Monday, September 7, 2009
Right to Unionize Often Denied by Conservatives
While all labor should be honored on Labor Day, unionized labor is particularly remembered. So many of the rights taken for granted by workers in the United States are thanks to labor - the 40 hour work week, child labor laws, higher wages, job security, etc.
Many conservatives in the Church whom I have talked to try to state that workers do not have a right to unionize. If they are a bit more educated, they will point out that Rerum Novarum in 1891 only supported "Catholic" worker associations. Although that is correct (Leo was averse to Communist controlled-unions), later popes and Vatican II saw there implicit support for labor unions in their modern form and explicitly stated so:
Mater et Magistra 22 ( by John XXIII): Pope Leo XIII also defended the worker's natural right to enter into association with his fellows. Such associations may consist either of workers alone or of workers and employers, and should be structured in a way best calculated to safeguard the workers' legitimate professional interest. And it is the natural right of the workers to work without hindrance, freely, and on their own initiative within these associations for the achievement of these ends.
Gaudium et Spes 68 (Vatican II document): Among the basic rights of the human person is to be numbered the right of freely founding unions for working people.
Laborem Exercens 20 (by John Paul II): All these rights, together with the need for the workers themselves to secure them, give rise to yet another right: the right of association, that is to form associations for the purpose of defending the vital interests of those employed in the various professions. These associations are called labour or trade unions.
Centesimus Annus 7 (by John Paul II): This means above all the right to establish professional associations of employers and workers, or of workers alone. Here we find the reason for the Church's defence and approval of the establishment of what are commonly called trade unions
With such a wealth of sources (and there are more) supporting unions as a basic and natural right, it is hard to beleive how any Catholic could deny that this is official Catholic teaching. Normally, when I meet a conservative Catholic of this persuasion, I do not have these references with me. Hopefully, this short reference list that I have compiled will be helpful in illustrating without a doubt the Catholic Church's support for unions.
A Faithful Catholic