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US bishops praise Archbishop Listecki’s statement on unions

February 25, 2011

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, chairman of the committee on domestic justice and human development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has praised Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki’s recent statement affirming the value of unions.

“The situation in Wisconsin is not unique,” said Bishop Blaire. “Other states and the federal government also face daunting challenges of growing budget deficits and how to allocate burdens and share sacrifice in ways that reflect principles of social justice, economic fairness and wise stewardship. Your efforts to share the consistent teaching of the Church in the midst of this controversy are an example for all of us on how to apply our moral principles to the ‘signs of the times.’”

Bishop Blaire added:

“You point out that Pope Benedict XVI, in Caritas in Veritate, states, “The repeated calls…for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past.” In Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II calls labor associations “an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies,” but also reminds unions “to secure the just rights of workers within the framework of the common good of the whole of society” …

Catholic teaching and your statement remind us these are not just political conflicts or economic choices; they are moral choices with enormous human dimensions. The debates over worker representation and collective bargaining are not simply matters of ideology or power, but involve principles of justice, participation and how workers can have a voice in the workplace and economy.

As you point out, “It does not follow from this that every claim made by workers or their representatives is valid. Every union, like every other economic actor, is called to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required, and to adjust to new economic realities. However, it is equally a mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth. As Pope John Paul II wrote in 1981, ‘[a] union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.’”


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  • Posted by: impossible - Mar. 01, 2011 8:36 PM ET USA

    I wonder if John Paul II in Paragraph 20 of Laborem Exercens might have had in mind the government employee unions in America where the unions in effect “Hire their bosses” via huge campaign contributions and in-kind contributions. Then they negotiate with those bosses for wages, benefits, etc. In Wisconsin the people a/k/a taxpayers elected the “boss,” who puts the common good above the greed of the unions. Check out the the fourth paragraph that begins with “Just efforts to secure…”

  • Posted by: Bernadette - Feb. 28, 2011 10:17 AM ET USA

    What do you expect? The bishops, generally, are in league, along with the unions, with the Democratic Party. Always have been. And continue to be. The governor of Wisconsin is not trying to outlaw unions, but to pare them down for the sake of the taxpayer and to help with the deficit. The unions have pretty much outlived their usefulness. Bottom line, greed. Gimme. Gimme. Gimme.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 26, 2011 12:08 PM ET USA

    Dare one suggest the revelation of the salaries and benefits of the union bosses?

  • Posted by: aclune9083 - Feb. 26, 2011 12:03 PM ET USA

    Public sector unions have outlived their reason to exist. Formed in the last 40 years, they were chartered to improve compensation, benefits and workplace security/safety/employment practices. Now, there is parity in all these areas. Civil service laws at all levels protect worker rights, provide remedies in case of discrimination, and mandate employee input into working conditions. Public employees do not need the right to bargain and strike. Unions serve only to further political agendas.

  • Posted by: aclune9083 - Feb. 26, 2011 11:56 AM ET USA

    Public sector collective bargaining for wages and benefits is invalid; it differs from the private sector in that the private sector unions bargain with private entities who must stay in business to survive. This tempers union demands: if the union is unreasonable, the company goes out of business. No such relationship exists within the public sector--the union can (and does) strike with impunity knowing that schools, fire departments, jails and police forces cannot be allowed to to fail.

  • Posted by: Miss Cathy - Feb. 26, 2011 2:18 AM ET USA

    Maybe it's just me, but I suspect that if anyone in the public employee sector actually supported what the governor is doing they'd be scared of the union retribution that would occur if they spoke up. Today's unions too often rely on this to get employees as well as employers to tow their line.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Feb. 26, 2011 1:30 AM ET USA

    The issues that are actually at stake in Wisconsin are really rather narrow. Instead of grappling with these and delivering a detailed and knowledgeable analysis, the Bishops happily offer yet another collection of mushy generalities that will be deservedly ignored.

  • Posted by: Colonel Joe - Feb. 25, 2011 11:21 PM ET USA

    Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and render unto God the things that are God's. JFM

  • Posted by: - Feb. 25, 2011 10:00 PM ET USA

    If people really knew the dirty little secret about the symbiotic relationship between sweet heart public employee union contracts and union donations to democrat politicians there would be a revolution. There has been a definite failure to discern the difference between public sector unions and private sector, and that difference in monumental.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 25, 2011 7:47 PM ET USA

    I'm surprised to find that it is the authentically Catholic position to support the greatest force in American for electing pro-abortion politicians: unions. Unions: not as they might be in theory, but as the actually are in the current USA.

  • Posted by: Hal - Feb. 25, 2011 11:25 AM ET USA

    The fail to discern the difference between public sector unions and their private counterparts, and thus fall into error. Not unusual for their tin-eared forays into American political life. If it's the USCCB, one can count that they are backing the wrong horse, nearly every time and public embarrassment will soon follow!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 25, 2011 10:04 AM ET USA

    I suggest that bishops lead by example and invite unions into catholic schools. That will shine a bright light on the devolution of the modern labor union.