In places like Chicago, ties between unions and Catholics often run deep. However, with right-to-work becoming a voting issue in many states, the intersection of union membership and church membership is becoming a hot topic. Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich got himself tangled in this arena this week:
At the request of local unions, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich recently spoke at a West Side union hall about the church’s teachings on work and workers.
After the speech, Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan and government unions boasted that Cupich and the Catholic Church were on their side.
“The archbishop has said the same thing that we’ve been saying in Springfield,” Madigan said.
Government unions in Illinois promoted their interpretation of the archbishop’s comments online.
“Cupich today reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s longstanding commitment to collective bargaining, to unions … a message a certain governor might want to consider,” Service Employees International Union posted on its Facebook page.
Acton’s Samuel Gregg, clarifies Church teaching regarding unions:
The church supports the right of workers to join unions. Catholic social teaching has never, however, taught that workers are required to join unions — let alone be forced to join unions,” said Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute, a conservative think tank that studies the intersection of religion and public policy.
Diana Sroka Rickert, with the Illinois Policy Institute, further delineates:
So let’s be very clear about where the Catholic Church stands on this issue.
Catholics are required to work toward achieving just wages, safe and healthy working environments, access to health care and basic necessities. The church cares deeply about protecting the weak and vulnerable and believes all work honors the dignity of the individual. Church teachings say that workers should be free to join unions — if they so choose. But the church has never held that unions are the only way to achieve the above goals, or that anyone should be forced to support a union.
If the church ever decides to opine on this issue, there’s a strong case to be made that the Catholic position would be to support right-to-work laws.