An Overdue Change in Overtime

A Reflection on Biblical Justice and the New Overtime Rules

By Mary Kay Glazer, ICWJ Volunteer

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. – James 5:1-5 

This scathing prophetic passage from the Epistle of James is very fitting today, as those who struggle for worker justice celebrate the new overtime rules from the Obama administration (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/19/opinion/making-overtime-fair-again.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0). The step toward fair pay is long overdue, and it is good news for millions of people who have been exploited by employers wanting to squeeze more work without honest compensation.

Of course, there is opposition to these rules. From many businesses, for sure, and they would be the target of James’ words. In addition, some of the opposition may come from consumers, who likely will bear at least part of the brunt of this move toward fair wages, since it will most likely affect the prices we pay for the things we buy.

How will you react when prices increase to support just compensation for your neighbors? Will you be on the side of justice, or of oppression? Will you be on the side of the workers who now will be paid more fairly, or on the side of the businesses who want to increase their profits, no matter the human cost? On the side of the laborers, or on the side of those who “have fattened (their) hearts in a day of slaughter?”

How will you support those fighting for wage justice?

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