The United States Department o f Labor defines Labor Day as, “the first Monday in September … a creation of the labor movement … dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” In their Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, Economic Justice for All, the U.S Catholic Bishops (USCCB) remind us:
All work has a threefold moral significance. First, it is a principle way that people exercise the distinctive human capacity for self-expression and self-realization. Second, it is the ordinary way for human beings to fulfill their material needs. Finally, work enables people to contribute to the well-being of the larger community. Work is not only for one's self. It is for one's family, for the nation, and indeed for the benefit of the entire human family.
With national unemployment rates, as well as the local unemployment rate, crossing ten percent, it is hard to think about this holiday as honoring the workers of America. In the same document, the USCCB also stated that “the economy must serve people, not the other way around. All workers have a right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to safe working conditions.” The important phrase in this quote is “all workers.” The economic crisis in America is not selective. All workers from youth hoping to start their first job at 16 to senior citizens are suffering from the effects of a weak job market. Americans with all abilities from unskilled workers through highly skilled and highly educated workers are finding themselves standing side by side in unemployment lines.
There is not an immediate cure for unemployment. But we are all in this together; together, along with American ingenuity, we will all be able to re-build and put Americans back to work. The unemployed, under-employed, employed and employers need to take the day, Labor Day to rest and relax. On Tuesday, it is time to get back to work on the crisis of unemployment.
The Columbus Catholic Connection: A retreat for the recently unemployed will take place from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Thursday, September 30, at St. Therese’s Retreat Center, 5277 E. Broad St., Columbus. There is no charge for this spiritual and practical retreat allowing participants to come together in God’s presence and learn some practical strategies for job hunting. To register, contact the diocesan Office for Social Concerns at (614) 241-2540, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Registrations are requested by Monday, September 27.