A few distant friends on Facebook were referencing the Catholic teachings regarding “social justice” with regards to unions. It started with a pointer to this piece by the Archbishop of Milwaukee:
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki, archbishop of Milwaukee and president of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, has issued the following statement regarding the rights of workers and the value of unions.
February 16, 2011
The Church is well aware that difficult economic times call for hard choices and financial responsibility to further the common good. Our own dioceses and parishes have not been immune to the effects of the current economic difficulties. But hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers. As Pope Benedict wrote in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in veritate:
Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum , for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level. [#25]
It does not follow from this that every claim made by workers or their representatives is valid. Every union, like every other economic actor, is called to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required, and to adjust to new economic realities.
However, it is equally a mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth. As Pope John Paul II wrote in 1981, “[a] union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.” (Laborem exercens #20, emphasis in original)
It is especially in times of crisis that “new forms of cooperation” and open communication become essential. We request that lawmakers carefully consider the implications of this proposal and evaluate it in terms of its impact on the common good. We also appeal to everyone –lawmakers, citizens, workers, and labor unions – to move beyond divisive words and actions and work together, so that Wisconsin can recover in a humane way from the current fiscal crisis.
The emphasis I added myself. Keep in mind the following statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: 6.9% of private sector workers are union and 36.2% of government (largely state and local) workers are union. The total unionized population is down by 50% since 1983. Unions of the past were a valuable piece of the economic evolution of this country and served a purpose – but when a super-minority is potentially damaging the economy aided by rogue politicians, I wouldn’t say that they (any of them) are “working for the common good.” While in no means am I speaking for the Pope or trying to discern what he meant by “promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past” but it is my opinion that the phrase is targeting other countries more so than the U.S. And referencing the statement of the Blessed Pope John Paul II from 30 years ago is hard when we clearly have “new economic realities” that weren’t the case in 1981.
GorT is an eight-foot-tall robot from the 51ˢᵗ Century who routinely time-travels to steal expensive technology from the future and return it to the past for retroinvention. The profits from this pay all the Gormogons’ bills, including subsidizing this website. Some of the products he has introduced from the future include oven mitts, the Guinness widget, Oxy-Clean, and Dr. Pepper. Due to his immense cybernetic brain, GorT is able to produce a post in 0.023 seconds and research it in even less time. Only ’Puter spends less time on research. GorT speaks entirely in zeros and ones, but occasionally throws in a ڭ to annoy the Volgi. He is a massive proponent of science, technology, and energy development, and enjoys nothing more than taking the Czar’s more interesting scientific theories, going into the past, publishing them as his own, and then returning to take credit for them. He is the only Gormogon who is capable of doing math. Possessed of incredible strength, he understands the awesome responsibility that follows and only uses it to hurt people.