Labor with Love
Dear Saint Matthew Community and Visitors:
This is Labor Day Weekend – the official end of the summer season, the last days of the Minnesota State Fair, the weekend before the opening of school.
Yet, it is primarily the time when we give thanks for the gift of work and commit ourselves to the rights of workers. Human labor is integral to the full life of a human being. In human labor men and women express themselves and their talents. Just as the “work” of God – creation – reflects the very glory of God and is imprinted with the mark of the Creator. When human beings are denied the opportunity to work violence is done to them and they become much less than they were intended to be.
The circumstances of human work are to respect the dignity of the worker and enhance the opportunity for the person to do his/her best work. Men and women are meant to take pride in their work, and they are entitled to the rewards of their work – for, after all, their work is but an extension of themselves.
The wages paid are to provide an adequate living for the worker and his/her family – a just wage is the right of every worker. The laborer has the responsibility of providing a just day’s work for a just wage. Also, the owners of capital are entitled to just remuneration for their work and investment.
The person is not a cog in the wheel of commerce. He/she is to have a voice in the decisions which reflect upon his/her work. Workers have the right to free association and collective bargaining. Unions have a responsibility to be open and nondiscriminatory. Both labor and capital are at the service of the common good and when this is not the case, it is the responsibility of society’s governance to intervene and protect the common good.
Over the past decade profits continued to rise and yet the buying power of worker’s income has fallen. Corporate executives received scandalously high salaries and benefits while the worker has seen a diminution in his/her buying power. Tax breaks fall to the most wealthy one or two percent of the nation, while middle income families fall behind in their standard of living. Oil companies and pharmaceutical companies reap immoral profits while the cost of drugs strangles the financial life of low and moderate income persons, and the cost of gas – home heating and transportation – cripples the budgets of modest income families.
Since 1891 our church has resolutely taught that economic justice is a constitutive dimension of Catholic moral teaching. This Labor Day let us reflect on the need to re-examine our economic structures in light of the common good.