillusionment which came from a relationship between Clooney's character and a woman whom he discovers is married; the other theme which I found all too realistic was that of hard nosed business owners terminating the employment of long-time workers. Clooney's character has the dubious honor of showing the ropes to a promising young woman. He shows her not only how to pack light so as to board planes more easily. The special skill he was charged to impart to her was that of being an expert terminator of people's jobs. The movie shows how employees of a vast corporation are told by these two experts that they no longer are needed, their job are terminated. Since the man whom Clooney portrays has to be quick about his business, not much time is spent dwelling on the heartbreak that is left in his wake. I know someone who has spent most of his adult life working as a trusted bank employee. He is often on call 24/7. His bank is under new management. A few people have already been fired because they dared to speak out about the ruthlessness of the new takeover. My friend never blows his own horn, so he may not be fired. Yet, after more than 30 years of working conscientiously and in many inconvenient environments, he was demoted. He does not have a college degree for what he does. Yet, his work is fine. Of course, he will have to re-work his budget. Car and insurance payments as well as medical bills will mightily stretch his lower paycheck.
His story brought to mind the lessons we were taught in American history about entrepreneurs who earned their money by depriving wages from steel workers and miners. In our religious classes, those stories were part of the application of the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." In the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, wages, adequate or less, are covered in the section under the seventh Commandment. The new catechism adds a topic called "solidarity." It means our being united with the poor and marginalized. When men and women are deprived of a job, or given lesser pay for what they do, we are to be in solidarity with them. I have been praying for my friend, the bank employee. And, I have been praying for his employers that they may allow the ideas of solidarity, just wages and justice to penetrate their minds, hearts, and actions. May the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" be a light to guide their decisions.

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