On eve of feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Catholics hold vigil for workers at airport
Faith and works.
In Catholic teaching, St. Joseph was a carpenter who taught Jesus his craft. He is the patron saint of workers, laborers, carpenters, cabinetmakers, and joiners, and since 1955 the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker has been celebrated May 1 as a counterpoint to the completely secular May Day celebration of workers.
Tonight, at 7 p.m., on the eve of the feast day, more than 50 Catholic clergy members, hundreds of Catholic lay leaders, and volunteers from POWER (Pennsylvanians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild) will anoint the hands of terminal cleaners, cabin cleaners, SkyCaps, wheelchair agents, customer service agents, terminal security officers, ramp workers, and baggage handlers and other non-union workers as a blessing of the work they do, and as a show of solidarity in the fight for fair wages and better work conditions. The anointing will be part of a prayer vigil and walk through the airport terminal that serves as the launch event for the PICO National Network "Year of Encounter with St. Francis."
PICO, the largest faith-based organizing network in the nation, sees the Year as an initiative "engaging hundreds of parishes and thousands of Catholics nationwide in a year-long education and social action program in the lead up to, and aftermath of, Pope Francis' U.S. visit in late September."
After the vigil, the faith leaders will also present a letter to American Airlines and announce the details of the larger campaign which, according to their written statement, "will include on-going congregation actions across the country that recognize the humanity and dignity of our nation's most discarded and excluded individuals: unemployed and underemployed workers, families struggling to make ends meet, young people of color experiencing police brutality and mass criminalization, and immigrant families being torn apart by deportation."
For its part, POWER has long been involved in "efforts to shed light on low wages at Philadelphia International Airport led to the landslide passing of a ballot measure that raised wages for subcontracted workers across the city, and Mayor Nutter signed an executive order to index the raise wage to inflation."
Some of the workers for subcontracted firms, POWER said, have not received a raise "and continue to face unjust working conditions."