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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Labor Day Statement from the USCCB

The USCCB's statement on economics this holiday includes some ideas not seen before in documents. In Placing Work and Workers at the Center of Economic Life, there is a criticism of unions I have not seen coming from the American bishops before this document. This is a fair statement. Unions have not only been partisan, but leaning towards Marxism, using Marxist language and symbolism and blatantly socialist, which should concern the Church in America.

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 element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies" (Laborem Exercens, no. 20) 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.
Like other institutions, including religious, business and civic groups, unions sometimes fall short of this promise and responsibility. Some union actions can contribute to excessive polarization and intense partisanship, can pursue positions that conflict with the common good, or can focus on just narrow self-interests. When labor institutions fall short, it does not negate Catholic teaching in support of unions and the protection of working people, but calls out for a renewed focus and candid dialogue on how to best defend workers. Indeed, economic renewal that places working people and their families at the center of economic life cannot take place without effective unions. This renewal requires business, religious, labor, and civic organizations to work together to help working people defend their dignity, claim their rights, and have a voice in the workplace and broader economy.

The bishops seem to be working on a longer document. Let us hope it is much better than the paper from the Vatican which created the debacle surrounding the unapproved economic paper released last autumn. I suggest the bishops read some of the books on Father Z's reading list....