Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sabbatical Sundays

This is an idea that I've been thinking about for a few months now. I thought I would write something up about it before I start a public Facebook page for discussion and accountability purposes. Let me know what you think!

Work, Buy, Consume, Die

Sabbatical Sundays

Imagine it’s nine in the morning on Boxing Day. The consumer capitals of our major cities are preparing for the rush of shoppers seeking a bargain. Blurry-eyed retail staff, still recovering from the lead-up to Christmas awaken early. Some of them cancelled plans to attend Christmas dinner with their families the night before knowing that the security of their employment depended upon their availability during the ‘Christmas black-out period’.

But this year, when the shops open from eight in the morning, something is different. You’re nowhere to be found. Not just you, but several of your friends who once flocked to the sales and battled for car parks have made a conscious decision. This year you decide to put yourself in the shoes of the retail staff. You decide that time spent with family and friends is more sacred than your shopping. This year, your shopping can wait.

Sabbatical Sundays is the meeting place for a movement of people who are concerned about how 24/7 trade effects things more important than consumables. This is a movement of people who understand that the conditions of employment for many workers in service-related industries are not what they would choose if they had greater influence over their terms of employment. These are not the conditions we would choose if we were employed in service-related industries.

There are several reasons why one may want to consider the effects of demanding 24/7 labour. It might be because you are concerned with the effects that this kind of trade has on the people working in the industry. It might be because you are concerned with the ever-increasing power of multi-national corporations and how 24/7 trade makes it more difficult for small-scale businesses to break into the market. It may be because you believe that time spent with family is more important than corporate profits. It might be because you believe that 24/7 trade is incompatible with your religious or family values. There are many reasons why you may want to consider what labour you demand and when you demand it – this is a place where people with different drivers can come together under the same idea.

While a sabbath or sabbatical, considered to be a time of rest or worship, could be observed for any stretch of time on any given day, month, or year, this idea specifically related to Sunday labour. If there is one day of the week that could be won back, one day of the week that some consider holy, or one day of the week that families and communities gather together to appreciate what is really important about our existence, that day is Sunday.

This movement, however, also believes that 24 hour trade is not a necessity and that to drop into a fast-food joint at two in the morning demands a kind of labour that no one should be asked to provide. This kind of out-of-hours luxury labour is drastically different to requiring emergency services. It is inevitable that people working in the emergency services sector will be required to work unusual hours. The same cannot be said for fast-food and retail outlets. For their services, we can wait until morning.  

From these thoughts has sprung the idea and movement that has long existed yet feels buried: Sabbatical Sundays.