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Catholics support Employee Free Choice Act


Catholics support Employee Free Choice Act

by Ron Moore

The Catholic Church is a consistent supporter of the labor movement ethic of justice and dignity as well as the principle of community. Catholics United has unveiled a Catholics for Working Families campaign to help pass the Employee Free Choice Act, a law designed to protect workers who want to form a union from employer retribution. The initiative is supported by Pax Christi USA and Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice. Catholics United plans to launch a radio and print advertising campaign in key states to rally Catholic support behind the Employee Free Choice Act.

“The Catholic Church teaches that all workers have a fundamental right to make their own decision whether to bargain collectively with their employer,” said Joseph Fahey, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College and chair of Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice. “Current U.S. labor laws, however, provide inadequate protection to those who try to exercise this right to form a union. By creating a more democratic process for forming unions and imposing stiffer penalties on employers who retaliate against their workers, the Employee Free Choice Act will modernize our nation’s labor laws and offer greater protection for workers who choose to organize.”

Catholics United asserts that support for workers’ rights is a bedrock principle of the Catholic social tradition, the body of Church doctrine that concerns Catholics’ responsibility to create a just and equitable human society. As CEOs make record salaries and bonuses, working families continue to struggle. Catholic social teaching demands that workers earn wages that can support the full development of families. Pope Leo XIII wrote his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum – generally regarded as the inaugural document of the Catholic social tradition – in order to address the vast discrepancies in wealth and power between employers and their workers that had arisen in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. The encyclical clearly articulates the Church’s support for vulnerable workers and their families:

“Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages… If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.” (Rerum Novarum, § 45)

“Catholic teaching is unequivocal in its support of the right to organize,” said Chris Korzen, a former union organizer and executive director of Catholics United. “I have seen firsthand how far unscrupulous employers will go to prevent their workers from exercising this right, by waging campaigns of fear and intimidation in the workplace and even firing workers who support the union. The Employee Free Choice Act will remedy these abuses by creating a fairer and more democratic process for forming unions.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have specifically condemned the sort of employer-sponsored anti-union campaigns that current U.S. labor law fails to prevent. “No one,” they wrote in 1986, “may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably now seen in this country, to break existing unions and prevent workers from organizing.”

Free Choice Act levels playing field for workers


Free Choice Act levels playing field for workers
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Workers who do not have a collective bargaining agreement to protect them in the workplace are known as “at will employees.” This means they have no rights as employees. They are workers who perform “at the will” of their employers. They can be let go for many reasons, none of which are enforceable under the National Labor Relations Act.

The reason I mention this is because the National Labor Relations Board will, when you have an inquiry about your employment status, if there are problems, ask if you are covered under a collective bargaining agreement (contract). If you say you are not covered by any agreement, they will inform you there is nothing they can do for you under the NLRA, because you are an “at will employee” and have no rights without a contract.

We must level the playing field for every worker in today’s environment and urge our legislators to support the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Employers want to continue to have a stranglehold over their employees and keep them as “at will employees.” They do not want employees to have a voice in their working environment.

For example, if an employee would complain to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about a safety problem at work, the employee would probably be fired without a collective bargaining agreement.

We must have freedom for all, as our forefathers used as the basis for democracy in these United States.

Joe Long

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania