The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

The more we know about Catholic Social teaching, the more equipped we are to express our Catholic faith in powerful ways. Over the next few weeks, the Service & Justice Commission is going to empower parishioners with knowledge of the seven themes of Catholic Social Justice teaching.


Theme 5: The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers


What’s the Church’s official teaching on the dignity of work and the rights of workers?

The Church teaches that the economy must provide opportunities for work and fair wages for every individual, who is willing and able to work. According to the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), “Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”


All too often though, in our society, the poor and vulnerable are left without opportunities for adequate employment. As Catholics, we must fight to create fair opportunities for all, because our faith tells us "the beginning, the subject and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person. All people have the right to work, to a chance to develop their qualities and their personalities in the exercise of their professions, to equitable remuneration which will enable them and their families "to lead a worthy life on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level and to assistance in case of need arising from sickness or age.” (Blessed Paul VI, A Call to Action [Octogesima Adveniens. . . ], no. 14)


What are some current issues, which are affecting the rights of workers?

Right now, millions of Americans are vulnerable to losing access to affordable, quality healthcare depending on potential legislation, which may be passed. Here in Iowa, teachers have recently lost their collective bargaining rights, and all across America, there are a significant number of working poor Americans, who cannot afford their basic needs, even though they are employed to the best of their abilities.


Some saints, who have worked tirelessly to fight for the dignity and rights of workers include:

  • St. Benedict of Nursia, who created the Rule of Benedict, which is a guideline for working and living together in community, supporting each other in alignment with God’s will.
  • Servant of God Dorothy Day, who was a writer and activist that founded the Catholic Worker Movement, which still helps achieve justice for workers around the world.


Local organizations, which help support the dignity of workers:

  • Catholic Worker House in Davenport
  • Dress for Success
  • Quad City Interfaith
  • Quad City Federation of Labor


How can we as individual Catholics help support the rights of workers?

We can advocate for legislation, which supports the rights of workers, collective bargaining, unions, and affordable healthcare options for everyone. If we are in a position of employing people, we can take our employees basic needs into consideration and offer fair wages, opportunities for growth and health benefits to the best of our abilities.


We hope you can find ways to apply this Catholic Social teaching into your lives, places of employment and communities. God bless you!


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