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A Labor Day salute to the staff at Rio

By Paul R. Sebastian, Ph.D.

September 2, 2013

While teaching at the University of Rio Grande, I wrote this piece to honor the staff there. Today, as Professor Emeritus of Management, I try to contribute wherever I can. This tribute is really applicable to any organization. I hope to point out that every employee is important and a valuable member of the team; every worker makes a difference. When one person is absent or does not do his/her job and does not do the best s/he can, the entire organization suffers. As in football, one missed block and the quarterback is sacked.


Labor Day is all about the tremendous dignity of the worker and his/her work. This great dignity of the person has its origin in the different faiths. Based upon this concept, they have had a great influence upon business practice especially in regard to ethics, social responsibility, social justice and legislation against abuses in the workplace … slavery, child-labor, unsafe and inhumane working conditions, unjust wages and more.


For example, John Wesley pricked the conscience of 19th Century Britain. Two of his disciples, William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury were reformers in the British Parliament. Leo XIII’s 1891 papal encyclical “Rerum Novarum on the Condition of Labor” had a world-wide impact and continues as part of the social teachings of the Church which is updated as new problems, controversies and issues come up.


Jews, Muslims and Christians believe that even the lowest paid worker has this great dignity because s/he was created by God according to His image and likeness. Christians add that Christ as God suffered and died to save each one of us and draw inspiration from His words, “Whatever you do to the least of mine, you do it unto Me”. As I understand it, the Hindus use the word “Namaste” as a greeting, which means welcome and/or “I acknowledge the divine in you”. Secular humanists in their own way also believe in the dignity of the person.


Work in itself has great dignity, according to the Christian view, because man (in a generic sense) uses work to participate with God in creation which is ongoing … to construct buildings and to create goods and services and works of art. Martin Luther preached that even the most menial work should be done for the glory of God. This conviction led to the Protestant work ethic which some scholars say was a major factor in the economic development of the West after the Reformation. Ignatius Loyola, advocated a similar work ethic (“Ad majorem Dei gloriam”) as the part of the Catholic Counterreformation. The second papal encyclical of John Paul II, “Laborem Exercens”, was devoted to the Theology of Work.


On Labor Day, I sometimes reflect upon the tremendous dignity of each worker and his/her importance to the organization … each making a very important contribution according to his/her education, skills and abilities. From time to time, I like to say to the custodian in our building, “Thank you for keeping our place clean. It would be a real dump without you.” Then I was thinking that we, the line faculty, tend to take our support staff for granted, and they deserve our appreciation. We couldn’t do without them. Thus, I would like to thank each member of Rio’s staff for helping us to perform our mission.


I thank the secretaries for making our jobs so much easier and more efficient with their typing, filing, help with scheduling, reminders, assisting students, organizing, handling the many forms and a myriad of other jobs.


I thank our landscaping people for making our campus beautiful and enjoyable to walk through.


I thank the maintenance people for keeping the buildings and equipment in repair.


I thank the cafeteria and food court people for the fine meals and snacks they serve us.


I thank the housekeeping people for keeping our classrooms, offices and other facilities clean … making Rio a nicer place in which to work.


I thank the campus security staff for keeping our campus safe and helping us in many other ways.


I thank the fitness, health services and counseling center staff for maintaining our emotional and physical well being.


I thank the admissions people, upon whom our jobs and livelihood depend.


I thank the continuing and economic education people for their outreach to the community.


I thank the switchboard operators who direct outside phone calls to the right people.


I thank the Crossroads people for helping to turn lives around.


I thank the financial aid people who help to make it possible for many students to attend college who otherwise could not.


I thank the multi-ethnic affairs staff for maintaining our international students and promoting diversity and its understanding.


I thank the post office people for helping us to send out and receive packages and mail from within and outside the university.


I thank the alumni relations and the institutional advancement people who bring donations that improve the university and keep it afloat.


I thank the coaches and others involved in extracurricular activities who supplement our teaching of values and skills so indispensable to the professional formation of our students plus the athletic events, recreation, theater, art exhibits and concerts that enrich our lives.


I thank the housing people for maintaining decent places for our students to reside.


I thank the print shop people who print our handouts and fliers.


I thank the purchasing, accounting and finance affairs staff who control our costs and keep us solvent.


I thank the C.A.R.S. people who advise and counsel our students to plan their careers.


I thank the human resources people who help us hire new employees and maintain the current members of our team … benefits, labor relations and orientation.


I thank the campus computing M.I.S. people for keeping our information technology system up to date and working as it gives us timely information.


I thank the records people who collect our grades and give them to the students and us for advising.


I thank the librarians who help us teach students to do research and write decent papers. I thank the people at the learning center and the media center who supplement and assist us in our teaching. The professors can’t do it alone.


I thank the bookstore people who provide us with our texts and supplies for our courses. I thank the university relations people for helping to get the word out about our wonderful community college and university that has done so much for our students and for the surrounding community — with the sky as the limit to our potential.


I thank the Title III people who are helping to improve our advising, increase retention and provide additional training of our employees.


I thank the Madog Center for Welsh Studies people who are making us and the surrounding community aware of this area’s rich heritage.


I thank the other administrators who coordinate our work activities and help us all to work together as a team.


I know I’ve forgotten somebody, and I thank them, too.


I thank all staff people because we front line faculty couldn’t do our jobs without them. That means we need each other as we strive for a better college and university through which to serve our students. That makes us all together — faculty, staff and students — an interdependent campus community.