Thursday, September 1st was the beginning of meteorological Fall; and this weekend – Labor Day weekend – is the beginning of the Fall routine.
Labor Day is time to recognize the power and work of organized labor in the betterment of social life. Since 1891 the Catholic Church has affirmed the value of collective bargaining and the right of workers to organize.
In the late 1800s a handful of captains of industry (known as “Robber Barons”) held the reigns of economic life in the United States. One such “Robber Baron” was our own James J. Hill – The Empire Builder.
Today, 131 years later, the condition is much the same. Income inequality grows exponentially. While average workers have seen little or no growth in their income, the people at the top rake in obscene salaries in the hundreds of millions annually – and thus the gulf between the rich and the poor grows.
Today there is a resurgence of the Labor Movement as more and more work sites are unionizing – Starbucks, Walmart, Amazon, etc.
The function of unions is to even the playing field – the worker can corporately negotiate salary, benefits, working conditions, healthcare benefits with their employer. The employer can collectively negotiate work productivity with labor.
The balance in this relationship between worker and employer is always found in justice. The laborer is committed to a high quality product and the employer is committed to rewarding the laborer for a good day’s work.
This Labor Day let us not forget the debt we owe to the Labor Movement and the resultant level playing field it has generated.
Father Steve Adrian
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