Monday, September 03, 2007

The Church on Labor and Society: Part 5

Also see Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

On Unions

The church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions. This is a specific application of the more general right to associate. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "The experience of history teaches that organizations of this type are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies."

Unions may also legitimately resort to strikes where this is the only available means to the justice owed to workers. No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably now seen in this country, to break existing unions and prevent workers from organizing. Migrant agricultural workers today are particularly in need of the protection, including the right to organize and bargain collectively. U.S. labor law reform is needed to meet these problems as well as to provide more timely and effective remedies for unfair labor practices.
-- Economic Justice for All, #104

History teaches us that organizations of this type are an indispensable element in social life, especially in industrialized societies. This does not mean that only industrial workers can form these associations. Every profession can use them: agricultural workers, white-collar workers, and employers.
-- On Human Work (Donders), #20

All church institutions must also fully recognize the rights of employees to organize and bargain collectively with the institution through whatever association or organization they freely choose. In the light of new creative models of collaboration between labor and management described earlier in this letter, we challenge our church institutions to adopt new fruitful modes of cooperation.
-- Economic Justice for All, #353

Among the basic rights of the human person is to be numbered the right of freely founding unions for working people. They should be able truly to represent them and to contribute to the organizing of economic life in the right way. Included is the right of freely taking part in the activity of these unions without risk of reprisal. Through this orderly participation joined to progressive economic and social formation, all will grow day by day in the awareness of their won function and responsibility, and thus they will be brought to feel that they are comrades in the whole task of economic development and in the attainment of the universal common good according to their capacities and aptitudes.
-- The Church in the Modern World, #68

To secure these rights, the workers need the right to association in labor or trade unions.
-- On Human Work (Donders), #20

Catholic social teaching does not see unions as reflecting only a "class" structure, and even less as engaged in a "class" struggle. They are indeed engaged in the struggle for social justice, but this is a struggle for the common good, and not against others. Its aim is social justice and not the elimination of opponents.
-- On Human Work (Donders), #20

One of the methods used by unions is the strike, or work stoppage - a means that is recognized by Catholic social teaching as legitimate under the proper conditions and within proper limits. Workers should be assured of the right to strike without fear of penalty.
-- On Human Work (Donders), #20

The important role of union organizations must be admitted: their object is the representation of the various categories of workers, their lawful collaboration in the economic advance of society, and the development of the sense of their responsibility for the realization of the common good.
-- A Call to Action, #14

Along with the rights of workers and unions go a number of important responsibilities. Individual workers have obligations to their employers, and trade unions also have duties to society as a whole. Union management in particular carries a strong responsibility for the good name of the entire union movement. Workers must use their collective power to contribute to the well-being of the whole community and should avoid pressing demands whose fulfillment would damage the common good and the rights of more vulnerable members of society. It should be noted, however, that wages paid to workers are but one of the factors affecting the competitiveness of industries. Thus, it is unfair to expect unions to make concessions if managers and shareholders do not make at least equal sacrifices.
-- Economic Justice for All, #106

In modern times we have seen an extensive increase in the number of workers' associations, and their general recognition in the juridical codes of single States and on the international level. Members are no longer recruited in order to agitate, but rather to co-operate, principally by the method of collective bargaining. But it is worthwhile stressing here how timely and imperative it is that workers be given the opportunity to exert their influence throughout the State, and not just within the limits of their own spheres of employment.
-- Mother and Teacher, #97

The purpose of unions is not simply to defend the existing wages and prerogatives of the fraction of workers who belong to them, but also to enable workers to make positive and creative contributions to the firm, the community, and the larger society in an organized and cooperative way.
-- On Human Work (Donders), #20

Labor unions themselves are challenged by the present economic environment to seek new ways of doing business. The propose of unions is not simply to defend the existing wages and prerogatives of the fraction of workers who belong to them, but also to enable workers to make positive and creative contributions to the firm, the community, and the larger society in an organized and cooperative way [13]. Such contributions call for experiments with new directions in the U.S. labor movement.
-- On Human Work, #304

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