The following remarks were presented by the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director, during the Workers’ Memorial Day Service hosted by the NC State AFL-CIO. To view the live-stream, click here.
How fortunate to be deemed an essential worker for the past 14 months and not be laid off or have your position eliminated altogether.
- Except, you are vulnerable to a virus that has killed people in this country at an alarming rate.
- Except, you are forced to show up for work even when doing the work puts you at a higher rate for contracting the virus.
- Except, you are barely paid a living wage, if that, and often only a minimum wage.
Not so fortunate, it seems. We know the numbers of essential workers who contracted the coronavirus this past year are staggering and we know many of them died. Many of their family members died because they brought it home from the workplace and this is a highly contagious virus.
Other people know the numbers far better than I do. What I know is, God expects us to treat one another better than this. When God established the social safety net with Moses and the Hebrews fleeing Egypt, God had this to say:
“When any of you commit a trespass against the Lord by deceiving a neighbor or you have defrauded a neighbor and when you realize your guilt, you shall repay the amount and add one-fifth to it” (Lev. 6, selected verses).
It’s mighty hard to repay a life, much less add one-fifth to it, but God clearly expects us to value the lives of those who work among us. And when we do not, we not only defraud the worker, but as God told Moses, we “trespass against the Lord.”May God have mercy on us all