Sunday, February 22, 2009

Catholics and Worker Justice

Call to Reflection:

By Bishop Gabino Zavala, Archdiocese of Los Angeles

The social teachings of the Church have always held that the promotion and defense of the dignity of the laborer, created in God's image and likeness, is integral to the proper ordering of every healthy society.We are morally obliged, therefore, to stand with workers when attempts are made to compromise that dignity which issues directly from God.

As the United States now endures what is perhaps one of the greatest economic crises in its history, it is vitally necessary to recognize that we cannot recover the health of our economy and our society without ensuring that the dignity and freedom of every worker is secure. Every worker is entitled to fair wages, adequate benefits, and safe and dignified working conditions. The vital core of the American economy is the middle class, which is comprised of workers and small businessowners, and it will continue to diminish unless these rights are respected and heeded.

The right of workers to organize and join unions is essential to the dignity and welfare of workers, and it is a right that today is radically threatened. When employees begin to discuss the formation of a union, for example, they are routinely harassed and intimidated, their jobs are threatened, and many become too afraid to even speak of a union out loud. This rampant practice among too many employers deeply offends the conscience of our democracy and faith community.

Call to Action: The Employee Free Choice Act. The Catholic Church affirms the right of workers to form unions, and the majority of U.S. workers have told pollsters that they themselves would join a union if they could, to have a strong voice on the job and to work together to improve their wages, benefits and working conditions. So why are only 12% of workers in unions? Right now our labor law doesn't work very well for workers. When workers have to go through a National Labor Relations Board election, the long process gives employers the opportunity to run a campaign opposing the union, and many do everything possible to "persuade"their employees to vote no. Harassment and threats are common, and 25%of employers faced with a union organizing drive go as far as to fire union supporters. Though these practices are illegal, it may take years for the NLRB to act on a complaint, and even then the penalties are too low to discourage other employers from trying the same tactics. And even if workers win a union through an election, employers often spend years challenging the results, or simply refuse to sit down and bargain a contract. The Employee Free Choice Act would help fix these problems in three ways. First, it would give workers the choice of forming a union by signing "union authorization" cards, or through an NLRB election.Second, it would create stronger penalties for employers who violate workers' rights. Finally, it would prevent employers from stalling indefinitely during contract negotiations.

Three things you can do: 1. Educate your congregation - through sermons, flyers, bulletin inserts, information on your webpage or an email bulletin. 2. Send a letter or postcards to your representative in Congress - Send a personal letter, or collect postcards in support from your Congregation. 3. Sign the on-line petition -http://www.freechoiceact.org/page/s/jwj?source=w*

Additional Resources: *Interfaith Worker Justice Congregational Toolkit:http://www.iwj.org/template/guard_process2.cfm?where=inline*

Jobs with Justice Employee Free Choice Act page:http://www.jwj.org/freechoice/index.html

1 comment:

Thom Curnutte said...

I'm glad to see a Bishop speaking about this. Thanks!