Saturday, September 3, 2011

Labor Day

    This weekend we celebrate the third and final summertime holiday--labor day.  On Memorial Day we remembered our deceased veterans.  On July 4 we celebrated our freedom, and on Labor Day we honor workers.  But what are we as Catholics to make of this day when the unemployment rate is so high and our political leaders seem unable or unwilling to address the problem in an effective way.

  The teaching of our Church basically says that we are all workers.  To be human is in some way to be a worker. From Pope Leo XIII in the 1890's right  up to Pope John Paul II this teaching has been reiterated in various ways.   Also through work we humans share in the ongoing process of creation by producing goods and services that enhance the quality of life on earth  and which provide a means of living to all.

   The problem, of course, is that greed and self-interest, get in the way.  Some goods and services do not enhance, but rather hinder, the quality of human life, and sometimes workers labor under unjust conditions.  This writer thinks that the previous two sentences sum up the heart of today's problem, the blame for which can be cast at the feet of members of both of  our political parties.  I do not wish to promote or decry any one political leader in this blog, but I do believe that Christian  concern for what is right, and not mere politics calls for me to point out some of the problems, as I see them, on this Labor Day. 
   It was the greed of many banks and Wall St. firms, as well as the policies of our government and the high cost of the wars we have been waging that led to the economic downturn,  and foreclosure crisis which is behind the high unemployment rate The last administration began it and this one has not been able to lead a return to prosperity, though we often forget the forces other than government are also responsible.

   The unwillingness of both political parties to bend, compromise and try to work together is also deplorable and adds to the problem.

   I have been working in Wisconsin this summer and decry strongly what Governor Scott Walker did when he took away collective bargaining rights from state workers.  Now I will grant that some of the unions had demands that were unreasonable, but that's why negotiations get held.  Our Church clearly teaches that workers have a right to organize and that employers are bound to negotiate in good faith.   What folks on all sides forget is the Catholic principle of keeping the common good in mind.  If we did this we wouldn't have the 'my way or the highway" mentality that permeates so much of our political debate.

   So, as we celebrate Labor Day and grill our burgers, brats and hot dogs, I believe that Catholic and Christian concern calls all of us to work together so that all are employed at honorable work, and that all receive just compensation for their labor.



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