Support for unions – quick question

Support for unions – quick question March 9, 2011

One of the favorite talking points of the Catholic right is that while the strong support for unions in Catholic social teaching is clear, this somehow doesn’t apply to public sector unions. OK, then. In that case, I assume they fully support the collective bargaining rights of private sector workers. I assume they regard the collapse in private sector unionization rates to around 7 percent to be a real problem. I assume they seek to extend the reach of unions throughout the whole private sector economy. Right?

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  • Robert Klingle

    Catholic teaching is to them just like a no parking sign. It is for someone else not for me.

  • I can’t get them to answer my questions when I challenge them on their beliefs (interpretations) or my beliefs (interpretations) so good luck on getting any answers at all. All I get back is monologue that avoids responding but tells you what they think.

    My take has always been if they do not like the answers they have to give to the questions you ask they don’t want to answer. Perhaps figure out a way to ask them questions where they like the answers they must give? I dunno.

  • Before this spins out of hand, and bearing in mind the season we have entered, it might be helpful not to make use of such phrases as “Catholic teaching is to them when speaking of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    For my part, I do not have much direct experience with unions. All the same, one can be fully in support of the right to collective bargaining on the part of labor and not have any vested interest in seeking to extend unionization in the private sector as far as possible. To see why this is so, consider an analogous proposition, namely that Catholic social teaching is unequivocal in its defense of private property and of the goods that derive from private ownership. Should we presume from this that all Catholics of all political persuasions seek to extend privatization of the economy as much as possible?

    It is certainly true that we can all allow our political and partisan persuasions to have undue influence over our reading of Catholic teaching. It is likewise true that people of good will can, adverting to the same authoritative teaching of the Church and applying the same principles of natural law available to reason, arrive at contrasting conclusions in particular and contingent matters, such as economic organization. These positions may contrast because one or both is in error. They may also contrast because one is better than the other, while both are good. Or, they may be two equivalent good ways of directing us to the same good (i.e. human private and social flourishing through the means of the economy) which are nonetheless, considered as means, not able to be simultaneously enacted.

    • Your point is well made Father Dominic and I was going to ask you if you believe that Church policy fully supports workers, but in light of the shrinking middle class in America, and the massive amount of wealth being hoarded by a tiny minority i was just wondering if you could finish this phrase for me:

      “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for….”

      What are Catholics about good father, what is most important to us? Do we support the inequity in wealth that we have now?

    • The teaching of the Church certainly supports the dignity of work and workers, and explicitly the Church has been a champion of the needs of laborers, especially in Europe and North America, since the nineteenth century. The rise of theological interest in Saint Joseph in the early to mid-20th century was no accident!

      Your appeal to Matthew 19:24 (Mark 10:25/Luke 18:25) is crucial here, but, like most of Jesus’ words, double-edged. In order to hear what he says in a way that benefits us spiritually, we need to remember that this saying presumes that we associate prosperity with God’s blessing. If we do not, then the disciples’ puzzlement (“Then who can be saved?”) would make no sense. Said differently, if we start with a moral suspicion of the wealthy and imagine that their gains are ill gotten, we fail to see the import of Christ’s words.

      Even so, I agree absolutely that any ordering of public life that is conducive to envy and strife between working, law-abiding people in which the riches of the land are so disproportionately distributed as to call into question the ethical foundations of the society as a whole is by its nature unjust. When we live in a society that calls for the full and engaged activity of all persons in political life, from the humblest local office to that of the Presidency, too great an inequity is not only civilly, but morally dangerous. Workers are first, foremost, and always persons. They are not resources or means of production. They are not simply one of many economic goods. They are rather, as are all persons, the goods for whom the economy exists, so that any economic/political structure that demeans or devalues the least of its members is, for that reason, sinful.

      As St Thomas Aquinas reminds us, the sin of greed can begin, and generally does, with too great a desire to keep and demand those goods to which we are rightly entitled in justice. Our flourishing as individuals and as a community necessitates that we all, but especially those who prosper the most materially, hold our goods well and prudently, but not too tightly, and requires that we be more prone to generosity with what is lawfully ours than always holding tight to our private goods. Keeping only to the measure of justice, after all, will not produce a just society. For that, we need to aim higher.

