This past long weekend afforded me the opportunity to catch up on some reading that’s been sitting on my desk at home. Among the items was a recent issue of the American cultural journal The Hedgehog Review that featured a discussion on work and dignity. Through stories drawn from the experiences of many truckers, the lead essay explores their lives and reveals the various injustices within the industry. The drivers are consistently forced to push their bodies to extremes simply to satisfy the insatiable consumer demand for goods.
The article left quite the impression on me. My father spent years as a driver and I’ve witnessed the toil and labour that so many drivers must endure, often with little recognition. Even though the author didn’t mention religion, I couldn’t help but consider the wealth of Catholic social teaching on workers’ rights that would apply to this situation.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far to find insights into how to apply our Church’s teaching to this, and many other issues, as we recently we released The Ethical Being: A Catholic Guide to Contemporary Issues by Scott Kline, a professor of religious studies at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario. Kline reminds us that “we have a moral imperative to resist dehumanizing economic relationships” and offers ways for confronting the injustices encountered in the workplace. He challenges us to always keep in mind those who produce the goods that we use and consume, for we have a relationship with them. “We may not meet them or know them,” Kline writes “but our actions impact their lives.”
While what may immediately come to mind is the horrific injustices imposed upon the thousands of women, men and children in sweatshops in developing countries, we shouldn’t overlook those among us who endure difficult conditions. Rather, we can take concrete and tangible steps to ensure that all may find meaningful and just employment, by purchasing fairly and advocating for the dignity of all workers.
Over the next few months we will feature posts about living our faith in our everyday lives. Our faith has much to offer to the issues we discuss today. It is our hope that the posts will help you and your community reflect on these issues and inspire you to engage others in conversations about faith’s relevance to contemporary life.
—Don Beyers, Marketing Manager