Labor Day statement ties lack of good jobs to decline in family life

IMAGE: CNS photo/CJ Gunther, EPA

By Mark Pattison

(CNS) — Today’s “economic and political forces have led to increasingly lowered
economic prospects for Americans without access to higher education, which is
having a direct impact on family health and stability,” said Archbishop
Thomas G. Wenski of Miami.

He made the comments as the author of this year’s Labor Day statement from the U.S. bishops.

the decline in good jobs to family woes, Archbishop Wenski said, “Over half of
parents between the ages of 26 and 31 now have children outside of a marriage,
and research shows a major factor is the lack middle-skill jobs — careers by
which someone can sustain a family above the poverty line without a college
degree — in regions with high income inequality.”

The statement, dated Sept. 5, Labor Day, was released Aug. 22. Archbishop Wenski is
chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human

rates and the rate of single-parent households break down along similar
educational and economic lines,” he continued. “Financial concerns and breakdowns in family
life can lead to a sense of hopelessness and despair. The Rust Belt region now
appears to have the highest concentration in the nation of drug-related deaths,
including from overdoses of heroin and prescription drugs.”

Archbishop Wenski
quoted from Pope Francis’ address to Congress during the pope’s U.S. visit last
September: “I would like to call attention to those family members who are the
most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless
possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped
in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our
problems. We cannot avoid them.”

pope added, “We live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a
family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture
presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting
a family.”

Wenski said, “When our leaders ought to be calling us toward a vision of the
common good that lifts the human spirit and seeks to soothe our tendencies
toward fear, we find our insecurities exploited as a means to further partisan
agendas. Our leaders must never use anxiety as a means to manipulate persons in
desperate situations, or to pit one group of persons against another for
political gain.”

touting the “sanctity of work,” Archbishop Wenski said, “Dignified work is at
the heart of our efforts because we draw insight into who we are as human
beings from it.” St, John Paul II, in his encyclical “Laborem Exercens” (“On Human Work”), “reminded
us that human labor is an essential key to understanding our social
relationships, vital to family formation and the building up of community
according to our God-given dignity,” the archbishop added.

“As we
engage with our neighbors and our communities, we quickly find ways to deepen
solidarity in a broader way, and to act on the structures and policies that
impact meaningful work and family stability,” Archbishop Wenski said.

put, we must advocate for jobs and wages that truly provide a dignified life
for individuals and their families, and for working conditions that are safe
and allow for a full flourishing of life outside of the workplace,” he added. “Unions
and worker associations, while imperfect, remain an essential part of the
effort, and people of faith and goodwill can be powerful leaven to ensure that
these groups, so important in society, continue to keep human dignity at the
heart of their efforts.”

And “if
you are an employer, you are called to respect the dignity of your workers
through a just wage and working conditions that allow for a secure family life,”
Archbishop Wenski said.

“With time,
we will begin to restore a sense of hope and lasting change that places our
economic and political systems at the service of the human person once more.”

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Editor’s Note: The full text of the U.S. bishops’ Labor Day statement is available in English and Spanish at, respectively, and

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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