As Labor Day nears, U.S. bishops point to challenges

Categories: Nation/World

August 30, 2013, edition

• Even as our country experiences a modest economic recovery, standards of living have not improved for many people, especially the poor and working poor, many of whom are unemployed and underemployed.

• Over 4 million people have been jobless for over six months, and that does not include those who have simply lost hope and stopped looking for a job.

• For every available job, there are as many as five unemployed and underemployed people actively vying for it.

• As a result, wages are pushed down — half the jobs in the country pay less than $27,000 annually — and poverty is pushed up. Over 46 million people live in poverty, 16 million of them children.

• Jobs, wages and poverty are interrelated. To reduce the widening gap between rich and poor, we must create jobs that provide living wages.

• Pope Francis, Pope Benedict (Caritas in Veritate #32) and the Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes #63) have all warned against the dangers of income inequality.

• Individuals, the Church, community organizations, businesses and government all have a shared responsibility and positive role to play in promoting the dignity of work and honoring workers and their rights.

• Ethical business leaders know it’s wrong to chase profits and success at the expense of workers’ dignity. They have a vocation to be in solidarity with workers and the “least among us” and to remember that the economy is “for people.”

• Whenever possible we should support businesses and enterprises that protect human life and dignity, pay just wages and protect workers’ rights.

• Unions provide protections for workers and allow them to participate in company decisions that affect them. The rise in income inequality has paralleled a decline in union membership.

• Unions must focus on workers getting paid living wages and receiving appropriate benefits, raising the minimum wage, stopping wage theft, standing up for safe and healthy working conditions, and other issues that  promote the common good.

• Catholics should support immigration policies that bring immigrant workers out of shadows and give them a path to citizenship. This protects them from abuse and will encourage the wages for all workers to rise.

• Catholics should be in solidarity with immigrants and refugees and should work to end the political, social and economic conditions that drive people from their homelands and families.