(ANS – Rome) – On May 1 in many countries of the world the Workers’ Day (or similar) is celebrated. This day originates from the struggles of workers and unions for justice and is a reminder of the timeliness and importance of safeguarding these rights, especially for young people.
This celebration was born also in memory of the workers’ fight for an 8-hour day. The first law to guard this right was passed in 1867 in the State of Illinois (USA ), then the First International asked that similar legislation should be introduced also in Europe. The origin goes back to a demonstration organized in the United States by the “Knights of Labor”, on September 15 1882 in New York. The definite choice of May 1 was due to grave incidents occurring in the first days of May 1886 in Chicago, known as the Haymarket Riot.
It was not only the Unions which were concerned with the dignity and rights of work, but also thinkers , sociologists and, not last, the Popes of the 20th century. The social teaching of the Church, unfortunately not well known, is a heritage of thought which has long united the dignity of the person with the dignity of work.
In many countries, paradoxically also in those most “developed”, in recent years Workers’ Say no longer seems a public holiday! The nations without human and workers’ rights are beginning to resemble those in which these same rights are not safeguarded.
Young people are denied the opportunity of building a better tomorrow. Some analysts already speak of generations whose possibility of self-determination for a better future is gravely compromised.
We do not want to be involved in debates which border on demagogy, but, as Salesians, we want to remember the theme of work in the prospective of youth. One of the privileged fields of the educative and evangelizing activity of the sons of Don Bosco is training for work. It is our business to lead young people into being protagonists in their own human fulfillment. In many countries, especially the more backward ones, technical schools, centres of technical training and courses of preparation for work are a true and proper resource and heritage for everyone in the land.
Here are the significant words of a Salesian, for many years in the front line of pastoral work with the most needy boys, expressing a Christian, Salesian and human vision of work: “I like to think of May 1st as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. I place in his hands the tears and the hopes of so many poor young brothers desperately seeking work. In spite of all, I have faith in a better tomorrow.”