Labor Day has been celebrated for 123 years as a sign of solidarity with all workers around the world. Are we finally reaching a world centered on the human person rather than a world of work centered on capital and mechanization?
The 2004-2005 report from the International Labor Office (ILO) gives terrible statistics: of the approximately two billion eight hundred and fifty million workers in the world 49% earn less than 2 Dollars a day and, of these, 39% less than one dollar! Two hundred million men and women are unemployed! Today poverty has worsened throughout the world. According to an OECD report 60% of men and women workers in the world do not have a proper contract and are exposed to job insecurity.
Last year many labor disputes occurred throughout the world. In Asia, the Philippines, Taiwan and in Indonesia workers gathered to demand wage increases. In Tunisia, Egypt and the Middle East they called for economic reforms and measurements for employment. In New York and in London, in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis, they occupied the financial centers of Wall Street and the City to oppose the power of money.
The economic crisis has provoked strong reactions in Europe. Greece, Spain, Portugal, France: populations have mobilized to say no to the austerity which is striking the working and the lower classes. Large demonstrations have taken place in Spain under the slogan: « stop playing with the health and education of the people ». In Portugal the Alliance of Workers (CGTP) has opposed exploitation and impoverishment of workers. Under the slogan « a change of policy » they have led national actions.
The world lives under the threat of economic collapse. Workers are the first victims: they are fired by businesses, suffer wage cuts and are forced to work longer hours.
The problems caused by capitalist speculation and the economic crisis cannot be solved by one country alone. Against capitalists who know no borders the world of workers needs to unite at a global level and a joint approach is absolutely essential to fight against an unjust system and to create a more humane world.
Today the big problem to which we must attract attention is that of deregulation and the loss of fundamental social rights. On this issue we can reference the parable of « the laborers in the vineyard » (Gospel of St. Matthew, chap. 20). The money given to each of the workers corresponds to « our daily bread » in the Lord’s Prayer. The justice of the Lord, without taking into account the time that each of the workers spent in the vineyard, is manifested in the granting to everyone of the minimum necessary for them to lead a decent life. This is the Lord’s justice that we are asked to achieve, going beyond the notion of a salary based on work done to take into consideration the real needs of a worker and his family.
This is the outline of an alternative society. Together build an egalitarian society where loss of jobs due to economic redundancies and unstable employment no longer exist and where basic needs, such as health, education and housing, are guaranteed and free.
The wealth of our world cannot be in the hands of the privileged 1% but must serve the welfare of all of humanity. We hope that the Catholic Church will be more attentive to the cries coming from workers throughout the world. Our Christian Workers’ Movements must be the eyes and ears of our Church to let her know the suffering and discrimination that workers are the victims of.
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II Council. At that time the Church affirmed that the Council was a tool for the world and all men and women: « the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the men of these times, especially the poor and all those who suffer, are also the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the disciples of Christ. There is nothing truly human which does not raise an echo in their hearts (…). The Christian community realizes that it is truly and intimately linked to mankind and man’s history ». (Gaudium et spes)
We are called upon to carry the message from Vatican II to all these working men and women, Catholics, believers in other religions or non-believers, all united in a common struggle to advance justice in the world and the dignity of all human beings.
Let this celebration of the one hundred and twenty third Labor Day motivate us to continue the fight, with all the men and all the women and with the Church, to build, together, a more just and more fraternal world.
Labor Day, May 1, 2013
The movement in Korea: KA NO JANG and the Secretariat of MMTC