Even the most disparaged jobs can give those who do them a sense of purpose and dignity in the eyes of others: the refuse collector when he has finished his rounds on his lorry, the woman cleaning the railway carriages, the man sweeping the underground corridors, the miner leaving the mine, washing himself and putting on clean clothes. Work allows a person to re-establish themselves and be with others.
There are neither noble nor ignoble jobs, as there are neither noble people nor ignoble people. Any human work is entitled to our esteem, for those doing it are our sisters, our brothers.
What degrades workers is not the task they perform but being considered as expendable and exploitable commodities which tomorrow will perhaps be more effectively replaced by machines, or simply wear out and are made redundant. Every worker, whatever their job, is a comrade, whose efforts feed into the efforts and well-being of everyone.
It is the responsibility of every society to make it possible for each of its members to work. A society must consider the modernisation of the production process and the labour market, but it must do so in such a way that every man, woman and young person find their place and their honour.
(…) But it is not enough for everyone to be employed. Every worker should be trained, so that all today’s work prepares them for the jobs of tomorrow. Those who have been wronged by inadequate schooling and training, those whose strength and health has been most damaged by their living and working conditions, deserve priority investment so they can take up work in the future alongside other workers. It is a question of political will and agreement between all parties and the public at large.
Human beings have always wanted to be both creators and masters of the material world. From the earliest times, they have also sought to lighten their burdens, dominate their environment, and free themselves from the constraints of the material world that sap their energy and sometimes threaten their lives. They have done this to improve everyone’s lives, even though by slavery and serfdom they have often made the subjugated bear the burden of the most arduous tasks.
Humanity is also the architect of technological progress, but should the progress we are experiencing today come at the cost of a new class of slaves? Are they not merely slaves, those who are forced into chronic inutility? None of us, whatever our position in life, can accept such injustice, whether we are bosses, trade unionists, politicians, or ordinary citizens. It is a matter of conscience that we unite our efforts to prevent this.