Adding a religious element to the day's biggest labor-policy debate, a group of 30 rabbis penned a letter in Philadelphia's largest Jewish newspaper on Thursday, urging Sen. Arlen Specter to support the Employee Free Choice Act.
Writing in the Jewish Exponent, the rabbis -- accompanied by one rabbinical student and a rabbinical studies professor -- weren't bashful about getting Talmudic with 'card check.' Addressing Specter, himself a Jew, they write:
Every major religion is sympathetic to the laborer. Judaism was early among the major religions in its assertion that labor involved more than mere economic activity. The commandment to observe the Sabbath was as much an affirmation of human dignity as of divine authority. "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work." But the seventh day was to be holy - holy in the eyes of God, but equally important - holy in its respect for all who work. As it is written in Deuteronomy: "You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, but you must pay him his wages on the same day, for he is needy and urgently depends on it."
It is not always easy to translate the sanctity of labor into terms that have meaning today, a time in which the marketplace seems to have been elevated above all other holy altars. We believe that the Employee Free Choice Act presents an opportunity to give concrete meaning to the often frustrated dream of a just society.
The Rabbis go on to argue that EFCA has been "targeted with a smear campaign" by its opponents in part because it "would help to re-establish a sense of balance in our economic system."
"It is a way of balancing the scales of justice, of giving workers rights that most of us would take for granted," they conclude before urging Specter to add his "name to the growing lists of sponsors" of the bill.
Paid for by the Jewish Labor Committee -- which is part of the AFL-CIO -- the ad is the latest and by far most sanctified effort yet to persuade the Senator to drop his opposition to the union-backed measure. Whether Judaism's religious figures will have more pull than the labor's heavy hitters in influencing Specter's vote remains to be seen. Surely it doesn't hurt the union community to have a touch of the divine behind its efforts.
It should be noted that there is, according to a labor official, no known union of rabbis. Also, the Jewish Exponent -- for newspaper buffs -- began publishing in 1887.