Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Work or work-fare?

The main article on the Orthonomics blog for the past few days has been an email from a reader who complained with many others that Jewish schools and organizations were not paying their employees for their work - just skipping payday. Apparently, the same thing is happening all over the Jewish world:

From the Lekarev Report daily newsletter:

General Strike Paralyzes Israel

The Manufacturers Association has appealed to the National Labor Court today to order an end to the general strike in the public sector which began at 6 am Israel time. The strike was called by the Histadrut Trade Union. The Association estimated that the strike would cost the economy NIS 350m. per day, Israel Radio reported. However, by midday, head of the civil servants union, Ariel Yaakobi, had shut down those offices, in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Kfar Saba, as well.

At Ben-Gurion airport, flights were being allowed to land, but passengers were not receiving their luggage. However, exceptions would be made for the basketball team from Ljubljana who has come to play Maccabi Tel Aviv as well as for Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman who was expected to arrive via private plane.

The public-sector strike shut down all government offices and brought outgoing traffic at the country's airports and seaports to a halt. Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini held a meeting late Tuesday night with Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson and Interior Minister Roni Bar-On in an attempt to avert the strike, but no progress was made. Interior Ministry offices initially refused to join the strike and opened to the public as usual Wednesday morning, Army Radio reported. However, by mid-day they were shut down.

According to the Histadrut, 81 local authorities and 13 religious councils have failed to pay employees or transfer money to pension funds for months, affecting some 40,000 workers. The government is arguing that poor planning and mismanagement by regional councils led them to near bankruptcy far beyond the annual budget allocation.

The Ministry of Defense, Israel Lands Administration, Employment Service, National Insurance Institute, Bank of Israel, Tax Authority, courts and religious councils have all joined the strike.


We can at least have a little bit of sympathy for the government workers in Eretz Israel - the cost of the military and security and defense against the Muslim hoardes has skyrocketed and is now a staggering percentage of the government's income. But what excuses do the Jewish schools and yeshivas and Jewish organizations here in America have?

What is the matter with these employers?!? Failing to pay your employees on time is one of the most blatant and arrogant transgressions of God's written commandments! It is illegal both in God's view and according to the law of the land - so why are they still doing it???

Let's use some intellectual honesty, here. If your yeshiva or organization can't afford to pay everyone, then the unpaid employees need to be let go so they can go get a real job. No giant pile of funds is going to miraculously appear to settle what these employees are owed - and if your financial management is really that bad, then your yeshiva or organization needs to be shut down and re-opened later if possible using fiscally responsible and realistic figures for income and expenses.

Just like the laws of justice and nature also apply to Jews, our schools and organizations don't get a magic waiver from the laws of economics, either. You can't spend more than you earn. You can't pay more people than your income can realistically support. The cronyism and irresponsible favor-culling for jobs in the Ultra-Orthodox world needs to stop. That means your cousin and brother and sister-in-law are going to have to go out into the real world and become gainfully employed in some sort of market-rate job, because you can't afford to pay them and it is wrong, wrong, wrong for them to not be paid and be forced to continue racking up debt and bondage because of your ignorant and irresponsible management.

This is another facet of the ugly underside of the yeshiva culture. There are far too few real jobs for the students and graduates of these yeshivas - they end up being pseudo-charity cases on some relative or friend's school or organization because they aren't qualified for anything that will actually support their family and community in the real world. This is shameful, class.

The Ultra-Orthodox community is going to have to get over the idea that men shouldn't study any sort of trade or occupation that will actually provide real income from outside the already-stretched-too-thin income base of the ultra-orthodox community. This entire idea is also, itself, a violation of Torah! Didn't you read Pirkei Avos?

I read recently that there is a worker training program for the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel - but it was mostly women who showed up for it! Why? Because the men believe they are entitled to be useless parasites on their wives and families, that their children should be raised in herds by strangers so they can sell their wives into slavery. Is this God's idea of how a family should be run? Even Proverbs 31 shows the wife working AT HOME to supplement her husband's income, not being sold into servitude at some other man's business all day so that her children and extended family are left without her care.

This paradigm was designed by lazy, arrogant men who care nothing about the welfare of their wives and children - they care only about their own "status" and "prestige" and "position." You should all die of shame to turn your kids out of your home and trade your wife's services for money! Get a real job, loser! And if you're not qualified for a desk job that requires a real college degree, then you're going to have to - gasp! - do manual labor, janitorial work, or whatever it takes. A real man takes responsibility for his family and the bad choices he has made in the past, and fixes them. So if you're not being paid at your pseudo-charity work-fare job, then get out there and find another one.

And if you're one of those Torah-breaking slimeballs not paying your employees, then you're too incompetent to be running a business in the first place. You're not doing anyone any favors by pretending that the dysfunctional economy of the Ultra-Orthodox world can continue when so few have enough real-world education to actually earn money. There is no mitzvah in cranking out more unemployable generations. It is, rather, a terrible besmirchment of God's name that so many men are basically unemployable in the real world, that the work-fare employers can't pay them their wages, and so many families are struggling with debt and dishonor because of it.

It's not rocket science, class - it's economics 101. A community that can't support itself is a dysfunctional community. Let's have some sunlight here, too. This is why there is so much welfare fraud and gambling and other scams in the Ultra-Orthodox community. Why have the Rabbis made it so that people have to lie, cheat, and steal to live a frum life? What's wrong with this picture?

And how long before this house of cards collapses under its own weight? Not much longer, class.

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