The Church missing in action on Labour Day

“Through the combination of social and economic change, trade unions organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions.”

So spoke Pope Benedict in his last encyclical Charity in Truth in 2009.

One would have thought that bishops would have taken their signal from Rome regarding the dismal situation of labour in our time. Labour—not just another commodity as the Church  has always taught. is suffering terribly in the new global economy.Decades of cut backs, attacks,the shocking advance of corporate greed has pummeled human beings into the ground.

One of the flyers handed to me was from CUPE who represent Air Canada flight attendants, the front line of safety for those who fly.They have watched, like many other workers, their wages stagnate , their salaries rolled back all the while their CEO has just received a 77% wage increase.

For over an hour I stood on the corner of Tecumseh (my boyhood street) and Queen with my wife and teacher-daughter. We watched the passing parade of unions on this Labour Day.always a sacramental experience for me. I was waiting for the Catholic teachers Union to come by so I could join in and walk among them as a small act of solidarity for the beleaguered workers of Ontario.
As fate would have it, I was across from a “holiness” Church and the sign outside read “Jesus said, IU am the Way, the Truth and the Life…”

But the official representatives of the Way and the Truth, Catholic Church leaders were nowhere in sight.

Every year I would see Jack Layton marching with OPSEU, CAW, ACTRA (yes cultural workers have unions) machinists, librarians,city workers, hotel workers the most exploited of all—and most of them people of colour. Never have I seen any of the bishops of Ontario walking in solidarity with these good people who build our city and make life work.

At my coffee shop to pur salt into the wound I noticed the smug Toronto Sun crowing about the end of public service unions and why not, while we are at it, let’s give another name  to Labour Day.

It’s sad enough when so few Catholic  teachers walk every year with their brothers and sisters in much less remunerative work and always in greater jeopardy, but it is doubly sad when the so called institutional leaders of the Catholic Church are nowhere in sight. Are these men so busy or are they just obtuse about the need to express solidarity in the age of Stephen Harper and Toronto’s Rob Ford?

“Jack” always made time for these workers. I saw him for over 20 years encouraging working people on this Day of Labour. “Their excellencies” I have never seen, nor many of the diocesan clergy. They apparently don’t know jack about the meaning of witness or solidarity. Look no further than every Labour Day for reasons why the Church is in decline.


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