I’m not sure about you, but as I was thinking about how to spend my time today, the thought crossed my mind: What exactly is Labor Day anyway?
Apparently, this holiday became official in 1894, after 13 railroad workers died at the hands of the U.S. military in Illinois during the Pullman Strike. The holiday was President Grover Cleveland’s olive branch of sorts. Ever since, it has been a day to celebrate workers and their rights.
The Church has had a lot to say about labor and the dignity of workers over the years. Across the globe, people continue their struggle to find meaningful work (or any at all), and to be treated justly by employers.
While Labor Day marks the end of summer, with lots of cookouts and vacationing, it’s a great day to pray for the unemployed, for those who do really tough jobs, and for many people still striving to have their basic rights recognized.
It’s also a great time to review some of the more edifying excerpts from various Church documents about work. This site carries quite a few. Here are some favorites:
Work remains a good thing, not only because it is useful and enjoyable, but also because it expresses and increases the worker’s dignity. Through work we not only transform the world, we are transformed ourselves, becoming “more a human being.” (On Human Work #9)
Consequently, if the organization and structure of economic life be such that the human dignity of workers is compromised, or their sense of responsibility is weakened, or their freedom of action is removed, then we judge such an economic order to be unjust, even though it produces a vast amount of goods, whose distribution conforms to the norms of justice and equity. (Mother & Teacher, #83)
All work has a threefold moral significance. First, it is a principle way that people exercise the distinctive human capacity for self-expression and self-realization. Second, it is the ordinary way for human beings to fulfill their material needs. Finally, work enables people to contribute to the well-being of the larger community. Work is not only for one’s self. It is for one’s family, for the nation, and indeed for the benefit of the entire human family. (Economic Justice For All, #97)