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By Keith A Fournier

12/13/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

There appears to be an effort to turn this into a Union vs. anti-Union struggle in order to promote a political agenda more than protect workers.

Most Press reports present the matter as a struggle between those who support collective bargaining rights and those who do not. That is simply not true. The legislation the Big Union leaders oppose gives both government and private sector workers the right to make up their own mind about joining a union and having their union dues deducted from their paychecks. It does not outlaw collective bargaining.

Michigan Union protesters

Michigan Union protesters


By Keith A Fournier

Catholic Online (

12/13/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: labir unions, trade unions, right to work, Michigan, solidarity, collectivism, human dignity, Governor Rick Snyder,

LANSING, MI (Catholic Online) - The reports out of the Capitol of Michigan, the home of the United States Automobile Industry, were depressing and distressing.  The hostility between the leaders of the Big Labor Unions and workers and other citizens who support Michigan's Right to Work legislation reached a fever pitch on Tuesday, December 11, 2012.

Some Labor Union members tore down a tent where supporters of the legislation congregated to hear speeches, exercise their free speech rights and have refreshments. The tent was sponsored by an organization called Americans for Prosperity which supported the legislation the Union leaders and many members oppose. Some reports referred to the actions of some the union members as thuggery. The You Tube videos which have now gone viral lend credibility to the claim.

Most Press reports present the matter as a struggle between those who support collective bargaining rights and those who do not. That is simply not true. The legislation the Big Union leaders oppose gives both government and private sector workers the right to make up their own mind about joining a union and having their union dues deducted from their paychecks. It does not outlaw collective bargaining.

There appears to be an effort to turn this into a Union vs. anti-Union struggle in order to promote a political agenda more than protect workers.

The leadership of some Labor Unions has become increasingly politicized. They advocate agendas often associated with the "left wing" in today's political parlance. There is a growing concern among some workers - including faithful Catholics - that the dues collected from them, often against their will, is used to support candidates, causes and positions which directly contradict their deeply held religious and moral positions. 

The legislation passed the Michigan legislature by a majority vote. It was signed into Law by Governor Rick Snyder on Tuesday evening. However, the struggle to oppose it now appears headed to the Courts. It also seems slated to be used by some left leaning political activists more interested in fueling a class warfare narrative than promoting and protecting the dignity of workers.

This kind of legislation is referred to as Right to Work legislation. It is often disparaged as anti-union, anti-collective bargaining and pro-republican. Some of those who support it are anti-Union - and that is unfortunate. Unions are mediating associations whereby workers govern themselves and legitimately protect their interests. They have played - and can continue to play - an important role in our social and economic order.

However, some leadership in some of the larger Unions resembles the bloated bureaucratic boss corporate leadership structure Unions were originally organized to oppose and contend with. Their claim to respect and protect the rights of their worker-members is also, at times, questionable. So too is their use of the funds extracted from the paychecks of their members without their consent.

It seems the fact that Michigan is a predominantly Democratic State has raised the ire of many in the leadership of the Union movement opposing this legislation. Sadly, the matter only fuels the growing divisions in the Nation. It is being used to spread a class warfare narrative reminiscent of past eras.

Catholic social doctrine supports labor unions as a form of participation which recognizes that the dignity of human work derives from the dignity of the worker. They are seen as an example of mediating institutions which can serve the common good. That support is succinctly summarized in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church in paragraphs #305 - 309 from which I quote below.

However, these sections also issue warnings too rarely considered. Here is one: "Unions do not have the character of "political parties" struggling for power, and they should not be forced to submit to the decisions of political parties nor be too closely linked to them. In such a situation they easily lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the framework of the common good of the whole of society; instead they become an instrument used for other purposes."

Here is another, "Properly speaking, unions are promoters of the struggle for social justice, for the rights of workers in their particular professions: This struggle should be seen as a normal endeavor 'for' the just good ... not a struggle 'against' others. Being first of all instruments of solidarity and justice, unions may not misuse the tools of contention; because of what they are called to do, they must overcome the temptation of believing that all workers should be union-members, they must be capable of self-regulation and be able to evaluate the consequences that their decisions will have on the common good."

Ironically, some on the political right who have an animus against unions welcomed the role they played in bringing down the tyranny of collectivism under the Communist tyrants who once ruled Poland. Together with all justice and freedom loving people they hailed the role of the Polish Trade Union named Solidarity and the leadership of that great Union Leader named Lech Walesa. He  responded to the hour, informed by his Catholic faith, and courageously stood for the dignity of the Polish worker.

However, some Union leaders in the United States of America are a far cry from Poland's Solidarity Union. They also seem to be almost a polar opposite of Lech Walesa. They are too often controlled by the ideology of some on political left who seem more interested in fostering collectivism than protecting freedom and expanding participation. They also have little respect for the rights of the worker to make their own choice of association. 

We live in an age that has lost sight of the true dignity of work - because we have lost sight of the dignity of the human worker. This loss is one more bad fruit of the rupture which was wrought by sin. In the industrial age, men and women were often reduced to mere instruments in a society that emphasized productivity over the dignity of the human person, the worker. Trade unions helped to protect that dignity and promote the basic human rights of the worker.

The technological age promised something different, but has failed to deliver on the promise. Too often, men and women are still viewed as instruments and objects rather than persons and gifts. Even Science, a great gift meant to be placed at the service of the human person, human flourishing, the family and the common good, has often promoted a view of the human person as an object to be experimented on and disposed of at will. This fundamental error is the root of the contemporary culture of death and use. 

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church issues a challenge which must be taken up in this hour, "Given the changes that have taken place in the world of work, solidarity can be recovered, and perhaps with a firmer foundation in respect to the past, if the effort is made to rediscover the subjective value of work".

Catholics need to examine the events unfolding in Michigan in light of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. We should not succumb to those who want to place us in any of the politically charged camps. To again quote the Compendium, "there is a need for ever new movements of solidarity of the workers - and with the workers".

In an age when collectivism is growing - from the federal government on downward - we need to form and encourage new mediating associations from the ground up. They are an alternative form of governance and we will need them for protection if the trends continue. That includes forming true trade unions which fit the day in which we live and are not carryovers from a bygone era led by Big Labor Bosses with a political agenda.


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