Labor Day

Labor DayBishops’ Annual Labor Day Statement Stresses Catholic Teaching on Work

Labor Day “is a time to recommit in our own small ways — to our own work, to treat others justly, and to defend the lives, dignity, and rights of workers, especially the most vulnerable,” according to “Labor Day 2007: A Time to Remember; A Time to Recommit,” the annual Labor Day statement from the US bishops.

The statement, dated September 3, was issued by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, NY, chairman of the US bishops Domestic Policy Committee.

The bishop also called for a renewed and much different immigration debate, declaring “at its core immigration is about workers who come to our land to try to secure better lives for themselves and their families by their labor.”

In recent months, “this vital national immigration discussion polarized our people, paralyzed the Congress, and failed our nation,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “We have to find a way to re-start the discussion, to re-engage the hard issues, to search for practical and realistic solutions.”

A renewed immigration discussion needs to include, he said, “reality, civility, morality, and consistency.” Too often reality is looked at through our own biases, he said. He listed among the “inescapable facts” that “[t]he immigration status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable. The ‘system’ is broken. We need far-reaching and comprehensive reform.”

He called for civil dialogue. “Anger is no substitute for wisdom, attacks are no substitute for dialogue, and feeding fears will not help us find solutions. Respect for different points of view is a mark of civil society,” he said. “Immigration issues should not be used for partisan advantage, a ratings boost, or a fundraising tactic.”

He urged that “fundamental moral principles” guide immigration reform. “Fundamental rights to work, decent wages, safe working conditions, to have a voice in decisions, and the freedom to choose to join a union do not depend on where you were born or when you came to our nation,” he said. “Human dignity and human rights are not commodities to be allocated according to where you come from, when you got here, or what documents you possess.”

Bishop DiMarzio stressed the need for consistency. “The failure of national immigration reform has generated a deluge of local and state proposals, controversies, and disputes. Immigration policy should not depend on where in the United States you work or live,” he said. “A patchwork of conflicting policies, punitive measures, and local disputes cannot fix a broken federal system, but they can further enflame the divisions that make real progress more difficult.”

Bishop DiMarzio did see hope in recent months in the landmark agreement between Florida immigrant farm workers and major corporations that led businesses to “promise a ‘penny a pound’ more for Florida tomatoes and a new code of conduct in the fields. This sign of hope is, first and foremost, the achievement of the Coalition and the workers themselves.”

When no one gave immigrant farm workers much of a chance, “they stood up for their own lives, dignity, and rights,” he said. The resulting agreement “is also the result of good judgment and corporate social responsibility by the companies who eventually responded to the workers and working conditions by reaching these ground-breaking agreements.”

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