Some Tim Horton’s Ontario franchises seem to be giving us a lesson in how not to do business, especially when Canada’s economic recovery is strengthening (although not as much in the East as in Alberta). The optics alone are so bad that their parent company refers to (dismisses?) the franchisees as “a radical group”. How can it look good when an employer makes employees pay for their own raises by cutting pay for breaks and adding charges for previously free uniforms. But then the corporate bosses that criticize their own franchisees are really just trying to deflect from their refusal to allow price increases to cover the wage increase. And they certainly don’t want the workers increase to cut into their own hyper-inflated salaries (2000% over the last 10 years for CEOs), or the massive, billion dollar returns to HQ. Shareholders (including pension plans) would demand executive blood were that to happen. I do receive a non-governmental pension so I have a smidgen of sympathy for those shareholders.
Still, the Tim Horton’s fiasco brings home the brutality of our increasingly dysfunctional economic system, where everyone at the top of the financial pyramid expects and demands their perceived entitlement of increasing salaries, perks and profits every year, no matter what impact it has on those at the bottom. And that impact is about the only thing that “trickles down”.
Capitalism works somewhat better when the marketplace has some ethical controls in place. Currently those at the top of the corporate elite seem incapable of moral and ethical decision making. The “free” market has become free of ethics and morality. “Maximizing profit”, the holy grail of the market, is a morally bankrupt principle that dictates that financial decision makers must focus only on having increasing profits every single quarter. Family and community are minimized or ignored, except when there is a good PR opportunity. To squeeze the most out of the system individualism and productivity are glorified and in the end, most of us will be working 18 hours every day for pathetic wages, with only enough time off to ensure survival and the production of new workers. Don’t believe it? Look around. The point of unchecked capitalism is to create an empire that funnels all wealth to the top.
Community is the counter to this dysfunction. When families and communities are strong people band together for their own interest, form worshipping communities to pass on the value of the person and persons beyond person hours for the corporation, governments to pass legislation to keep the workplace humane and healthy, and educational and cultural institutions to speak to and uplift our humanity. Can you see how this might aggravate those who only see us as individual worker units? A functional form of capitalism would honour people as persons, and what we have today is simply not working for too many.
As a minister I believe the church has to become aware of its complicity in our economic dysfunction. We are too easily co-opted by an individualism that says our job as Christians is simply to get ourselves into heaven by going to church, weekly or weakly, and assenting to a list of dogmas whether we understand them or not. Social justice and community building are no longer our strong suits and we are losing our impact on a society that sees us as increasingly irrelevant.
So, if you are interested, let’s have a sacred conversation about it, especially if you disagree with my point of view. I am open to being shown how wrong I am and I hope you are too. Let’s meet over coffee or a meal and see where it goes. You can reach me through our church office, or talk to me after church – we are open Sundays for your worshipping convenience.