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U.S. Bishops Call for ‘Radical Solidarity’ With Working Families

A welder works at a Polaris ATV and snowmobile manufacturing and assembly plant in Roseau, Minn., June 7, 2021. Labor Day, observed Sept. 4 in 2023, is observed annually on the first Monday in September to celebrate and recognize the contributions and achievements of American workers. (Photo: OSV News/Dan Koeck, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — This year’s annual Labor Day statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops emphasized the need for a “radical solidarity” with working families.

The Aug. 30 statement stressed that there is urgent work to be done to help families and asked Congress to adopt policies to support these efforts. It also highlighted the power of community organizing and the role that unions can play.

“We must do more to support families,” wrote Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The archbishop noted that while there are signs of improvement in the current economy with inflation slowing, workers’ wages rising, and the labor market remaining strong, he said a recent report by the Federal Reserve Board found that families feel like they are worse off now than they were a year ago and spending more and saving less.

He also noted that grocery costs have risen 5% in the past year, housing is less affordable, and health care is “yet another expense that is becoming out of reach for too many.” He added that about 50% of adults have difficulty affording medical care, causing them to delay or forgo care.

He said that almost one year ago, U.S. bishops wrote to Congress in wake of the Dobbs decision, stressing the need for solidarity with mothers, children, and families and highlighting their support for nutrition programs, affordable housing, access to health care, safety net programs, and justice for workersincluding things like just wages, support for organized labor, and safe working conditions regardless of immigration status. 

And at the end of last year, he said, Congress enacted laws the U.S. bishops supported including the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act and a permanent option for states to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for one year after birth.

He said Congress should strengthen the Child Tax Credit that expired in 2021 and support paid family leave, emphasizing it is “pro-life to support families.” He also said there should be better access to affordable, quality child care and pre-kindergarten, and just wages for child care workers and teachers.

Archbishop Gudziak pointed out that public policy changes are not the only way to help families, saying that community organizing efforts, especially those sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development, are also providing solutions and that labor unions can also play a part.

“Each of us is called to follow the Lord and bring glad tidings to the poor,” the archbishop said, urging Catholics to “pray and act towards this end.”