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The Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor is Launched

November 16, 2009

A reception on November 10 in Riggs Library at Georgetown University marked the formal launch of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.  A gathering of over 100 supporters from the university, metropolitan Washington, organized labor, business, religious, and community organizations was on hand for the event.   The gathering was addressed by President John J. DeGioia, Lou Giraudo of the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation, and Joseph A. McCartin, Executive Director of the Initiative. In his remarks, President DeGioia observed:

In a real sense, all that we have here tonight is a gift of labor, whether a labor of construction, a labor of scholarship, or a labor of service. And as Pope John Paul II wrote, “Work is a good thing for man – a good thing for his humanity – because, through work, man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and, indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being.’” (Encyclical letter Laborem exercens n. 9)

But in celebrating the work, we must also care for the worker. As Catholics, we are the heirs of a long tradition of thought and teaching on the moral dimensions of economic activity and economic relations. More than 100 years ago, Pope Leo XIII wrote the encyclical Rerum Novarum, which is often considered the cornerstone of Catholic social teaching on the proper relations of employers and employees. Rerum Novarum firmly supported the right of workers to secure fair wages and working conditions. It championed collective bargaining. And it asserted that the State has a duty to intervene on behalf of justice, and for individual and social well-being.

The challenge, and call to action, of Rerum Novarum is another example that our faith has always been measured—and tested—by how we treat the neediest, the most vulnerable, the most wounded in our midst. Our times have changed, but the imperative has not. Still with us are the vulnerable—the working poor and all those who are in need of economic justice. We are called anew to care for them, to uphold the dignity of the laborer, to answer the challenge of globalization.

Lou Giraudo of the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation stressed the the purpose of the Initiative is to devise solutions to the problems that beset labor and the working poor.

Above all, what we want is something that is practical, something that works to improve the lives of workers and the working poor.

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