Why Work-Free Sundays?

In March more than 70 organizations, including churches, labor unions, and civil society groups, met for the first European conference on work-free Sundays. “As a matter of principle,” stated the Conference of European Churches in a press release, “all citizens of the European Union (EU) are entitled to benefit from a work-free Sunday.” Research shows improvement in worker health, family life, and civil society engagement when there is a shared work-free day. “We need more civil society alliances to counter the economization of all life,” Ulrich Duchrow, theologian and co-founder of Kairos Europa, told Sojourners. “Sunday, originally the Sabbath, is a gift of the biblical faith in God, the liberator of slaves from exploitative labor, to all peoples of the earth.”

The Conference of European Churches is urging EU leaders to “safeguard and promote a work-free Sunday as a pillar of the European Social Model within the laws of their respective nations.” Campaign critics question whether naming Sunday—traditionally the Christian day of rest—as a common rest day disadvantages other religions. Others argue that this kind of decision should be made at the member-state level, rather than by the EU. The work-free Sunday proposal allows exceptions for essential services and recognizes pre-existing union contracts.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2010
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