Help for expectant mothers, children and families in general is the focus of this year’s annual Labor Day statement from the U.S. Catholic bishops.
It’s something of a departure from the usual Labor Day messages, whether from the bishops or other public figures, in that the spotlight is not only on the millions of hard-working Americans who belong to labor unions but also on the economic challenges of so many women today—whether they’re union members or not—and the families who depend on them.
We applaud the bishops for pointing out the long unmet needs of struggling women and their families.
“The Church often looks at the well-being of society through the lens of the well-being of the family,” Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said in the opening line of the statement.
We wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment, and with the statement’s call for Americans to reflect on how we can build a more just economy by promoting the welfare of working families through both charitable works and through advocacy for improved policies.
The Labor Day statement, called “Building a Just Economy for Women and Families,” was dated Sept. 5, on the first Labor Day since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade and left it to individual states to regulate abortion or ban it completely.
But even in this drastically changed abortion environment, it remains the Church’s priority to build a society in which abortion is unthinkable. It’s as important as ever, therefore, to support a pro-life economy by reframing social policies in ways that are pro-woman, pro-family and pro-worker.
Women, especially women of color, have long been the ones to fill the majority of direct care jobs, with increased risk of injury, high stress and exposure to illness while earning low wages. They’re still the majority of caregivers for their loved ones, yet many lack adequate family and medical leave policies.
To address the situation, the bishops give high priority support to two bills awaiting action in Congress: The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and an expansion of the federal child tax credit.
Surprisingly, there is no federal law requiring employers to provide short-term, reasonable accommodations to pregnant women in the workplace, including common requests for a stool for jobs that involve long periods of standing or lighter duty for jobs that entail heavy lifting.
“No woman should be forced to risk her or her child’s health, miscarriage, preterm birth, economic security or losing insurance benefits just because she requests a short-term, reasonable, pregnancy-related accommodation,” the bishops’ statement says.
That seems obvious to us, as it was to the House of Representatives where the bill was approved with strong bipartisan support. Now it’s up to the Senate, and we urge its immediate passage.
We join the bishops too in calling for an expansion of the child tax credit that was enormously effective in reducing child poverty in 2021.
We could go on and on about the ways to build a more just society, but it might be best for you to read the bishops’ excellent suggestions in their full statement, found at https://www.usccb.org/resources/Labor%20Day%20Statement%202022_0.pdf
Finally, we’re happy to report that New York’s Labor Day Parade, sidelined during the pandemic, will return this year. It’s always a happy occasion to celebrate the women and men who built and continue to strengthen the labor movement in this country.
The parade will be held on Saturday, Sept. 10, on Fifth Avenue from 44th to 64th streets, on the theme “Workers Leading, Workers Rising,” and we’ll be there to welcome it back and cheer it on. The day will begin with Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 8:30 a.m.