Another Labor Day; another opportunity to offer some clarity about what the rights of working people and the dignity of work entail, but which our laws don't provide for:
* Catholic teaching emphasizes the dignity of work, as a participation in God's creative and saving plan. Our work ennobles us; in our work, we realize the potential of our own gifts and talents, and our own selves; our work is a means to improve the lives of others and to make our world a better place. Work is a worthy end in itself, but not the ultimate end -- the ultimate end is union with God. So we should seek to have our work lead us and others to that end.
* Human beings, made in the image of God, and destined for salvation in Christ, have a fundamental dignity in themselves. This includes freedom in conscience, in pursuit of goodness, and in pursuit of their own vocation.
* One of the rights of working people is to act in legitimate ways to enhance their working conditions, their compensation, and their prospects. This means they can act on their own, or collectively. They have the right to form unions; but Church teaching insists that when workers affiliate with unions, they do so consistent with Church teaching.
* Catholics should not have anything to do with unions, or any other organization, that are hostile to Catholic teaching or the practice of religion, that attack private property or aim to pit people against each other, that are contrary to public order or fail to respect basic human rights.
* The right to be a part of unions is a right of individual workers -- a collectivist mode of thinking is alien to the Catholic tradition. Each of us stands before God, on judgment day, as individuals, answering for our choices.
* Solidarity is a moral obligation everyone has to see, and care for, the needs of his fellow man and the common good. But it is not a mandate to assimilate people into a Borg-like collective. It is one moral principle, in relation to others, not the overriding one.
* The Church never endorses a particular economic or political system, but she does comment on the errors or weaknesses of all political and economic systems -- and some are more erroneous than others. In his encyclical, Centesimus Annus, our late pope John Paul II, identified weaknesses in free enterprise and in statist/socialist systems, but was clear in affirming the greater (but not unalloyed) merits of free enterprise, representative government, and limited government (which accords with the principle of subsidiarity). The Church has generally taken a dim view of socialistic systems, and has explicitly condemned various features of it, such as athiesm, denial of private property and other rights, and class-based ideology.
* For all these reasons, I see nothing in Catholic teaching that gives an endorsement to current federal laws that empower union officials to coerce workers into union affiliation and representation, and to pay for that coercion to boot. Union officials and their apologists cry crocodile tears over the "burden" of representing workers who don't pay dues; but the fact is, unions don't have to accept that burden if they don't want it. But they do want it.
* Some believe that workers can't help themselves, so they have to be "helped" -- even against their will! -- by being herded into labor collectives. This would be a charitable explanation of why union bosses demand coercive power over individual workers.
* But it's also clear that these coercive powers are about the ambition of union officials and building their own kingdoms; and they are breeding grounds for all manner of corruption and abuse.
* The logic of the "coercion is for their own good" mentality is, ultimately, hostile to self-government. If workers need to be coerced, why stop there? Why shouldn't people be coerced into religion, for their own good? Why shouldn't they be subject to a fascist political system, "for their own good?" Where does it end.
These are some of the reasons I am for Right to Work.