Work is a human right. It is the activity of a human person; it can never be considered as mere merchandise, as has happened in the past and still happens nowadays. Treating workers as mere tools does no justice to their personal dignity.
Pope John Paul II
I am not in the habit of quoting Catholic teachings in my blogs, but this quote from Pope John Paul II reflects an issue that has bothered me for some time. Social justice is a term used in derision by many Conservatives, especially those on the so-called “religious” right. However, social justice is just as critical to peace as any other form of justice, and we live in one of the most unjust societies in American history. Unemployment and employment at wages at poverty level are becoming a permanent part of our society – at a terrible cost to many American families. Ultimately, if we don’t stop the institutionalization of unemployment, there will be no peace and order.
Some people might argue that the age of slavery was the most unjust era, and it they wouldn’t be wrong. However, we now live in a time in our Country’s history when men and women of all races and ages are slowly being led into economic slavery – to a society where we can no longer afford to own much property and where our freedoms are voided by our need to remain trapped by low paying jobs.
To say that we have a 9% unemployment rate is deceptively antiseptic. It does not include nearly as many people unemployed so long that they have given up and fallen off the official lists. It also does not include another important fact: that many of the people employed now are underemployed in jobs that have wages approaching those of 3rd world countries. This is one reason why the rate of poverty has exploded in America. It is one reason why a household can have two wage-earners and still not make ends meet.
It is true that more Americans are unemployed, more Americans are underemployed, more Americans are impoverished that at any time since the Great Depression. It is not a coincidence that the decline of unions has led to a decline in the middle-class. Unions protected the dignity and the safety of works. They created the living wage and the American middle-class. In this period of flagrant union-busting, it would serve us well to understand the alternatives of working poverty or unemployment.
It is also true that American wealth is greater than any society in the history of mankind. What? That’s right folks, there is more wealth in America today than in any society in the history of mankind, except it is all kept by a tiny number of people, not through labors of their own, but by virtue of laws that value financial. That is the fundamental injustice of our Government and society in general: we value wealth obtained through investments in financial markets rather than the dignity of man.