What Do We Mean By Social Justice?
To Yonkers, N.Y.-based Greyston Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Kenner, it’s best to be careful with the term “social justice.” “It’s a loaded term that can take on political meanings,” says Kenner, “so we need to be clear in terms of how we use it. One definition I like is the equitable application of a moral standard as demonstrated in society.”
Kenner’s reference to a “moral standard as demonstrated in society” is no doubt derived from the principles of social justice and economic justice imbedded in the Greyston Foundation by its founder, Bernie Glassman. “As our founder, Bernie Glassman observed,” notes Kenner, because they have a particular barrier, “it is wrong when we have people that want to work, but for whatever reason, they can’t get a job.” Glassman’s idea of social justice, put plainly, was that every person who wanted to work should be able to work, that should not be reserved to privileged groups, but rather the best way to promote social justice is to provide equal access to work.
Kenner believes Glassman’s message about work and income inequality are social justice issues that are gaining momentum in many aspects of society. “At times, due to a lack of social capital, some don’t even know how to start, but as business leaders, we should endeavor to make sure we are providing employment pathways for individuals who have resolved to be successful in whatever capacity or position that they are able to avail themselves,” he notes.
What Are Some Examples Of Social Justice?
Greyston has at the ready a prime example of social justice. “The Wide Open Dreams documentary captured social justice in action,” says Kenner, referring to a 2021 documentary following the moving story of Greyston Bakery employee Shawna Swanson’s and two other employees with different barriers – single moms, formerly incarcerated, English as a second-language — search for employment that ended up happily when she was hired by the Bakery
“In the documentary, you saw examples of able-bodied individuals who had barriers finding their place in Greyston’s organization, i.e., one a single mother with five children, another a returning citizen, and another with English as a second language. In each case, the potential is already there, but there is a barrier that may lead to them being overlooked.”
Kenner is quick to note that Greyston’s Open Hiring model, a model whereby no resumes, interview nor background checks are required, does away with the exclusion of groups of people who possess some of these barriers to employment. “We’re totally focused on a person’s future potential rather than whatever difficulties hindered them in their pasts,” he says. “As long as they want the opportunity to work hard and are resolved to be successful, we’ll make every effort to support them.”