On Monday, America will celebrate its 120th Labor Day. Typically marked by end-of-summer barbecues or relaxing days at home, some religious groups are encouraging people to take a moment this weekend for social justice-related reflection and prayer.
Interfaith Worker Justice, an organization that advocates for fair policies in American workplaces, has provided a list of resources for faith communities, which both encourages thoughtful discussions and raises awareness about economic justice campaigns.
"Labor Day weekend provides a unique opportunity for faith communities, workers, worker advocates and the labor movement to rediscover their common bonds: social justice, equality, the common good, dignity and respect of all persons, economic justice, and fair treatment in the workplace," the IWJ website stated.
The United Church of Christ cited IWJ's efforts in a post encouraging churches in the denomination to observe Labor Sunday on Aug. 31.
Sunday is "a day to lift up works, celebrate their contributions and support their struggles. It is also a day to lament and commit ourselves to improving jobs so that every worker has wages, benefits and work hours that allow them to be self sufficient and live lives of wholeness," the article said.
Faith leaders will have plenty of statistics to draw from on the state of labor in America as they prepare their worker-related Sunday message, as both Gallup and Pew Research Center have published new studies.
Gallup reported on the overwork of American adults, saying that full-time workers "report working an average of 47 hours per week, almost a full workday longer than what a standard five-day, 9-to-5 schedule entails."
And although that figure has remained relatively stable over the past 14 years, a recent trend of underemployment might impact worker satisfaction. Having an engaging job and workplace still trumps (factors like total hours work) in fostering higher overall well-being in workers," Gallup said.
Pew Research Center highlighted unemployment in a Labor Day-themed article, illustrating how the American economy has failed to fully recover from the financial panic of the last six years.
"All in all, 10.3 million Americans were counted as unemployed in July, and 9.8 million more were underemployed — either 'marginally attached' or working part-time when they'd rather be full-time," Pew reported.
During a period of stress and uncertainly for American workers, the church can offer comfort and empowerment, the UCC said. "The church, the body of Christ, is called to seek out and accompany people wherever they are. So the church must also be in our offices, factories, stores, farms, schools and all the places where people work."