Opinion: Labor Day and The Sacredness of All Work

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A construction worker levels concrete for a new San Diego sidewalk. File photo

By Rev. Cheri Metier

Labor Day weekend is often referred to as the unofficial end of summer and filled with backyard barbecues, trips to the beach and other frivolities. Celebration and recreation are good. The sacred texts of faith traditions are filled with stories of celebration and recreation in the forms of music, dance, singing, parties, trips and much more.

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Yet Labor Day is much more than a day off from work. In fact, many people work and are busier during this time than usual. Think of hotel, restaurant and transportation workers serving those who have a long weekend. What about pubic servants, our police officers, firefighters, EMTs, hospital staff and military personnel?

Labor Day was fought for and won by the labor movement during the late years of the Industrial Revolution, when 12-hour days and 7-day work weeks were the norm. This should deeply disturb every human, especially people of faith. The Torah, Bible, Quran and other sacred texts explicitly teach that workers should be paid fairly and on time and in such a manner that they and their dependents are provided for.

All faiths have some variation of “The Golden Rule” to “do unto others and you would have them do to you.” This applies to both employers and employees. No one is off the hook, and everyone must treat one another in ways we want to be treated: with respect, dignity and compassion. Think of God as a worker, Jesus as a day laborer, Moses as a labor leader and Abraham as an organizer.

Interfaith Worker Justice of San Diego County helps workers, labor unions, clergy and congregations to bring people and resources together. This Labor Day weekend, we participated in Worship for Labor in/on the Pulpit, Minbar, Bimah, a national program of Interfaith Worker Justice based in Chicago.

Rev. Cheri Metier

Many local faith communities participated, including Christ the King Catholic Church, University Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), San Dieguito Unitarian Universalist, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Islamic Center of San Diego and St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. Congregations as far away as Redlands participated this weekend.

Everyone should see workers through Divine eyes and view work as sacred. Go deeper this Labor Day weekend, then enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Rev. Cheri Metier is executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice of San Diego.

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