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Pope Benedict XVI: Unions Needed More than Ever

Jeremy Sprinkle
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(Picture) Employee Free Choice ActWorkers' right to form unions must be honored

Pope Benedict XVI released a new encyclical last week to address the challenges people face because of globalization.

The Pope notes that it is often government, under the (false) assumption it's good for the economy, that limit the freedom to form unions:

"Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome." [emphasis added]

The Pope's conclusion is that the freedom of workers to unite under common cause into unions and bargain for a better life - as a counter-balance to the influence of unrestricted corporate greed - is more important than ever:

"The repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level." [emphasis added]

From the AFL-CIO Blog:

The Vatican and a wide variety of Catholic leaders have continued to express support throughout the year for workers' freedom to form unions, and many Catholic scholars and organizations like the Catholic Labor Network and Catholics for Working Families have come out in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on the Pope's statement:

"The new encyclical offers a much-needed reminder that to create an economy that works for everyone it is critical to protect workers' fundamental right to join together as a union and bargain for a better future. As the Pope makes clear, it is not only working people, but also entire communities - nations even - that stand to benefit when workers exercise this right. In the document, the Pope reaffirms the Church's longstanding position that labor unions play a vital role in efforts to build a more just economy - one in which even the most marginalized workers are guaranteed basic dignity and respect."