In his 2018 Labor Day statement, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, calls for all persons to work together for just wages, which are necessary for families to flourish. A just wage is one that “not only provides for workers’ financial well-being, but fosters their social, cultural, and spiritual dimensions as individuals and members of society.”
We heard this call echoed in the readings this past Sunday. In the first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites are reminded of the justice within God's law, which included several parameters on work and economic justice (5:13-15, 14:28-29), and their duty to keep the demands of that law (4:1-2,6-8). In the second reading from the letter of James, we heard the call to "Be doers of the word and hearers only" (1:22), something Mark's Gospel points out can be challenging to do in light of temptations towards greed, deceit, theft, and other evils (7:20-22).
As we reflect on the vision of Catholic teaching, and in the just laws of the book of Deuteronomy about the treatment of the poor and workers, or James' warning not to simply hear the words of God without action, or Mark’s warnings against greed, we might ask ourselves: How can we help make God’s vision of justice a reality? How can we, in our families, institutions, and as a society, better respect the dignity and rights of workers and the well-being of their families?
As Bishop Dewane remarks in his 2018 Labor Day Statement, "First, we are called to live justly in our own lives whether as business owners or workers. Secondly, we are called to stand in solidarity with our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters. Lastly, we should all work to reform and build a more just society, one which promotes human life and dignity and the common good of all."
Watch this video resource for more on how Catholic Social Teaching invites us to uphold the dignity of work and rights of workers not only in regards to just wages but also to allow for the full flourishing of all people.
Looking for more information on what Catholic teaching says about the dignity of work and rights of workers? Use this primer on Catholic Social Teaching on Labor or these quotes from Pope Francis on Labor and Employment to learn more.