I still can’t forget how Merrill Lynch ousted its so-called “risk-taking CEO” for a $2.2 billion quarterly loss on his watch earlier this year. Plus, he allegedly approached Wachovia about a possible merger, without his board’s approval. Nyah-nyah! Only thing is, despite those supposed heinous transgressions, the dude still rode off into the corporate sunset weighed down by $161.5 million dollars in benefits stuffed into his already bulging pockets.

What universe is he living in?

Not mine. As with any ordinary worker, you screw up, you’re immediately fired, booted through the door, forget your mandated two-weeks notice, hauled outta the office on your sorry butt, forever, period, pack up by lunch time, be gone, no ripping off the company art, get the flip outta there now … or else.

Grovel, grovel.

And we’ve all seen those flicks where the newly fired person gets instantaneously and unceremoniously escorted out of the building by cops at gunpoint. Demeaning, right?
Funny, do you recall this ever happening to these megabuck-miscreant CEOs?

Not hardly.

Don’t let these corporate cowboys shame the rest of us. Thing is, you could pay thousands of workers with that misappropriated $161.5 million – real living wages, for a change. But no, and the gap widens. Natch, it’s the business world’s pyramid of greed, based on the geometry of power – haves and have-nots. While you’re at work, you can’t even think your own thoughts. They own you.

Heck, in America, we like to say Lincoln freed the slaves. But consider the term “wage slave” from Wickipedia:

In terms used by critics of capitalism, wage slavery is the condition where a person must sell their labor power, submitting to the authority of an employer merely to subsist. Wage slavery can be described as a lack of rights. The only rights a person has are the rights they gains on the labor market. If one … cannot make enough money to survive, they starve. One’s choices consist of the workhouse prison, or the labor market. The rich have wealth enough to live while the poor and working people are subjected to market discipline. … Wage slave can denote a worker with no choice in who they work for, or … no choice in the type of job they can get. Some also draw distinctions between workers whose lack of employment freedom is due to circumstances beyond their control, such as economic and geographic circumstances, or due to circumstances arguably under their control, such as a lack of education or ability. …

While many folks may make fun of unions, they do help rectify power imbalances. In their absence, a pinch of spiritual creativity goes a long way. The good people from Philadelphia Jobs with Justice recently e-mailed about a divinely inspired way of dealing with labor-management disputes:


“For more than a year, hundreds of Temple University students, North Philadelphia community members, security guards, labor activists and clergy have been asking Temple University do the right thing and give 300 … security guards five days of paid sick leave.

“Despite documented proof guards are forced to come to work while sick – often unable to fully perform their duties due to illness – or forced to show up to work while taking over-the-counter medication, new Temple President Ann Weaver Hart has refused to give these hard-working men and women the time off they so desperately need.

“Recently, in recognition of the Holy Season of Advent – the season in which millions wait for justice and light in the Christian tradition – the Philadelphia Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice called on folks of all faiths to join them in prayer – the “Waiting for Justice Prayer Vigil” – preceding an afternoon meeting of the Temple University Board of Trustees on campus.

“‘Pray with us to encourage the Board of Trustees,’ ” the committee exhorted in email, “‘to provide five days of paid sick leave for the guards.'”

They planned to sing their own version of the traditional hymn, “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel”

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,

That moans in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear!

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

Oh Come, dear Lord, with mercy and grace,

Make strong the weak and heal the human race,

The hungry feed, the needy clothe, that by example we will learn to love.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to you O Israel.

Feed the hungry? Clothe those in need? Joy to the world, indeed.

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