WASHINGTON — The need for decent work at a living wage — one which can support a family — was a key theme of the U.S. bishops’ 2015 Labor Day message, which sought to restore work to its “honored place” in God’s service.
“The continuing struggles of most families to make ends meet are on display before our eyes, both at home and abroad,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said Sept. 7.
“This Labor Day, we have a tremendous opportunity to reflect on how dignified work with a living wage is critical to helping our families and our greater society thrive.”
Archbishop Wenski, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, authored the U.S. bishops’ message for Labor Day.
“Sufficient decent work that honors dignity and families is a necessary component of the task before us, and it is the Catholic way,” he said.
“In demanding a living wage for workers we give hope to those struggling to provide for their families, as well as young workers who hope to have families of their own someday.”
Archbishop Wenski said the poverty rate is “painfully high,” while apparent declines in reported U.S. unemployment figures obscure the fact that many people have given up looking for work.
“The majority of jobs provide little in the way of sufficient wages, retirement benefits, stability, or family security, and too many families are stringing together part-time jobs to pay the bills. Opportunities for younger workers are in serious decline,” he lamented.
The archbishop said that dignified work with a living wage is critical to helping both families society as a whole to thrive.
But fewer young adults are starting families than ever before in the U.S.
“Couples intentionally delay marriage, as unemployment and substandard work make a vison of stable family life difficult to see,” he continued.
He noted the negative effects of busy work schedules that interfere with raising children and nurturing faith and community, as well as wage stagnation and increased costs of living.
Labor unions and other worker associations are imperfect but indispensable to efforts to secure a living wage, he said.
He deplored violations of human dignity, such as the exploitation of workers, trafficking in women and children, and “a broken immigration system that fails people and families desperate for decent work and a better life.”
He encouraged Catholics to reflect on how they might be harming human dignity in their choice of clothes, food, and other purchases. He said our personal wants create economic realities “that cause others to live in ways that we ourselves would not.”
“This Labor Day and always, let us pray, reflect, and act, seeking to restore our work and relationships to the honored place God has ordained for them.”
The archbishop cited Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si (Care for Our Common Home), which discusses work as “a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.” The Pope said that mankind was “created to work.”
Archbishop Wenski said the dignity of workers, family stability, and community well-being are all intertwined.
“The path to a renewed society is built on authentic solidarity and rooted in faith,” he said. “The changes we make to how we live and interact with each other can help change the world.”