Right to Work laws defy Catholic Social Teaching

Anna McCloskey, Staff Writer

By gift of Catholic Social Teaching, every person has a duty and a privilege to work to sustain and protect humanity. In working, according to the principle of Dignity and Rights of Workers, all people are entitled to fair and just wages, safe conditions, productive work, benefits, and the right to unionize. The establishment of supposedly beneficial Right to Work laws violates Catholic Social Teaching and harms the wellbeing of working citizens.

Although the laws valiantly try to increase job availability and put the unemployed back in the workforce, Right to Work laws only make unions illegitimate. Already made law in twenty-four states, this legislation directly hurts employees because unions allow collective bargaining rights, which help employees to negotiate wages and benefits and are important to maintaining employment integrity. By making unions illegal, Right to Work laws limit the contracts between union members that allow collective bargaining to occur.

The title Right to Work is a misnomer. By preventing effective collective bargaining and compulsory unionization, these laws allow corporations to give unfair pay, lousy benefits, and provide unsafe working conditions for their works. In addition, employees can be fired without any cause or hope of explanation. In essence, these laws confiscate any right to work with dignity and pride.

Since unions were first used during the eighteenth century, they have largely been seen as a way to preserve the respect of workers. Unions’ original purpose was, and remains to be, using collective bargaining as a form of maintaining the basic necessities of employment. As Right to Work laws prevent such action, many find themselves without the job security and comfort of stability that unions give.

The Dignity and Rights of Workers principle of Catholic Social Teaching very clearly addresses unions. In fact, the principle goes as far as to say that poverty is most often caused by the rights of workers being taken from them. It goes on to say that a disregard for the importance of work often leads to the dignity of a human worker being disregarded. A primary focus of unions is to prevent these rights violations and help those who are oppressed.

In the Catholic society, the Right to Work laws must be seen as a violation of not only Catholic Social Justice, but of the integrity of humanity. If workers struggle to unionize, their rights to health care benefits and safe work environments will be stripped from them. This must be seen as reprehensible to the people in order to protect our basic human rights.