Not your granddad's unionism

Opinion Board of Contributors

Not your granddad's unionism


By John Mallon

LABOR unions in the United States have come a long way. Some think it's "progress" when you have to fight for the right not to join a union. 

Leaders and members of the Catholic Church helped to build both the Democratic Party and the labor movement in the United States through decades in which those groups both supported and depended upon Catholic social teaching. But things change. 

What passes today for unionism is not your grandfather's unionism. This is not 1900, 1925, 1945 or even 1960. It is 2001. The union movement, like liberalism in general, sold its soul, and lost it, with support of legalized abortion on demand over the last three decades. In the process, liberalism betrayed the American people—and American Catholics. Nothing is more destructive to our character and freedoms than legal abortion. The corruptive power of abortion, like that of any sin, runs deeply and profoundly, obsessing and corrupting all who embrace it. 

As Jesus said of the devil, "He was a liar and a murderer from the beginning." It is no great jump from supporting legalized and "politically correct" murder to living in deception. George Orwell pointed out in Animal Farm how the oppressed can become the oppressor through time and the accumulation of power. Today big labor is in bed with big liberalism, exploiting members by extracting compulsory union dues which are fed to political groups and agendas inimical to Catholicism in particular and Christianity in general. 

As I've noted in this space once before, to protect workers from such exploitation the so- called Beck rules were instituted after a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed workers to demand back that portion of dues used for political or other extraneous purposes and not used for core functions of representation such as collective bargaining. As the Beck decision underscored, in several cases this actually amounts to the vast majority of dues collected. 

A legal mechanism was put in place by the elder President Bush, giving recourse to workers to get those funds back. But under the Clinton administration that mechanism was overturned, removing the worker's ability to obtain what was due by law. (President George W. Bush has since reinstated his father's executive order, but the abuse of compulsory dues remains pervasive.) 

We Catholics often refer to the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law. This point comes up in certain moral cases in which the cut-and-dried letter of the law conflicts with the very reason the law exists. In the present case we have seen unions, originally designed to uphold the rights of workers, effectively denying knowledge of and proper avenues to enforce those rights. 

This happened in Oklahoma in a most striking way when Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau Wynn, fulfilling her duty to distribute wage posters for Oklahoma workplaces, informed workers of their legal rights—including their rights under the Beck case. Attorney General Drew Edmondson, whose party is heavily indebted to the donations of big labor, ordered those posters taken down and replaced by signs omitting information on the workers' Beck rights. 

I speak of Catholicism in my writings because that's what I know best—and because my church is a most direct victim of betrayal by modern American liberalism, including the labor unions. But evangelical Protestants can easily discern their own problems with modern liberalism. 

When Pope Leo XIII wrote his landmark encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891 as the Industrial Revolution brought labor issues to the fore, thus launching a century of development of Catholic social teaching, he did not have in mind workers being forced to hand over union dues to support politicians who press for abortion on demand. 

Mallon is a member of the Opinion Board of Contributors for The Oklahoman. 

The opinions of the writer are not necessarily those of The Oklahoman. 


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