By Mihee Kim-Kort—
Across the U.S., day laborers line up outside job sites, waiting and hoping to be hired for the day. Work is not guaranteed. It may not be enough to live on. Sometimes it is dangerous.
Recently, as summer temperatures soared above 105 degrees, construction workers in Austin, Texas learned that beginning Sept. 1, 2023, they no longer have a right to rest and water breaks. A new state law is set to override city and county ordinances that mandate such breaks. Complicating matters, many day laborers are immigrants who may fear retaliation or harsh treatment if they complain about the lack of water or breaks.
Hundreds of U.S. workers (including at least 53 in Texas) died from heat-related illnesses between 2010 and 2020, with according to an investigation by National Public Radio, Columbia Journalism Investigations and other news outlets (https://publichealthwatch. org/deadly-heat/).
At the time of Jesus’ ministry, the day laborer system was common. Jesus’ parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) would have connected well with his audience. Interestingly, this story only appears in Matthew’s gospel. Sandwiched between other stories, it seems like an interruption.
The Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort is an ordained Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister with degrees in divinity and theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. She is the author of Outside the Lines (2018).
This excerpted article appeared in the September 2023 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.