Catholic leaders have long been solidly entrenched in the labor movement. Ranks of the earliest labor organizations in the country were filled with Catholics who answered Pope Leo’s call in his encyclical Rerum Novarum on labor and the church.
He recognized the erosion of human dignity caused by economic forces that focus only on salary, consumerism and production.
This Labor Day, more than 120 years later, these words still resonate.
Once again, the labor movement is under siege. In Wisconsin attempts were made to emasculate public unions by curtailing collective bargaining. Some frustration directed against public labor unions can be understandable when we read in the news about generous health benefits while the rest of us depend on less.
Voters’ concerns about the cost of government are valid as states and cities face crippling financial problems.
But let’s not forget that the labor movement is made up of folks whose predecessors brought us the weekend.
Bishop Stephen Blaire, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said in his Labor Day comments that unions are necessary to propel workers out of poverty amid a “broken economy.”
“Our country continues to struggle with a broken economy that is not producing enough decent jobs. Millions of Americans suffer from unemployment, underemployment or are living in poverty as their basic needs too often go unmet,” he noted. “This represents a serious economic and moral failure for our nation.”
To repair this damage, everyone must have a voice.
Business, religious, labor and civic leaders must band together to help working people build a more just economy.