I was a busboy at Little America in Flagstaff during the summers while in college. Working in the coffee shop, if you tried, one could overhear conversations at the tables. Usually I couldn’t really hear the conversations and at other times I couldn’t help but hear what they were saying. I still remember two older women reading the paper and talking about a gentleman named Cesar Chavez, a farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist. The two women were not very complimentary towards him. They viewed him as a troublemaker. At that time Cesar Chavez was organizing the farm workers for better conditions and better pay. He was being an advocate for those who were not always treated humanely or fair.
In those years, I really did not know what to make of the situation. I wasn’t aware of what workers had to endure. I was not aware that the work force is always in need of advocates, to ensure that the dignity of a worker is protected.
We have Labor Day as a National holiday this Monday, as the nation remembers all in the work force. The Church, as one of the seven Catholic social teaching principles, has much to say about the Dignity of Work. It is the belief that God desires that work is used to benefit humanity. The reason behind the Sabbath, resting on the seventh day comes from giving rest to those who worked very hard and many times not in good conditions. Jesus was a tekton, someone who worked with his hands. He worked very hard and not in a nice carpenter’s office. The conditions of work in his time were very difficult.
As we honor all workers on Labor Day, we also recall the many people who were, and are, advocates for the dignity of the worker. They need our prayers to be sure that such leaders place the needs of the workers ahead of personal or solely monetary gain. And even pray for the Church, that we become better models of treating our employees with dignity and respect.
Peace in Christ,