The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. It was a result of the labor movement and was meant to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers. It is a difficult holiday for many Americans. Across America, workers affected by the pandemic are seeking economic opportunity and security and the jobs to provide it. The basic norm we have to consider is the dignity of the human person. Our faith calls us to measure our economic system not only by production, but also by how the means of production and its practices affect human persons. The concentration of privilege based in institutional relationships that distribute power and wealth inequitably does not meet our moral norms. We should recall the original struggles of labor to overcome unjust systems in order to achieve its basic needs, and consider what has happened since. As Christians and citizens we are called to look at Labor Day from the demands of basic justice.
Let us pray for all who long for just employment and those who work to defend the rights and needs of workers everywhere.
Reflect on how your decisions to buy serve human dignity and the common good. Consider your political views and decisions in terms of your commitment to gospel justice.
Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.
He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
Francis of Assisi
The important role of union organizations must be admitted: their object is the representation of the various categories of workers, their lawful collaboration in the economic advance of society, and the development of the sense of their responsibility for the realization of the common good.
Pope Paul VI
The experience of history teaches that organizations of this type are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies.
John Paul II (re: labor unions)
We cannot separate what we believe from how we act in the marketplace and the broader community, for this is where we make our primary contribution to the pursuit of economic justice.
USCCB, Economic Justice for All
A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.
It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the union label.
All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.
John D. Rockefeller
Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
The strongest bond of human sympathy outside the family relation should be one uniting working people of all nations and tongues and kindreds.
Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours, and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.
John F. Kennedy