Acton Institute Powerblog

Voluntary Association and Union Politics

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In light of the recent exodus from the AFL-CIO, Dr. Charles W. Baird examines the nature of labor unions through the lens of Catholic social teaching. “Catholic social teaching has supported labor unions as part of a general defense of freedom of association,” he writes. “This defense has not extended, however, to unions that are coercive or politically partisan.”

Read the full text here.

Dr. Charles W. Baird is professor of economics at California State University, East Bay and author of Liberating Labor: A Christian Economist’s Case for Voluntary Unionism.

A recent interview with Dr. Baird on the AFL-CIO split is available for download here (MP3).

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Steve Daskal

    ALL trades unions are coercive. They exist by coercing non-member workers to join (or by getting the employer and/or government to force them to pay the same dues as if they had), and by coercing above-market wages through "closed shop agreements." If companies were allowed to encourage unions in the US and Europe to be organized as company-employee associations, with a clear stake in the health and growth of the company as well as in improving wages, benefits, and working conditions, and if unions were as regulated by anti-trust regulation as productive enterprises, there would no longer be trades unions.

  • John P. Kelly

    An informative and very readable presentation on the view of the Church and Unions. It covers material not generally found anywhere in an integrated analysis.

  • Lisa Gilliam

    My dad was a union man for almost 30 years and he realizes that the they have to change.Unfortunately,the retreads at AFL-CIO kept Sweeney who we are not very fond of because of many of his associations with groups and individuals who harm unions and they are enemies of the U.S. I guess when their union falls 25%% they will get rid of Sweeney then.