Report on “Liberty and Solidarity: Living the Vocation to Business”

Seventy-five participants attended a conference from Sept. 24-26 in Washington, DC focused on the topic of the topic “Liberty and Solidarity: Living the Vocation to Business.” The conference was sponsored by The Catholic University of America’s School of Business and Economics and the NAPA Institute. It took place on the CUA campus.

The gathering brought together current and retired business owners, Catholic University faculty and clergy and women religious to explore Catholic social teaching. Much of the emphasis was on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity and how they can be forces for good in the business world. Participants and speakers told CNS that they wanted to better understand how their faith could be carried into the business world, where priority is given to maximizing profit regardless of how it is achieved.

In his opening address Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical for Justice and Peace welcomed the contributions of men and women in business as vital to improving people’s lives as long as they promote the common good. He encouraged attendees to ground their work in prayer and the tenets of the Catholic faith in order to continue God’s creation. The Vatican, he said, has come to see that life in business is itself a vocation. “It simply means that one has a calling, a calling which comes from God our creator,” Turkson said. 

For the Catholic News Service (Sept. 30, 2014) report posted on the NCR web site, click here.

For a 2-part commentary by NCR blogger Michael Sean Winters, click here for Part 1.

Click here for Part 2

Wage theft still “far too prevalent”

An article in the New York Times (Aug. 31, 2014) notes that “wage theft,” the practice of violating workers’ minimum wage and overtime laws, erasing work hours, and wrongfully taking employees’ tips, still is happening far too often.

Some state and federal officials agree. David Weil, the director of the federal Labor Department’s wage and hour division, reports that wage theft is surging. The report notes that the main reason for the uptick in violations is a change in the nation’s business structure. The increased use of franchise operators, subcontractors and temp agencies leads to more employers being squeezed on costs and more cutting corners, he said. A result, he added, is that the companies on top can deny any knowledge of wage violations. “We have a change in the structure of work that is then compounded by a falling level of what is viewed as acceptable in the workplace in terms of how you treat people and how you regard the law,” Mr. Weil said.

For the entire NY Times report, click here.

Fast food workers striking for living wage are arrested across nation

A strike by fast food workers on Sept. 4 in about 150 cities across the US demanded a $15-an hour minimum wage. In about three-dozen cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Little Rock, Ark. 500 protesters were arrested. According to the New York Times (Sept. 4, 2014), the protesters carried signs saying, “Low Pay Is Not O.K.,” “On Strike to Lift My Family Up,” and “Whatever It Takes: $15 and Union Rights.” They also want McDonald’s and other fast-food chains to agree not to fight a unionization drive. Fast food workers receive an average of $9 an hour according to the report.

In response to the work action, McDonald’s Corporation stated in part, “We believe that any minimum-wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners of small and medium-sized businesses—like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants— is manageable.”

For the entire NY Times report, click here.

Cardinal George’s Labor Day message

LaborDay_2014Cardinal George’s Labor Day message

In his Labor Day message posted on the Catholic New World (Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 2014) web site, Chicago archbishop, Cardinal Francis George, OMI expands on the US bishops’ Labor Day statement that criticizes an “economy of exclusion” especially as it affects many unemployed young adults in the US.

He cites statistics bearing out the fact that the real income for the poorest one-fifth of Americans continues to decline “now reaching below the level it was when the war on poverty was declared in 1968.” He goes on to note, “The average income of working-class Americans has fallen 6.5 percent in the last 13 years. The decline of middle class incomes is similar, as are the incomes for women and for African-American and Hispanic households.”

Three elements of Catholic social teaching are required to be just and contribute to the common good of all. They are dignity of the individual and security and stability of individuals and families. Cardinal George goes on to state dignity often doesn’t necessarily equate to great wealth as Catholic social doctrine provides no formula for economic success. The economy itself is in the hands of workers and business people. If government regulation is needed, it becomes a political issue with outcomes decided by voters.

The challenge of our time then becomes how to align all the elements to provide a dignified sustainable living wage for all those able to work an ensure a safety net for those unable to participate in the work force. Human dignity continues to be undermined by unemployment and underemployment.

For Cardinal George’s entire column, click here.

Interfaith Worker Justice

IWJ_Lab_Day-2The Interfaith Worker Justice web site has posted resources for Labor Day services for Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist traditions.
Issues include and Campaign Specific Resources include:

  • Minimum Wage Bulletin insert
  • Support for Teachers
  • For Dignity & Respect at Walmart
  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform
  • Stop Wage Theft!
  • Worker Issues – Study Guide

For the specific portal – Celebrate Labor Day in the Pulpit/on the Bimah/in the Minbar, click here.

Interfaith Worker Justice web site – www.iwj.org