Work, Wages and Caring for Those Who Labor
Beloved in Christ,
On the first Monday of September, the banks will close and many will rest from their labors. Labor Day, a national holiday since 1894, is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers….a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” (US Department of Labor)
In the years after this tradition began, our nation passed remarkable legislation under Republican and Democratic administrations to benefit laborers: instituting the eight hour day, addressing child labor, improving regulations, and support for collective bargaining and unions. Not surprisingly, from 1930 through the end of the World War II, union membership as a percentage of the population rose. Since 1945, it has steadily declined. At the same time, the distribution of wealth has shifted dramatically. Specifically, from 1963 to 2013, families in the bottom 10% went from having no wealth on average to being about $2,000 in debt. Those in the middle doubled their wealth between 1963 and 1983. Families near the top (90th percentile) saw their wealth quadruple, and the wealth of those at the 99th percentile grew six-fold. (Source)
The bottom line is that those who labor in our fields and factories, those who serve our tables, those who wash our dishes, those who pick up our trash — they are getting poorer while a privileged few are getting richer. This is not a nation that honors labor or the laborer. And a national holiday does little to change this.
In the collect for Labor Day, we pray that we may do our work “not for self alone, but for the common good.” We further pray to “be mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers and arouse our concern for those who are out of work.”
At our last General Convention, our church spoke on this issue of fairness and justice when it passed the following resolutions:
I pray that you have a gentle and blessed Labor Day.