One thing that is certain is that the world is full of human rights abuses. North Korea, Iran, Darfur, Tibet, China, Guantanamo, Saudi Arabia. I doubt there is a single country that is free from them. And with all of the suffering how do we choose where to focus our attention? Who is most worthy of our money and action? Whose abuse is less important? It is hard to choose. But, before we look wide and far and cast our nets wide let us look closer to home.
When my children were born, I had no help. *GASP* I did it all. As my children grew and I slipped further into the pit of depression, we made the choice to hire help. We looked around and asked for referrals and finally found an agency and through them, a wonderful woman. It stretched our budget, but my sanity and the peacefulness of our home demanded the sacrifice. Soon, we were looking for help again and were referred to a woman in the community who "knows all the hispanics." In talking to her, I was shocked.
She told me that we had paid our previous housekeepers too much. We shouldn't pay more that $30.00 a day. Maybe $35.00 since we had triplets. There was no reason to pay more, she claimed, because what would they spend it on? Jeans and tee shirts? "They don't have to make Shabbos." Oh, and lest there be any confusion, I would be serving them lunch, too.
I'll admit it. At first I was thrilled. At that price, we could get 2 people. I could have some free time. I could have the house cleaned and be able to take someone to the market with me. We even hired someone at that gastly rate. She worked 9 hours. She cleaned and did the ironing and helped with the girls. Soon she claimed it was too hard and quit. Could I really blame her?
A few weeks ago there was an article in the Los Angeles Times about the treatment of employees at car washes. In some cases, they were working 14 hours a day for their share of tips. Living 10 or more in an apartment because it was all they could afford. One car wash owner said that that was all he could afford because people wanted a good job and cheap.
Is that really what we have become? A nation that cares more about our cars than the humans we pay to clean them? Really?
Do these people not matter because they speak Spanish and immigrated here? Are they lesser people because they have darker skin and dark eyes? I'll admit I find this more disturbing within the Jewish community because it reeks of the same types of valuing of human beings as we have faced for centuries. Yet, no one seems to care about it. There is no public outcry from the people who marched in the south in the 1960s demanding equality despite a difference in skin color. There is no one demanding that we treat others as we want to be treated. There isn't a single person demanding that we pay fair wages to the people who do so many of the jobs that keep our lifestyles.
We have found another housekeeper. We pay her more than "the going rate". In fact, she makes more than I did when I worked. We can't afford her full-time, and it still stretches our budget. I wouldn't mind getting someone to work her days off, but I'm not prepared to resort to slave labor to get it.