Once again, Labor Day is upon us and, with that celebration, the “end” of the summer season.
Summer vacations are over, people are back to work, and students return to school.
However, business is still not returning to normal. Manhattan office worker occupancy stands at around 45% attendance. MTA subway ridership is down 45% from pre-pandemic levels, according to NYC Comptroller Brad Lander’s latest report.
The New York City pre-pandemic private sector workforce stood at 4.1 million, now, as of June, it’s at 3.9 million. The current unemployment rate in New York City is 6.1%.
According to Lander’s report, the hardest hit sectors were retail and food services. The drop in those jobs could certainly be explained by all the empty storefronts we see around the city.
The original purpose for Labor Day — when President Grover Cleveland signed the holiday into law in 1894 — was to have safe work environments and a livable wage.
Now, 128 years later, working for a living is being viewed in a different light.
People who are working complain about their jobs and people who are out of work complain that they don’t have one.
Just this week, there were reports that Google engineers in California were frustrated with management because of its requirement that workers return to the office. Here in New York, Wall St. CEOs are demanding that high-salaried employees return from the Hamptons and get in the office — and bring your teams with you.
And many who are out of work remain so despite there being help want- ed signs everywhere and so many entry-level jobs remain unfilled.
But then, as now, the Good Book can offer perspective and understanding on the value of work.
In Christ, all things are made new, and the promises of the Old Testament are brought to fulfillment. Our Lord Jesus raises the dignity of work, and this was especially embodied in his foster father, Saint Joseph the Worker.
It is a dignity that transcends time. It was the work of humankind that produced such marvels as The Great Wall, Taj Mahal, Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, Sistine Chapel, St Patrick’s Cathedral, the Colosseum, and the Egyptian Pyramids. Inventions such as ships, airplanes, automobiles, the telephone, television, medicine, and the smartphone? All the products of men — and women — at work.
Through our Creator, who fashioned the Heavens and the Earth and all that is within it, we as human beings have been granted the ability to work, build, and create.
The Catholic Church has always been very sure to ensure the dignity of workers. Pontiffs like His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII, and Pope Saint John Paul II wrote Papal Encyclicals on workers’ rights and the dignity of the working person.
A Servant of God from our area, the Brooklyn-born Dorothy Day, during the Great Depression, founded the Catholic Worker movement, which goes on to this day.
This Labor Day, take the time to thank God for the blessings of labor as well as blessings on all laborers.