      As to what is most important to us? I hope the answer is intimate and unending union with the Holy Trinity through being made a new creation in Our Lord Jesus Christ and members of his Body. Since this same Lord God has reminded us both in his prophets of old and in his Incarnation that whoever does not care for the poor and who defrauds the worker will not enter into the Kingdom, I believe that means we have our marching orders in this regard!

      • Thank you Father Dominic, your response had me giving you a standing ovation, it made me proud to be Catholic. That was my Church talking.

        There are components of our doctrine that are murky to a degree; I am in fact, currently highlighting some of them on another thread at this moment, and calling for clarification. But in this area, clarification is not required and the intent is obvious for all to see.

        As for proof that their gains are ill gotten, all one has to do is pay attention, and it becomes obvious that avarice long ago infected the heart of this country. Laws that regulated greed and allowed for consequences were erased from our torts. As a result, not a single soul has been arrested from the theft that was the Wall street crash of 2008.

        I know this because I used to draft these bills Father, and I left my job because I could no longer support the abject immorality that was associated with my own acts. I left a very good paying job to do so, and still suffer economically from that decision to this day. But I no longer suffer agony inflicted by my conscience which is a far greater burden to bear than poverty.

        Now I sit and watch teachers being squeezed mightily while no one dares to place a mere 4% increase in taxes upon the ultra rich. The same wealthy who sent millions of middle class jobs overseas to be performed by what were essentially slaves, sometimes just young children all to fatten the quarterly profits.

        Instead of lifting all of us up higher the political focus (largely funded by the same ultra wealthy) insists upon tearing what few remain in the middle class down.

        We are a sick nation Father Dominic, and only Christ can heal our heart. Your words certainly lifted my heart up, and I cannot thank you enough.

  • SB

    Non sequitur. Agreeing with the Church that people have the right to join private sector unions if they wish doesn’t require one to believe that private sector unions need to have a particular level of membership in a given society at a given time.

    • It’s not that simple. Unions are not just private associations that foster solidarity, they are “indispensable elements of social life”. Especially in a world of dominant monied interests on the business side, strong unions are a necessity.

  • I’m not clear one could call it a “favorite” talking point of the right. I’ve heard it put forward a couple of times by conservatives that public sector unions might be a different sort of thing than private sector unions because rather than organizing to bargain more effectively the power of capital, they’re organizing to bargain more effectively against the public budget. But then, we may read different right wing sites.

    But I get the impression the major question you want addressed is not whether the public sector union question is a major argument, but rather:

    In that case, I assume they fully support the collective bargaining rights of private sector workers. I assume they regard the collapse in private sector unionization rates to around 7 percent to be a real problem. I assume they seek to extend the reach of unions throughout the whole private sector economy. Right?

    The defense of unions in Rerum Novarum and beyond is rooted in the support of Catholic Social Teaching for the natural human right to form associations. Leo XIII says polities which prevent this should be “detested”:

    If the citizens, if the families on entering into association and fellowship, were to experience hindrance in a commonwealth instead of help, and were to find their rights attacked instead of being upheld, society would rightly be an object of detestation rather than of desire.

    However, I think a lot of conservatives, myself included, would question whether the labor unions currently extant in the US are necessarily groups that they want to join. Many of us would question to what degree these unions actually fit with Leo XIII’s vision:

    To sum up, then, We may lay it down as a general and lasting law that working men’s associations should be so organized and governed as to furnish the best and most suitable means for attaining what is aimed at, that is to say, for helping each individual member to better his condition to the utmost in body, soul, and property. It is clear that they must pay special and chief attention to the duties of religion and morality, and that social betterment should have this chiefly in view; otherwise they would lose wholly their special character, and end by becoming little better than those societies which take no account whatever of religion. What advantage can it be to a working man to obtain by means of a society material well-being, if he endangers his soul for lack of spiritual food?

    Given that through much of the encyclical Leo seems to envision something more like a Catholic guild system (with both employers and workers being members of the same association — something which in the US is illegal) and that he sees the provision of mutual benefit and spiritual community as being one of the primary purposes of a union (more along the lines of the Knights of Columbus than the AFL-CIO) many conservatives’ response to their freedom of association in regards to trade unions will be (given the current conditions in the US) not to join them. And since unions in the US tend to try to set up conditions in which all workers at a given company are forced to join whether they like it or not — conservatives are likely to find themselves opposed to unions in general.

