I Corinthians 9:9-10

For the last 10 years or so companies have been cutting benefits and holding salaries flat in order to keep the doors open. The poster child for this corporate behavior is General Motors asking the unions for concessions to cut GM’s costs for health care, retirement plans, and in cutting jobs followed by increasing work loads for the remaining workers.

To keep General Motors in business the workers gave those concessions. Now (2013) GM is reporting exceptional profits at least in part because of those cost reductions. Is it wrong for the workers to expect GM to share those gains with the people who made them possible? In first Corinthians, chapter 9 versus 9 and 10 the bible tells us to allow the workers to share in the bounty of the harvest.

9          For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”

Is it about oxen that God is concerned or is there a larger lesson here?

10        Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.

But, claim the managers, that money belongs to the shareholders not us and we can’t share that out as higher salaries or bonuses. This ignores the fact that without the workers sacrifice there would be no company (if the original management position that cuts were necessary just to keep the company alive had any truth in it) and the shareholders would have lost everything.

Biblically it is required that some of those new profits be shared with the people who created it in the first place. Even none Christians recognize that simple honesty demands that the very people who gave up short-term income to keep the company alive get some return on that “investment”.

The employees of many companies made substantial sacrifices to keep the companies going through the tough times in the hope that when things got better they could recoup some of what they gave up. When companies fail to honor this implied contact they are making a business decision to increase their profits, the shareholder’s value and their own salaries at the expense of their workers.

To the shareholders and investors the increasing of profits by taking money from their employees should be clear sign of a failed business plan. It should also be a warning to the shareholders that the current level of profits is a house of cards and the next tightening of the economy will spell catastrophic failure since the workers, once burned, will never agree to any concessions the next time.


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