“The great challenge and opportunity that the worrying economic crisis of the moment invites [us] to know how to take advantage of, consists in finding a new synthesis between the common good and the market, between capital and labor,” Pope Benedict XVI recently told members of the Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori (Syndicated Italian Confederation of Workers).
Realizing such a synthesis, however, can be difficult. For example, consider current arguments for and against the proposed Employee Free Choice Act.
The biggest proponents for the legislation are the unions, backed by various progressive coalitions, among them Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), which pushes religious institutions to adopt progressive public policies on labor issues. Kim Bobo, formerly a community organizer who trained other organizers at the Midwest Academy, founded the IWJ in the 90s. While not a Catholic herself, she’s listed with the Speakers and Artists Referral Service of the dissident Catholic group Call to Action, an organization that seeks to change Catholic teaching about faith and morals.
She challenges what she calls “conservative Christian forces” that are “monopolizing the morality-in-politics deba te around such issues as abortion rights and same-sex marriage” – or, in other words, she challenges Catholic teaching about moral truth. She thinks Catholics and other “conservative Christians” ought to focus more on what she describes as “economic justice.”
The Employee Free Choice Act is one of IWJ’s projects, promoted as a bill that “would restore the ability of workers to form unions without the threats, harassment and intimidation that too many employers now routinely use to sabotage union organizing.” IWJ has organized a clergy and congregational leaders Religious Leaders for the Employee Free Choice Act “spokesperson team” to convey this message around the country. Among the Catholic members of the IWJ team are Bishop Leroy Theodore Matthiesen, Fr. Sinclair Oubre, co-founder of the Catholic-Labor Network, Adrian Dominican Sister Mary Priniski, and Bishop Gabino Zavala.
The IWJ website has a number of printed resources targeted at “conservative Christian” congregations. There’s a set of “questions and answers that clarify the importance of the Employee Free Choice Act for working people” and another v ersion that’s “formatted as a bulletin insert.” There’s also “a step-by-step guide [to]…explain how to organize a delegation of religious leaders and congregational members to engage [its]…senators” about the proposed legislation. Lastly, there are supportive statements from numerous “faith leaders” – presumably useful for demonstrating how compatible the legislation is with various faith traditions – no matter how “conservative” they may be.
Opponents to the bill contend that rather than support workers’ freedom to decide whether to bargain collectively with their employers, the Employee Free Choice Act would permit unions to organize by means of publically signed “card-check campaigns”.
Publically signed membership cards, opponents argue, may protect the worker from an anti-union employer but leave him vulnerable to union pressure. Secret ballots, on the other hand, provide safeguards against intimidation from either party. And, according to a Zogby poll, 71% percent of union members – the people on the ground – find the current private-ballot process is fair.
The Employee Free Choice Act would also mandate binding arbitration after 90 days of unresolved negotiation, without the option of any20appeal. Such a move, ironically, strips workers of any real right to bargain collectively by compelling them to accept government-imposed terms.
Why would the union machines (as opposed to their membership) and the IWJ support such a thing?
The answer may lie in the openly socialist connections of some of their key people. John Sweeney, president of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), is a member of Democratic Socialists of America – which is also a supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act.
As for the IWJ, the Democratic Socialists of America website is not only linked to it but the DSA has honored Bobo’s work. (She was a 2001 Debs-Thomas-Harrington dinner honoree. According to the DSA report of the evening, Bobo “used the occasion to organize for DSA by leading us all in a song about DSA…”)
Not surprisingly, we find that the Alinskyian community organizing networks of ACORN and Gamaliel – and a host of other progressive-minded organizations that target religious institutions – are also supporting the proposed labor legislation.
Punishing capital – that is, the employer – as the “bad guy” is hardly a new “synthesis…between capital and labor.” Incitement to renew old hostilities, yes. Synthesis, no.
Stephanie Block is the editor of Los Pequenos - a New Mexico-based publication. Her columns are made possible by the sponsorship of generous individuals who believe information about the development and dissemination of progressive ideology needs to be more widely understood. Please fell free to share -- acknowledging authorship -- these articles with others. If you would like more frequent publication of Stephanie Block's work, tax-deductible donations can be sent to: Catholic Media Coalition - PO Box 427 Great Cacapon, WV 25422 Attn: Progressive Watch