    The key thing to keep in mind here is probably that Leo XIII was not a policy wonk and that the Church is not a political think tank — unionization in Catholic terms is not necessarily a means of exercising political power in the service of class struggle, but rather a means for workers to engage in solidarity and mutual aid. In some situations, where working conditions or wages are manifestly unjust, this might mean striking for better conditions. But Catholic Social Teaching does not seem to envision for unions the kind of adversarial relationship with management which is so often the case in the US. (How can it, it envisions primarily unions in which both managers and workers are members together)

    A lot of workers, myself included, want no part of the kind of workplace which unionization tends to create in modern American companies, and so we exercise the freedom to form associations (which is protected by Catholic Social Teaching) by avoiding institutions such as secular US trade unions and joining associations such as the KofC or Opus Dei.

    Now, I think one of the big reasons for contention between the left and right over this is that those on the left consistently believe that the reason unionization has consistently declined in the private sector since the 40s is that some nefarious force is keeping people from joining unions, since they naturally assume that everyone is like them and wants to join unions.

    Those on the left tend to assume that it’s the result of people freely choosing not to join unions, since they assume that most people are like them and share their desire not to be forced into unions.

    • Do you support the rights of all workers to form unions?

    • Kurt

      However, I think a lot of conservatives, myself included, would question whether the labor unions currently extant in the [North America] are necessarily groups that they want to join. Many of us would question to what degree these unions actually fit with Leo XIII’s vision

      Not just a lot of conservatives but also an important churchman such as Bishop Taschereau of Quebec City have raised this question. Taking the contrary position and affirming the American model of unionism was James Cardinal Gibbons. The Cardinal took his case to Rome which, in 1887, supported the Cardinal.

      I have heard the saying that news travels slow, but really….

    • DarwinCatholic

      gisher,

      I support the right of all workers to form unions — but I don’t myself want to join one and I don’t want to be forced to. Now that I no longer live in a right-to-work state, that means I would certainly vote against unionization in the unlikely event that it came up for my function in my workplace.

      Kurt,

      And indeed, the Church has ruled repeatedly that secular, workers-only unions are acceptable, even if perhaps not ideal. That does not, however, by any means mean that all Catholics here and now must think that the specific unions that exist in the US at this time are actually working towards the common good or achieving the ends which Leo XIII envisioned for workers associations. There are a number of reasons (ranging from the adversarial approach to work some unions have to the resolutions some unions have passed supporting abortion, same sex marriage, and contraception) why Catholics might well think that a given union would not make a positive contribution to his workplace or to the body politic in general — and desire some other, more Catholic, association, if any.

      • You make in the area of 100K a year and not only do not need the power of a union to obtain a living wage, but are also in a position where you are more likely to become pregnant that you are to be forced into a union.

        Yet I do not hear you complaining in public about your fears of becoming pregnant.

        Your concerns are hugely misplaced and beyond silly but I am sure there are dozens upon dozens of millions of Americans working in the service sector for close to minimum wage (who can barely make ends meet) who would gladly swap salaries with you.

        Stop watching Fox news man and you won’t wake up anymore in the middle of the night worrying about Terrorist babies coming after your kid’s pacifiers.

        • SB

          Neither do the teachers in Wisconsin, by that standard. Milwaukee teachers get a compensation package that, with benefits, is worth $100,005 per year on average.

          • I didn’t ask or mention what Darwin has in added benefits. I am talking salary and on the top end I have heard it is around 50,000 for the teachers and frankly I would like to see everyone in this country make 50K a year rather than millions making just 10k and only 400 guys making 100s of millions.

            The issue here is inequity and we are going into lord and serf mode in this country. What I see is people attacking people making 50k a year rather than people demanding that those making 100s of millions or billions do more to help out their brothers, to contribute more to society.

            I see people attacking people WHO ARE TEACHING OUR CHILDREN—WHO ARE OUR FUTURE–rather than seeing people asking how we can get more people earning closer to 50k.

            What do you value man? Avarice? Do you know what avarice is or what our Church’s position on avarice is?

            Do you know what our position is on inequity?

            If you wish to ignore doctrine then look back in history at what happened when equity got this far out of balance. Eventually the results were not good even for those at the very top who you seem to be supporting here. They lost their heads usually.

