Happy Monday and Happy Labor Day, my friends! Today the United States celebrates the 129th Labor Day as an official federal holiday. Originally proposed in the 1880s, Labor Day recognizes the accomplishments of both the American laborer and the organized labor movement in the United States. There are many problems and issues bound up in this celebration, not the least of which is the general public using the day as nothing more than a day off—one of their last days to grill before the fall—and a day to shop any number of sales. For the particularly fashion conscious, Labor Day marks the last day to wear white and seersucker. Some of us look at the labor movement as a source of strength and pride while others cast it as corrupt and anti-business.
Whatever you think of the organized labor movement, we have to remember that there is dignity in work and earning an honest wage. An astute observation regarding American manufacturing and the rise of consumerism, notes that work and the place of work in our culture fundamentally changed when goods, and the services connected to those goods, transitioned from items made to last to items made to be easily and quickly replaced. No longer do most people take pride in their work and their work is no longer respected. The days of working 30 or more years for the same company and receiving a gold watch at retirement are gone, replaced by employers who hunt for the cheapest labor possible, disproportionately leaving already marginalized communities in cycles of working poverty.
We need to recognize and remember the dignity involved in all work, including work which is unpaid. There should be as much dignity in the work of professors, lawyers, doctors, clergy, and other vocations requiring advanced education as in the work of manufacturing, cleaning, and mining as in caring for and raising a family. A functioning society not only requires the work of the skilled, but also the work of the unskilled and the differently skilled. As we celebrate Labor Day with the last summer cookouts and raising toasts to the last day to wear seersucker—it’s a Southern thing—may we also celebrate and honor each person who works at all professions, trades, and occupations.
Do you take pride in your work? Do you recognize the value of the people whose work supports you?
Let us pray: God, how wonderful that you have invited those who labor by the sweat of their brow to be workers in the vineyard and assist your work to shape the world around us. As we seek to respond to this call, make us attentive to those who seek work, but cannot find it. Help us listen to the struggles of those who work hard to provide for their families, but still have trouble making ends meet. Open our eyes to the struggles of those exploited and help us speak for just wages and safe conditions, the freedom to organize, and time for renewal. For work was made for humankind and not humankind for work. Let it not be a vehicle for exploitation, but a radiant expression of our human dignity. Give all who labor listening hearts that they may pause from their work to receive your gift of rest. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, that you might work through us to let your justice reign. Amen.
(Adapted from “A Prayer for the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers” from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2019).
Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Let me know if there is anything I can do for you!