A Message for Labor Day

A Message for Labor Day

Recently I had the opportunity to see the movie, The Butler. During the same week I read about Bishop Stephen Blaire (Stockton, California) and his presentation at a Senate hearing about the need for fair wages for all our workers, and then on the front page of CNN’s website I saw a headline story about a call for a country-wide strike of some of the top fast food chains because of the poor wages they pay their workers.

All of these items came to me as we approach the celebration of Labor Day 2013.

The Butler: Everything you have read or heard about this movie is true: it is moving, touching, startling, difficult and haunting. You will be thinking about it for days afterwards. Even though many of us lived through the civil rights movement of the late 50s and 60s, much of the intensity of it is not now a part of the daily reality of most of our lives. This movie is a graphic reminder of that time in the not-so-distant history of our country and of the tragedy of racial discrimination, especially its effects on the abused and on the abusers as well.

Bishop Blaire’s address to senators included the hard facts that the annual salary of a person on minimum hourly wage of $7.25 is still below the poverty level for any size family and the $2.13/hour pay for tipped labor hasn’t been adjusted since 1991. Recently, he reminded them, Pope Francis, himself, spoke eloquently of the dignity of work and how it gives us the ability to maintain ourselves, our family and contribute to our country. (Origins, CNS documentary service)

The headline on CNN.com focused on a strike aimed at the $200 billion fast food industry whose median pay across the country is just over $9.00/hr or $18,500/year; again well below the federal poverty level for a family of four.

Let us not forget these realities when we “celebrate” Labor Day. And let us be mindful that much still needs to be addressed in securing the rights and dignity of all workers.

Anne Wambach, OSB

Sister Anne Wambach, OSB, the twenty-first prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania is a native of Philadelphia. She moved to Mount St. Benedict Monastery in 1992 to respond to a desire to experience the monastic way of life. Previously a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Chestnut Hill, Sister Anne began the formal transfer process to the Erie Benedictines in 1993 and made her monastic profession in 1997.

Sister Anne has served the people of the Diocese of Erie as a teacher at St. Gregory's School in North East, Pa., from 1992-1995, and at the Neighborhood Art House in Erie, beginning as program director in 1995 and as executive director since 2005. She served on the Monastic Council from 2006-2010.