Labor Day Statement

“Dignified work is at the heart of our efforts because we draw insight into who we are as human beings from it.” – Labor Day Statement 2016

In his annual Labor Day statement, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, highlights the connection between economic pressures and stresses on the family. He laments the struggles of communities with elevated rates of poverty and urges people to respond with faith and action. The statement is available in English and Spanish.

Supplementary resources are also available, including:

All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions, as well as to organize and join unions or other associations. (USCCB, A Catholic Framework for Economic Life)

“In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment), or ‘because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family.’”

– Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, #63

“Every economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one’s own human potential. This is the main thing; in the absence of such a vision, all economic activity is meaningless.”

– Pope Francis, Letter to Prime Minister David Cameron for the G8 Meeting (June 2013)


Fifty years ago, eighty percent of all jobs required a high school diploma or less education. Today, only thirty-five percent of all jobs fall into that classification and two-thirds of those jobs pay $25,000 or less. This leaves the job holder struggling near the poverty level, especially if they have a family. If a person attains a two year associate degree or completes a technical training program, their life time earning potential increase by over $400,000 to potentially elevate them out of poverty. 1 While contemporary jobs require technical training, there is a shortfall of qualified applicants to fill positions. Throughout Orange County, a number of technical training programs are available, in addition to community colleges’ programs.

1America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs: 2013-2014, National Governor’s Conference




Additional teaching on the importance of work:

The awareness that “the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31) is not an exoneration from being involved in the world, and even less from work (cf. 2 Thes 3:7-15),which is an integral part of the human condition, although not the only purpose of life. No Christian, in light of the fact that he belongs to a united and fraternal community, should feel that he has the right not to work and to live at the expense of others (cf. 2 Thes 3:6-12). Rather, all are charged by the Apostle Paul to make it a point of honour to work with their own hands, so as to “be dependent on nobody” (1 Thes 4:12), and to practise a solidarity which is also material by sharing the fruits of their labour with “those in need” (Eph 4:28). Saint James defends the trampled rights of workers: “Behold, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (Jas 5:4). Believers are to undertake their work in the style of Christ and make it an occasion for Christian witness, commanding “the respect of outsiders” (1 Thes 4:12). [Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, (264)]

The Fathers of the Church do not consider work as an “opus servile” — although the culture of their day maintained precisely that such was the case — but always as an “opus humanum”, and they tend to hold all its various expressions in honour. By means of work, man governs the world with God; together with God he is its lord and accomplishes good things for himself and for others. Idleness is harmful to man’s being, whereas activity is good for his body and soul. Christians are called to work not only to provide themselves with bread, but also in acceptance of their poorer neighbours, to whom the Lord has commanded them to give food, drink, clothing, welcome, care and companionship [578] (cf. Mt 25:35-36). Every worker, Saint Ambrose contends, is the hand of Christ that continues to create and to do good. [Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, (265)]

“Work is also “an obligation, that is to say, a duty on the part of man”. Man must work, both because the Creator has commanded it and in order to respond to the need to maintain and develop his own humanity. Work is presented as a moral obligation with respect to one’s neighbour, which in the first place is one’s own family, but also the society to which one belongs, the nation of which one is son or daughter, the entire human family of which one is member. We are heirs of the work of generations and at the same time shapers of the future of all who will live after us.” [Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, (274)]