      • gisher,

        It’s true that my field current (marketing analysis) is not inflicted with unions, and that within the last couple years I’ve come to make more than most union workers. However, I don’t consider it out of place for me to have an opinion on the topic because:

        1) Given that my father was forced to join a union he detested when his workplace unionized, I partly chose to take a different career path from him and many of my role models in order to avoid unions

        2) Less than ten years ago I was working hourly in jobs where we looked up resentfully at the wages of union workers because they were much higher than ours.

        3) Like most people, I tend to judge by what I would want were I in someone else’s position, not assume that I am some sort of lofty, other creature who lives by other rules and has different desires. As such, when I look at unionization issues, I consider how I felt about unions when I was an hourly worker earning low wages, and how I felt about the union workers I and friends and family have interacted with in a work setting.

        Besides, if as Mornings Minion says unions should be seen as “indispensable elements of social life” by all Catholics, then clearly all of us who are not managers (and, indeed, according to Leo XIII even those who are) should be thinking about unions, and whether the ones here in the US are ones we want to join, yes?

        Oh, and you’re a bit off on the Fox News crack, BTW. I don’t watch TV news (or indeed TV) at all. Note that down and you can use it against me some time. 🙂 Or perhaps just not down generally that assuming you know lots about people in order to mock them mostly just makes you look silly.

        • First as for the Fox News crack, I read all of your comments and you tend to parrot the bullet points fed out by most right wing mouthpieces. Fox News could be considered a representation for any print, net, video, audio only output of right wing media. I frankly don’t care where you get it from and it really does not matter because all of them tend to march in lock step with a few tiny exceptions.

          For you I will amend my comment to say “right wing bullet points” instead of Fox news.

          As for your envy of union workers when you were making less money than them, your wish at the time should have been “how can I lift me and my brothers up to their level” not how can I bring them down to ours. That is a more Christ-like position.

          You know darn well that card check was killed to prevent the millions of service sector workers, most of whom do not make a living wage, from organizing.

          You also know the middle class has shrank, and the ranks of the poor are growing. Unions would help millions of workers rise to the level of a living wage, but by killing card check that will not happen.

          This is about the intent of our Church Darwin and our Church does not approve of a couple hundred Americans controlling almost half of the wealth.

          Inequity is not what our Church is about and that is why SHE as you are so fond of saying stands by workers. You also know darn well what Listecki said about Walker’s antics.

          As with everything else you try and bend doctrine to support your political ideology. That is not how it works. You must bend your ideology back to the Church Darwin.

          Our ideal is to rise everyone up to the same level, not to knock people down to poverty. You are doing well, you have been blessed. Now you should wish the same for those less fortunate. That is the way we Catholics roll.

          • SB

            What Listecki said would be more impressive if Milwaukee Catholic schools themselves even recognized teachers’ unions, let alone engaged in collective bargaining over outrageously expensive health insurance and pensions.

          • Oh I agree and those schools should get in line. Amen brother.

        • Kurt

          if as Mornings Minion says unions should be seen as “indispensable elements of social life” by all Catholics,

          First, MM needs to see his confessor about the sin of plagarization. In this case, having plagerized John Paul the Great, it would seem an even more serious failing.

      • Kurt

        Kurt,

        And indeed, the Church has ruled repeatedly that secular, workers-only unions are acceptable, even if perhaps not ideal.

        Indeed. Not that anything is ideal in this fallen world. To her great credit, during the historical moment when it was most needed, the Church herself saw that worker unions were founded. As times advanced, she warned those same “Christian” unions that their duty is to speak for workers under a democratic organization and not to be an arm of the Church. In fact, the Holy See had to “nudge” some of these unions away from Episcopal oversight and influence. For critics of the Church who say she is all about institutional influence, this speaks against that false accusation.

        That does not, however, by any means mean that all Catholics here and now must think that the specific unions that exist in the US at this time are actually working towards the common good or achieving the ends which Leo XIII envisioned for workers associations.

        Of course not. Nor are all enterprises. Neither is a justification for the destructions of unions or the nationalization of industry. Fundamental to worker organization is that they be worker organizations. Catholic trade unionists have a duty to participate in their unions, attend meetings, and advocate the common good internally. Civil laws should support the formation of free trade unions.

        There are a number of reasons (ranging from the adversarial approach to work some unions…

        I have to say, all of the adversarial nature I know in employer-employee relations is from the management side. In this country, we don’t have much of Marxist unions who want to destroy management. But it is common and ordinary to find business and business associations that oppose the mere existence of free trade unions.

  • Blackadder

    I would like to see unions become much more widespread, but not in the current institutional framework. For example, CST repeatedly praises the idea of employers and workers forming unions together (in so-called company unions). Such organizations allow many of the benefits of today’s unions, but without their overly adversarial nature. Yet in the U.S. this type of unionism is illegal.

    Can I assume, MM, that as a faithful Catholic you agree that these restrictions on the right to organize and associate ought to be repealed?

    • Actually, I’m all in favor of a corporatist model where labor and business associations sit at the same table to negiotiate wages, benefits, work conditions, profit-sharing arrangements etc.

    • So were you in favor of or against card check?

    • Kurt

      Under the guidance of the German bishops and Christian Democracy, the most profound application of this teaching has been in Germany. At the plant level, there are “works councils” elected by workers, be they union members or not. Candidates sometimes have a connection to social factions (Christian, Socialist, Liberal). In Luxembourg this is more formalized. Christian, Socialist and Liberal organizations nominate and run candidates like in a civil election.

      The Works Councils handle local matters, much like is done in the USA by shop stewards and the grievance process.

      National Committees consisting of Union leaders and Industry leaders handle the national collective bargaining agreement including most questions of wages and benefits.

      The Works Council also elect employee representatives to the company board of directors under “co-determination” where workers, managers and shareholders all sit on the company board.

      I can tell you American labor would warmly welcome this system.

  • Thales

    Morning’s Minion,

    I’m generally in favor of private sector unions. An honest question: can you explain more about this collapse in private sector unions? I’m not knowledgeable about this at all – the collapse went from what rate to 7%? And over what period of time? And in your belief, how did this happen, what is the cause?

    • I don’t the numbers on front of me, but I think unionization rates peaked around 35 percent in the 1950s. The decline since then has not been acidental, but a deliberate political strategy – first with the rise of the libertarian “right to work” sunbelt that began in the 1950s, and then with all-out-assault on collective bargaining that really has its roots in the Reagan era. A lot has been written about this. See Paul Krugman’s “Conscience of a Liberal” (great book, terrible title!), or teh more recent book by Hacker and Pierson called “Winner-Take-All Politics”.

      • Thales

        Thanks for the response.

        • What am I chopped liver? Am I Persona non grata? No thanks for me? Maybe I should use deodorant.

          • Cindy

            I appreciate you Gisher! 🙂

          • Why thank you, but as you can see on occasion, some folks do not like answering some of my questions. This lack of respect troubles me greatly. It keeps me up at nights:)

          • Thales

            gisher,
            I didn’t ask you a question.

        • No actually you didn’t but you were seeking information and MM was a little skimpy on the data and said so, and I on the other hand am quite familiar with what you were asking about and gave you a more detailed response.

          Good manners I guess are just another thing along with a living wage that is on the decline in America. *Sigh*

          • Thales

            gisher,

            I asked Minion a question, he kindly responded, and then I thanked him, all before your comment was posted. You need not look for offense when there isn’t any.

          • Thales

            I should add that it is only now that I noticed your comment responding to my question.

          • I was just kidding you all along but you are welcome Thales. Anytime:)

    • The declines really started in the 1970s. Right-to-work statutes passed in many states started the decline. I actually worked for a business association that lobbied very hard on the behalf of large corporations to get some of these Right-to-work statutes passed.

      The in the 1980s many corporations begin “shifting” union jobs of of the country to exploit cheaper labor. A tremendous number of rank and file jobs have since been sent across the border.

      Businesses also put far more effort into fighting unions before they get started now, and if you will look into how they just bought and paid for the killing of the “Card Check” bill you will see a very aggressive extension of that effort.

      Unions have also became the “whipping boy” for the GOP who blames unions for creating an environment where a worker could make $30 dollars an hour just to hang a tire. While it is true some workers did get excessive salaries and benefits the GOP narrative always leaves out WHO was running the company that AGREED TO and SIGNED the contracts for those jobs where excessive salaries for really low skilled labor occurred. in other words, corporate boards.

      It also ignores that when jobs started being shipped overseas many laborers taking those jobs in other countries frequently made less than a dollar a day. More a cases of exploitation and greed rather than fat union salaries.

      The ongoing misinformation campaign by the GOP mouthpieces has also helped to turn public opinion against the unions, and it was so successful a PR campaign you can even see traces of it coming out of the mouths of Catholics who were pulled over to the GOP by the bait of wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage. Catholics who have a church that adamantly supports worker’s rights.

      If you run with a crowd long enough you can pick up many of both their good and bad habits. I just have trouble seeing evidence of the good habits Thales:)

      I hope all of that gives you a start.

      • Cindy

        Such a perfect point to be made about who was running the company that agreed to and signed the contracts for those jobs. Yes, such a point seems to go by the way side these days.

        • Propaganda always leaves out crucial facts that destroy it’s own premise, and the fact is the far right and the uber-wealthy want to act like the unions were in charge of the executive boards of each company they dealt with—just so they can blame the unions for everything that went wrong–when in fact it was the executive boards that enabled everything.

          Very transparent to anyone who pays close attention. They are in fact gambling that most of America is asleep.

  • If one might ask another brief question: How many Vox Nova contributors are currently members of unions? If you are not a member of a union, and you consider increased union membership to be a highly valuable thing, what are you currently doing to unionize your workplace and what specific benefits do you expect that coming unionization to bring to your working conditions?

    • Kurt

      Already a member and happy to connect any unorganized workers in non-exempt jobs to an organizer.

    • Unionization is very uncommon in my geographic and economic sector (Silicon Valley, High-Tech Engineering). Employee ownership is a more typical and much weaker form of employee collectivization. This approach, which keeps management in control, was pioneered most visibly by Bill Hewlett and David Packard.

      The very common practice of granting employee stock options with a vesting period of several years or contributing a percentage of company profit to employee 401k plans has positive effects of fostering employee cooperation and collective identity, but negative effects of reinforcing workaholic behavior, “excusing” what might otherwise be unacceptable pay or working conditions and short-circuiting employees’ natural impulse for collective confrontation with management.

      In a work environment where companies form and dissolve every year, a typical “job” lasts less than five years, and individuals as well as employers continually re-invent themselves, formal unionization is not likely to bring improved pay or work conditions. The construction and cultivation of collective identity and action has to happen outside any given company affiliation and outside any definition of work-related roles. This is much harder than in the classic industrial workplace, where large numbers of employees show up for work together each day and see their commonality. Though the Church is a natural venue for such association, I’ve never seen any inclination in that direction.

      It is a huge individual challenge to dedicate time and effort toward maintaining personal as well as professional ties with other workers, especially when work and implicit (or even explicit) expectations are evolving towards 24/7 connectivity and productivity. Isn’t it interesting how the work culture makes salary and details of other compensation an intensely “personal” matter, closed to discussion with all but immediate family? In most circles, salary is much in darkness as personal sexual behavior, with one’s tax accountant taking a role analogous to one’s personal physician.

      As for Darwin’s question, what I’m doing to bring unionization to my own workplace,… Pretty much nothing. I contribute in an Adam Smith sort of way when I change jobs to get better pay and working conditions, but that individual action seems diametrically contrary to the spirit of Rerum Novarum.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      I was a union member in grad school. I now teach at a private university and am therefore precluded from union membership by a supreme court decision (the Yeshiva decision) declaring that I do not have a right to unionize. If I did, I would.

      • Kurt

        David —

        To their great credit, despite the adverse decision in Yeshiva, unions organized prior the decision at Catholic colleges have been allowed to continue. Secular private schools stopped recogning their unions after the decision.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Kurt, I never knew that. My school, alas, is not so progressive.

  • Kimberley

    MM, Kurt, Gisher,

    Mind answering a couple more serious questions? I pretty much have little personal experience with unions other than by reading, relatives and friends so it is ineresting to learn about unions in the oontext of Catholic social thought. And the mainsream media even with its liberal bias seems anti-union becuase all you seem to read about with GM/Chrysler/Ford is how unions caused the issue with high pay or with teachers unions how they are are thwarting attempts at reform.

    1) Why is card check so important and why don’t unions like elections? I assume the vote for an election is a private ballot. How can a company influence a private ballot that much? I assume the actual votes are for or agaisnt an election are private. To me anyway, card checks eems like signing a petition to get a referndum on a ballot. You might sign it in front of Ralphs because the guy looks a little homeless or has a cute kid with them and asks nice but without really understanding it. The election gives one time to really study all sides and vote on it in private.

    2) From your answers above it appears the decline was right to work laws. Why do persons in unionized shops opt out of unions? Does Catholic social thinking teach they should be free associations? Should then Catholics be wary of closed shops?

    3) I am taking classes at a local universty to take some classes on education, so I have been looking at and reading about the NEA. They appear to be pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, anti-homeschooling and give members dues money towards in support of those causes (not just candidates). I have my doubts whether a Catholic can truly be part of that union given their positions and that dues money appears to be given directly in support of these activitites. Is the NEA just an aberration? What are your thoughts on the NEA and its stances on abortion, gay marriage and home schooling.

    Thanks!

    • How many people say “Catholics can’t be in this or that union” tell Catholics:

      1) they can’t be citizens of the US because of the US support of abortion?
      2) they can’t be soldiers defending the US as long as the US protects abortion?

      etc.

      Usually, very few. They ask people not to be in associations they do not like, but if it is an association of their own, they find excuses to keep to them.

      The inconsistency also tends to place all the burden on the poor. Funny that.

      • SB

        Easy answer, Henry: People can very easily choose to join or not join hundreds of thousands of associations — if you choose to belong to an association whose purpose is to promote a particular political cause, then you are responsible for that choice. But people cannot easily choose to move to another country; in fact, your country can do many things that you didn’t vote for and didn’t choose in any way whatsoever.

        • SB

          That doesn’t answer about being a soldier, when it is a volunteer army. And this is what we have for the military in the US. Since soldiers are defending the way of life found in the US, this means they are defending its stand on abortion; shouldn’t pro-life organizations be consistently critical of those who join the military, because they are joining an organization which is defending the right to abortion?

          Seriously, you didn’t answer anything. But you never do. You are always inconsistent and play the sophist. This is what people note with the so-called pro-life groups in the US. They will make all kinds of arguments, situation to situation, each time changing the claims and rules of engagement; the rules are always different for those who support big business, capitalism, and the war-state — they can even support ESCR with federal funding (GW Bush) and be proclaimed pro-life heroes! Bush’s association with abortion was far more direct — and he was proclaimed a pro-life hero! Sorry, I don’t buy it. The mask is off. The farce is over.

          • SB

            If you can’t tell the difference between joining a partisan organization and simply living in America, then there’s not much anyone can say to you.

          • SB

            You still avoid the question of the military.

            But more importantly, we can bring this back to the question of American citizenship. Are you telling us no one is free from renouncing their citizenship? This would logically follow as what one should do if one believes one should never be a part of a group which supports abortion.

          • Henry, we live in America and those who can afford to can leave, and those who cannot can in fact renounce their citizenship.

            Fact is, unless you do one of those two things right now you are in an association that supports abortion and that association is called the United States.

            Well if SB wants to get really silly, he is associated with the planet earth and we have people all over the planer getting abortions so SB needs to build a rocket ship and blast off.

            SB also needs to realize before he leaves this planet that he shares it with people who do not have his worldview and who do not want his worldview imposed upon them.

            He also needs to realize that his own Church and his own God wants these people to have free will to choose whether or not to follow God.

            Period. It’s that simple. Case closed.

          • Gisher

            Well, in theory, they can leave and become illegal immigrants — but maybe that is worse of a sin than being in an association which supports abortion? Moreover, I would point out that the people I am talking to, the ones who try to say you can’t be in a union which supports abortion, tend to be people rich enough to leave the US. Some are even lawyers, who have decided to join a profession which supports the US more than by mere association!

            Of course, you get my point. We can work with and associate with others who do not agree with us. The people trying to say otherwise clearly don’t follow their own rules, if one looks at their own associations. It’s as one expects, of course.

          • I’d also like to ask you Henry, since every darn topic that we Catholics discuss has to wind up being linked somehow into abortion, I was wondering when you will write a post on earthworm ranching so I can sit back and watch that thread get linked into abortion also?

    • Kimberly, Card Check, which the GOP just shut down this last congress IS an election. A majority of workers have to sign authorization forms (cards) on order for a union to be formed.

      The original method to form unions had the National Labor Relations Board still conducting a secret ballot with the employees and a majority had to vote yes to form a union. But that was a second step that occurred only after 30% signed a petition requesting unionization and submitting the request to the NLRB.

      The space in between the collection of signatures as well as the openness of that process has allowed employers to constantly intimidate and sometimes even fire workers, while restricting access to employees by unions. Card check greatly cuts down on the ability of an employer to pull such stunts.

      Again, card check IS an election. It is kept secret by the NLRB until they get 51% of the votes required to form a union. When you vote yourself in our elections, your vote is kept secret. A majority of employees have to sign the cards so it IS an election.

      Just like with voting for your congressman it is your duty to learn about what you are voting on. Nobody offers classes for you to learn how to vote in an election for your congressman. What you get for that is a bunch of Television ads that are largely filled with lies and empty promises. I do not consider that an education do you? No you have to do the work yourself.

      With card check any employees who are happy with their jobs are not forced to sign anything. in fact nobody is forced to sign a card, it is a choice. On the other hand, if a simple majority sign a card for unionization then obviously a majority feels there is room for improvement.

      And if a majority sign those cards, those not in the majority will still have a vote when the union is formed, and still have a say. If unions are that bad to the employees that join through card check then a majority can vote their way back out of the union. That is the way it works. It is not like once card check sets up a union, everyone is trapped forever.Obviously to stay formed as a union, you have to please a majority of he members. That is a good thing.

      The University of Notre Dame has offered a platform to speakers that are pro-choice. To my knowledge the NEA has done the exact same thing, offered a platform to pro-choice speakers. I can find no evidence of the NEA funding abortions. Do you think Notre Dame should be closed down?

      Every dollar spent by pro-life groups to fund George Bush’s election contributed toward America becoming involved in a unjust war, a war where innocent lives were taken, and a war that the current and the former Popes condemned as being unjust. Then there are all the GOP candidates that support the death penalty.

      Bottom line if you really want to get that ridiculous and base everything you do in elections on who is 100% pro-life and I mean pro all life, frankly you do not have anyone you can vote for. So either you vote and get dirty hands, or you don’t vote and you lose your voice. We live in America alongside people who do not share our views. They vote too and we have to live with the results.

      I might add pro-life has largely backed the GOP for well over 30 years and we have more abortions now, and we have more gay marriage. What good did 30 years of swinging with the GOP get us, but unjust wars we did not ask for, and excessive greed and avarice which our church is also against? Obviously that vote hasn’t been working out, but I hear the definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different outcome. 30 plus years of repeating it Kimberly.

      The good part about America is you can practice your faith as you see fit. You are just not allowed to force your faith upon those who do not believe as you do. They in turn, are not allowed to say force you to live your life as a Jew, or an atheist.

      I have taken much space Kimberly so I will wait and see if anyone else weighs in, and you do not get all the answers you want, just ask me again. Right now this combox is a mile long and I think it fair of me to stop.

    • Kurt

      Why is card check so important…

      Gisher answer that fairly well. Current law allows workers to form a union either by petition or election. The proposed legislation leave this in place, but leaves it to the workers to decide which method they prefer. Under current law (actually administrative ruling) allows the company to dictate to the employees the method they must use as well as the place and timing of the election.

      Why do persons in unionized shops opt out of unions? Does Catholic social thinking teach they should be free associations? Should then Catholics be wary of closed shops?

      Actually, not that many do. But under law, unions are required to serve non-members equally with members no matter the expense to the union and can suffer legal consequences if they don’t. So there cheapos that don’t pay dues but get full service from unions (or, as I am personally familiar with, people who only join the union when there is a vote they care about and then quit once the vote is over).

      The Church has never spoken against the Closed Shop nor the Union Shop (these are different things and the closed shop has been illegal in the USA since the Taft Hartly Act).

      3) I am taking classes at a local universty to take some classes on education, so I have been looking at and reading about the NEA…

      Unlike corporations, many of which finance abortions and promote other matters objectionable to Catholics (not that the RTL movement puts much effort into ever speaking against Big Business), union members have the right and ability to go to the union meeting, put their hand in in the air, make a motion, speak to it and ask support from their co-workers. Shareholders have no such rights even though their money is being used for things that might be highly objectionable.

      The Church’s support for unions and intermediary organizations presumes people participate in these organizations.

  • How many Vox Nova contributors are currently members of unions?

    I do not have that option, unfortunately. My wife, however, is a public sector union member. My father was a union member. Both of my parents in law have been union members for nearly 35 years, which means they can now retire securely.