CST on The Labor Question

CST on The Labor Question

“The Labor Question”: Who does the work? What are the terms? Who reaps the benefits?

CST on Work

Protecting the dignity of work and the rights of workers is one of the major themes of Catholic Social Teaching. This theme has been addressed in papal encyclicals as well as statements and letters from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The basic tenets of Catholic teaching on labor include:

 – the right to productive work

 – the right to decent and fair wages

 – the right to organize and join unions

 – the right to bargain collectively for fair wages and benefits

Major Papal Encyclicals:

Rerum Novarum on Capital and Labor
Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII | 1891
This nineteenth-century encyclical is a response to the intense state of suffering faced by many working families in the industrialized nations in the United States and Europe. Pope Leo spells out the responsibilities and rights of employers, workers the Church and the state to ensure just places of work and adequate care for the poor.

Laborem Exercens on Human Work
Encyclical of Pope John Paul II | 1981
On the ninetieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum, Pope John Paul II published this update to the Church’s position on the state of labor and working people. Notably, in reference to unions, the encyclical insists that: “The experience of history teaches that [unions] are an indispensable element of social life.”

Consider the following pages for statements and more from the USCCB:

USCCB on Labor / Employment

USCCB on Economic Justice / Economics

We’ve highlighted some specific documents below:

"A Catholic Framework for Economic Life," 1996

"Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy," 1986

"Primer on Labor in Catholic Social Thought," 2011

Also see: Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice on "The Core of Roman Catholic Teaching on Workers Rights," 2011

Statements from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Labor Day Statement 2017, Rev. Frank Dewane, Bishop of Venice

Labor Day Statement 2016, Rev. Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami

Labor Day Statement 2015, Rev. Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami

Labor Day Statement 2014, Rev. Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami

Labor Day Statement 2013, Rev. Stephen Blaire, Bishop of Stockton

Labor Day Statement 2012, Rev. Stephen Blaire, Bishop of Stockton

Labor Day Statement 2011, Rev. Stephen Blaire, Bishop of Stockton

Labor Day Statement 2010, Rev. William F. Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre

Labor Day Statement 2009, Rev. William F. Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre

Msgr. George Higgins authored the Labor Day Statements on behalf of the U.S. Bishops for many years.

Worker’s Rights are Human Rights

Article 23 of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment,” and “everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity” (United Nations, 1948).

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