At a time when labor unions are weak, Catholics still have a place in the labor movement, said a priest who emphasized the Church’s historic efforts to teach the rights of labor and train workers to organize.
“On the local and state level, Catholics are a major part of the labor movement. They took to heart our Catholic social teaching, and tried to implement it in their workplace,” Father Sinclair Oubre, the spiritual moderator of the Catholic Labor Network, told CNA.
However, he said, there is sometimes a disconnect between Catholics and support for organized labor.
“Like in so many areas of our faith, the heresy of radical individualism, a lack of knowledge about why unions were formed, and a general ignorance of what options workers have, have led to many Catholics to either not realize that the Church has favored workers’ associations, or that the Church even has a teaching that has to do with the workplace.”
Union membership peaked at 28% of the American workforce in 1954. According to 2017 figures, about 34% of public sector employees are unionized, but under 7% of private-sector employees are, CBS Moneywatch reports.
Unions continue to enjoy strong approval in the U.S., with 62% of respondents telling a recent Gallup survey they support organized labor.
But union support among some Catholics has waned, in part due to labor unions’ political support for legal abortion and pro-abortion rights political candidates, among other issues.
For Fr. Oubre, this shows the need for more faithful Catholics to join a union, not withdraw.
“The fact that many of the cultural war issues have been embraced by labor unions is a concern to me,” he said. “However, the Church and Labor have been here before.”
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