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WASHINGTON—With millions unemployed and U.S. workers experiencing tragedies such as mining deaths in West Virginia and the oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Americans “must seek to protect the life and dignity of each worker in a renewed and robust economy,” said Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York. Bishop Murphy addressed these issues in the 2010 Labor Day Statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), entitled “A New ‘Social Contract’ for Today’s ‘New Things,’” which can be found online in English (www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/labor_day_2010.pdf) and Spanish (www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/labor_day_2010_spanish.pdf).
Bishop Murphy, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, compared the challenges faced by today’s workers to the changing society of the Industrial Revolution addressed by Pope Leo XIII in the 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum (Of New Things).
“America is undergoing a rare economic transformation, shedding jobs and testing safety nets as the nation searches for new ways to govern and grow our economy,” said Bishop Murphy. “Workers need a new ‘social contract.’” Bishop Murphy said that creating new jobs would require new investments, initiative and creativity in the economy. He also drew on the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, which call for placing the human person at the center of economic life and emphasize the role of civil society and mediating institutions such as unions in pursing the common good.
“Workers need to have a real voice and effective protections in economic life,” said Bishop Murphy. “The market, the state, and civil society, unions and employers all have roles to play and they must be exercised in creative and fruitful interrelationships. Private action and public policies that strengthen families and reduce poverty are needed. New jobs with just wages and benefits must be created so that all workers can express their dignity through the dignity of work and are able to fulfill God’s call to us all to be co-creators. A new social contract, which begins by honoring work and workers, must be forged that ultimately focuses on the common good of the entire human family.”
Keywords: Labor Day, unemployment, economic life, labor unions, social contract, social encyclicals, Rerum Novarum, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Leo XIII, Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop William Murphy, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
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