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Labor Day Statement 2013

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Labor Day Statement 2013

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop of Stockton
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
September 2, 2013

Every human being enjoys a basic right to be respected, not because of any title, position, prestige, or accomplishment but first of all because we are created in the image and likeness of God. From an ethical and moral perspective we embrace the exhortation of St. Paul “to anticipate one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10). Today’s competitive culture challenges us to strive for victory and advantage, but for St. Paul the challenge is to build each other up and honor one another’s innate dignity.

Labor Day is an opportunity to take stock of the ways workers are honored and respected. Earlier this year, Pope Francis pointed out, “Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. . . . It gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one’s family, to contribute to the growth of one’s own nation.” Unfortunately, millions of workers today are denied this honor and respect as a result of unemployment, underemployment, unjust wages, wage theft, abuse, and exploitation. Read more

“RIGHT TO WORK” VS. THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS

“RIGHT TO WORK” VS. THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS

ABSTRACT

The long-running battle over “right-to-work” (RTW)legislation reappeared recently in Indiana. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, in a recent report, contends that the growth of realpersonal income in RTW states has been higher thanin non-RTW states. Their argument is thatRTW laws lead to lower wages in RTW states, which attracts businesses to locate in those states. The increased business presence leads to higher income growth, which in turn leads – in the longrun – to higher productivity and higher wages in the state.

We find the Chamber’s arguments unpersuasive. Obviously there are businesses that are attracted to low-wage areas, but in our current global economy it is a risky strategy for a state to think it can compete with workers in developing countries who are paid much less. Moreover, many companies reject the “low-road” approach of low wages and make location decisions on other criteria, like the quality of the work force, infrastructure, and quality of life. Read more

What can the church do for worker justice in America?

What can the church do for worker justice in America?

U.S. employers routinely violate the seventh commandment when they refuse to pay their workers their legally mandated wages.

Growing up in what she describes as a “pretty conservative church background” in Ohio, Kim Bobo excelled at memorizing her Bible verses. “I won all the contests,” she remembers. “It has served me well in my life. You can’t really know the scriptures and not realize their core commitment to caring for our neighbor. My life has been about trying to figure out how I play a role in helping people and how I can do that in the most effective way possible.”

Throughout her career, which has included stints as an organizer for Bread for the World, as the “church lady” in a training center for organizers, and as the founder and director of Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), Bobo has consistently worked to energize faith communities in the pursuit of social justice.

She first got pulled into her current focus on workers’ rights when she helped organize religious support for the 1989-90 Pittston Coal miners’ strike. That experience planted the seed that eventually—with the help of Chicago’s legendary Msgr. Jack Egan—led to the founding of IWJ. Read more

“Right to Work” Laws: Get the Facts

 

“Right to Work” Laws: Get the Facts

What is a “right to work” law?

Despite its misleading name, this type of law does not guarantee anyone a job and it does not protect against unfair firing.  By undermining unions, so-called “Right to Work” laws would weaken the best job security protections workers have – the union contract.

A “right to work” law is a state law that stops employers and employees from negotiating an agreement – also known as a union security clause – that requires all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement to pay their share of the costs of representing them.  Right to Work laws say that unions must represent every eligible employee, whether he or she pays dues or not.  In other words, “Right to Work” laws allow workers to pay nothing and still get all the benefits of union membership.

“Right to Work” laws aren’t fair to dues-paying members.  If a worker who is represented by a union and doesn’t pay dues is fired illegally, the union must use its time and money to defend him or her, even if that requires going through a costly, time-consuming legal process.  Since the union represents everyone, everyone benefits, so everyone should share in the costs of providing these services.  Amazingly, nonmembers who are represented by a union can even sue the union is they think it has not represented them well enough! Read more