Spending money on any product is a vote for the producer and one of the greatest influences we have on society is through our decision-making of where to spend our money. And indeed, much of modern western society has been taken over by excessive consumption and what many theologians have called an idolatry of materialism. In all that we do, and in all that we purchase, we must be cognizant of how our spending affects the broader world. But even more so, we must be aware that even a small change in our purchasing power could have major ramifications in the marketplace. At the heart of workers’ rights in the recognition that many workers are invisible to us. They wake up early in the morning and go home late at night, all the while working in back rooms far from our prying eyes. Jewish tradition says, No! We must not ignore these people. For even though society may not deem them worthy of having a modicum of dignity, we know that they are imbued with an irrevocable heavenly dignity. Thus, in all that we do, we must have these workers at the forefront of our minds so that we ensure that they are treated fairly, paid justly, and given protection against exploitation and castigation.
- Put pressure on local corporate leaders in our communities and
beyond who are accused of underpaying or mistreating workers to
abide by certain ethical procedures and Jewish law.
- Lobby your representative to raise the standards of ethical trade and to
ensure that all trade agreements include enforceable regulations that
maintain just labor standards.
- Help build consumer awareness of fair trade products, purchase
them yourself, and be sure that your schools, synagogues, and offices
do the same. Encourage your local supermarket to supply more fair
- Avoid purchasing products from companies with known predatory
tendencies or labor injustices.
- Ensure all establishments that you patronize abide by environmentally
friendly practices and pay their workers fairly.
- Take opportunities if and when possible to travel and speak with
individuals from other cultures and learn about their lives, livelihoods,
concerns, and ideologies.
- Learn more about the Torah’s laws and values around just business
practice (Choshen Mishpat). Also learn more about the intricacies of
capitalism, socialism, globalization, and philosophies of economic
oppression and human dignity.
Get Involved! Contact one of these organizations to work on this issue more directly: