The New Wine Press vol 26 no 1 September 2017 - Page 9
Peace & Justice
treated with the dignity that is their due. Through their
efforts to ensure just wages, increase workplace safety,
eliminate child labor, prevent harassment, and provide
security despite changing economies, unions promote
the common good.
The second theme is the call to family, commu-
nity, and participation. At their best, unions are the
embodiment of this principle. By organizing, workers
combine their efforts to ensure the benefit of all. Labor
organizations have helped promote policies that sup-
port families, including family leave and limitations on
the work week. In many places, labor organizations are
significant sources of support for families in particu-
lar need, such as those facing the illness of a child or
substantial job dislocation.
The third theme is rights and responsibilities.
This theme rem inds us that rights are always ac-
companied by responsibilities. The ultimate good
of labor organizations is not to ensure the great-
est economic benefit for their members or greatest
political influence for their leaders. Their goal is to
help workers take their appropriate role in the build-
ing up of a more just social order. A reliable safety
net for workers facing hardship, policies that provide
for full employment, a business culture that respects
the needs of families, safe workplaces, and employ-
ees that value workers’ contributions are important
elements of a just social order, as are policies that
ensure a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage and ap-
propriate returns on investment.
The fourth theme is the option for the poor and
vulnerable. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus
showed a special affinity for those who were margin-
alized in society—the poor, the migrant, the outcast,
the sinner. Throughout its history, organized labor has
stood up for the poor and vulnerable—protecting new
immigrants, fighting the exploitation of child laborers
and demonstrating for civil rights.
These efforts must continue in the present econ-
omy. Unions must reach out to new audiences of the
poor and vulnerable, including immigrants, seasonal
and migrant workers, and those who lack the skills
to participate in the current working environment.
Unions must look beyond the self-interest of their
current members and work for the good of those
who have no voice or power. Workers must use their
right to organize to work for the greatest good of the
greatest number. They must judge their success by how
the most vulnerable members of society are faring.
The fifth theme is the dignity of work and the rights
of workers. The relationship of this theme to the role
of organized labor is clearest. The principal reason for
the right of workers to organize is to ensure that the
rights of workers are protected. Unions must also take
steps to help people grow in their understanding of
the dignity of human work. Work is not simply a way
to provide for our material needs. It is the way we par-
ticipate in God’s work of creation. Ultimately, we are
judged not by out stock price or profit margin, but by
our love of our sisters and brothers. This love is made
concrete by our efforts to ensure that all persons are
treated with justice and have the opportunity to work
in conditions that enhance their dignity rather than
detract from it.
The sixth theme is solidarity. We belong to one
human family—a family that knows no boundaries
of race, class, or country. The right to organize into
unions does not include the right to ignore the needs
of those who are not members. Our ultimate focus
must be the common good, not short-term self-inter-
est. We are called to look beyond our boundaries and
comfort levels to speak for the voiceless, to promote
human rights and dignity, and to see the good of all
our sisters and brothers.
We live in an economy that is increasingly global-
ized and interdependent. This structure presents new
moral and economic dangers. It is easy to demonize
foreign workers who benefit from jobs that are out
sourced or immigrants who take local jobs. Solidarity
means that our organizations must reach across
boundaries to forge collaborations and undertake ef-
forts that enhance the life and dignity of all.
The seventh theme is care for God’s creation. God has
given us the resources of the earth to use for our benefit.
However, these resources are not limitless. Increasingly,
scientific evidence and our experience demonstrate the
fragility of our natural world. Our unions must work
to promote policies that will protect our environment,
use resources wisely, and pass this wondrous heritage to
generations of workers yet to come.
The right to work is an essential element of the
Church’s social teaching. But we must use this right
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