U.S. Bishops Cite Terrible Human Costs of Broken Economy

Annual Labor Day Statement Focuses on Unemployed and Exploited Workers

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WASHINGTON D.C., AUG. 14, 2012 (Zenit.org).-—People of faith stand with people who've been left behind and should seek economic renewal that makes workers and their families a central concern, according to the annual Labor Day Statement from the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

"Millions of Americans suffer from unemployment, underemployment or are living in poverty as their basic needs too often go unmet. This represents a serious economic and moral failure for our nation," wrote the committee's chairman, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, in the statement, Placing Work and Workers at the Center of Economic Life.

Bishop Blaire cited the 12 million Americans officially unemployed, the millions more who are underemployed or who have given up looking for work, 10 million "working poor" families, and 46 million people, including 16 million children, living in poverty as a sign of a broken economy. He cited the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who said poverty often "results from a violation of the dignity of human work," either because of a lack of job opportunities or because, in the words of Pope John Paul II, "low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it."

According to Bishop Blaire, the "terrible human costs" of a broken economy include workers being exploited or mistreated, stagnant or falling wages, and stress on families. As a result, "many employees struggle for just wages, a safe workplace, and a voice in the economy, but they cannot purchase the goods they make, stay in the hotels they clean, or eat the food they harvest, prepare, or serve."

"An economy that allows this exploitation and abuse demands our attention and action," wrote Bishop Blaire. He noted that the bishops work to provide hope and help to exploited workers through programs such as the USCCB Migration and Refugee Services and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, but said that "everyone and every institution" in society—businesses, government, unions and private institutions—should collaborate to support workers and create an economy "that serves the person rather than the other way around."

"This Labor Day, millions of working people and their families have urgent and compelling needs," Bishop Blaire concluded. "I ask you to join me in a special prayer for them and all workers, especially those without a job struggling to live in dignity. May God guide our nation in creating a more just economy that truly honors the dignity of work and the rights of workers."