Monday, September 3, 2012

Standing Up for Workers?

This Sunday's church bulletin at a local Catholic church has a stirring statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the rights of workers as we celebrate Labor Day.

The bishops' statement, borrowing a quote from Pope John Paul II, calls for wages that allow a worker to support a family, legislation to "block shameful forms of exploitation, especially to the disadvantage of the most vulnerable workers, of immigrants and of those on the margins of society."

And it demonstrates strong support for labor unions.

"Unions and other worker associations have a unique and essential responsibility in this needed economic renewal. Our Church has long taught that unions are 'an indispensable elemnt of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies' and are examples of the traditional Catholic principles of solidarity and subsidiarity in action. At their best, unions demonstrate solidarity by bringing workers together to speak and act collectively to protect their rights and pursue the common good. Unions are a sign of subsidiarity by forming associations of workers to have a voice, articulate their needs, and bargain and negotiate with the large economic institutions and structures of government."

That's the church I remember from the 1960s, and I'm glad it's back.

I look forward to the church's on-going campaign to persuade the faithful to live according to the words of the bishops. I plan to attend the informational meeting our church will host on the Protect Our Jobs constitutional amendment expected to be on the ballot this fall. I will read the pastor's column in the bulletin about the need to "inform our consciences" on this important issue. I will listen carefully to the sermons preached about how labor unions demonstrate "traditional Catholic principles" and are "essential" in today's economy. I will read the Michigan bishops' op-eds in the Detroit area newspapers. I will give generously to the people who will be standing at the doors as I leave Mass selling flowers to raise money for striking workers somewhere or to collect donations for out of work families. I will read the flyers placed on the windshield of my car in the church parking lot the weekend before the election.

I look forward to doing all that, but then I remember that we're not talking about fetuses here. The chuch will do all that and more for them. But for those of us who are post-fetuses, well, we'll have to see how much the bishops really mean it when they say labor unions demonstrate Catholic values.  

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