WASHINGTON (August 17, 1998)--Employers must protect low-wage workers, said Bishop William S. Skylstad, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Policy.
Bishop Skylstad, of the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, spoke out for workers' rights, in the Committee's annual Labor Day statement.
It is time "to remind ourselves of the roots of the holiday and the importance of protecting workers' rights, especially low-wage workers," Bishop Skylstad said. "The low-wage workers who cleaned the chickens and picked the strawberries for our Labor Day feast probably cannot afford to purchase the fruits of their labors. Most agricultural workers like other low-wage workers—janitors, window washers, hotel housekeepers, and workers in health care and child care—have no pension other than social security and no health insurance. "
He especially cited migrant farmworkers, who, he said, "lack not only a decent wage, health care, and retirement benefits, but some live in wretched housing, contend with dangerous machinery, handle hazardous farm chemicals, and work long hours."
"Workers, particularly migrant agricultural workers, have the right to organize and bargain collectively to secure fair wages and working conditions," he added.
Bishop Skylstad also noted also that unions also have duties to the larger society.
Just as employers must treat their employees with dignity and respect, unions must be "about more than just economic gain for their members. Workers also must contribute to the common good by seeking excellence in production and service," Bishop Skylstad said.