“We ask St. Joseph …to help us fight for the dignity of work, so that there might be work for all and that it might be dignified work, not the work of a slave.”
Pope Francis on May 1, 2020
Today, we celebrate International Workers’ Day and the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. This day honors the collective dignity and rights of workers and the role of movements working for labor justice.
This May Day, workers around the world are facing new challenges caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic. While the economic fallout of the crisis has impacted all workers, we take note that the poor and vulnerable have been most impacted by this crisis: extremely high rates of unemployment, dangerous working conditions, lack of protective equipment and medical care, rising cases of domestic violence, and growing discrimination against minorities and migrants.
Daily wage workers are stranded in their confinements without any means to secure some food for their daily sustenance. Hunger has forced them to violate lockdown laws and put their lives in danger of getting infected. Scavenging has been the only way to find some food for many working-class families.
All of this, as St James (James 5:1-6) reminds us, cries out to God and to our shared humanity to take action.
As many governments strengthened their war machineries, they neglected their obligation in establishing effective public healthcare systems. We are now paying a price. Many healthcare workers lack basic protective equipment. Many governments praise the healthcare workers as heroes without providing them with necessary protection and proper contracts to the unregulated healthcare workers.
Migrant workers and refugees have become one of the first communities to be victimized and discriminated during this pandemic. Many of the 244 million migrant workers have become jobless, homeless, and stranded away from home. Without the government subsidies and the access to public healthcare facilities, their plight has become more intolerable and fatal.
The Coronavirus pandemic is illuminating the glaring flaws in our present neoliberal world order and the need of a new social, economic, cultural, political post-pandemic world where everyone is included and mother earth is respected. As Pope Francis points out in Laudato Si’, Integral ecology “needs to take account of the value of labour” (124). Everyone must be able to work, because it is “part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment” (128), while “to stop investing in people, in order to gain greater short-term financial gain, is bad business for society” (128).
On this International Workers’ Day, the Pax Romana family -the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) and the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (ICMICA) – further confirms our Christian duty and commitment to find a society which liberates the “All and Whole human”. The Ponnamallee declaration (1970) of All India Catholic University Federation serves us a timely challenge: “We were born in an unjust society and we are determined not to leave it as we have found it.”
International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs Pax Romana (ICMICA)
International Movement of Catholic Students Pax Romana (IMCS