by Sr. Roselynn Humbert
Labor Day in 2020
I am writing this on Labor Day. A unique Labor Day on which there are no parades, picnics, or opportunities to experience together the history of this day. Labor Day is an outgrowth of the organized labor movement in the late 19th century. When the first Labor Day was celebrated in New York in 1882, workers labored 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. The riots and strikes experienced as Labor Unions became stronger compare to what we are experiencing in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations we witness today. Not until the Pullman Strike in 1884 brought the nation to a standstill were the rights of workers expanded. It was also in 1884 that President Grover Cleveland established Labor Day as a Federal Holiday celebrated on the first Monday of September. The only reason the union movement for workers’ rights was successful is solidarity. Even today most union members will not cross a picket line or patronize a business whose workers are on strike.
Recent history has shown that the fewer unionized workers there are, the more the top one percent of business leaders’ salaries increase. The pandemic we are experiencing shows us again how precarious the laborer’s position is in this country. Many have lost their jobs and don’t know if the positions they held will ever return. Women have left the work force to stay home with children who are now learning on line. Congress cannot agree to continue to support those who are jobless because of the pandemic. Suspending evictions without giving the unemployed money for rent will end sometime with widespread evictions, homelessness, and the continued spread of the corona virus.
What does this mean to us as followers of Jesus? As followers of Francis? As brothers and sisters under one God? The readings of September 6, 2020 Liturgy focus on loving your neighbor as yourself and fraternal connection. How can each of see what is happening to our neighbors and not feel concern? A homily I heard this weekend suggested we add another reading: the story of Caine and Abel. When God asked Caine where Abel was his response was “Am I my brother’s keeper?” That is correct. He is not his brother’s keeper; he is his brother’s brother. I am my sister’s sister. We are all in solidarity with one another as one family. I suggest we take the time this month to reflect on the dignity of labor, the rights of the laborer and how the time in which we live calls us to be brother and sister to one another.