Poverty and the right to work

Poverty and the right to work

By John Mallon

Published:Sat, June 9, 2001 12:00 AM

AS I observed in my column June 1, it seems a shame that so many American workers have to fight for the right not to join a union. It's a bit reminiscent of John Kennedy speaking at the Berlin Wall: "There are those who say our form of government is not perfect, but we never had to put up a wall to keep our people in."

There is a serious danger in "yellow dogism" — remaining loyal to a political party or movement despite that organization's abandonment of the principles that first inspired fierce loyalty. Betrayal and deceit are strong reasons for dropping such loyalty.

For Catholics, labor unions have forfeited their traditional presumption of legitimacy because union power methodically supports politicians who advocate abortion on demand and other practices inimical to church teaching. I covered this issue in some depth in my last column.

A strong case can be made to let workers keep their own money to spend for purposes they support, rather than to leave in place the present system that finances objectionable social policies through forced dues extracted from workers.

There are other reasons to consider changes in state and national labor laws. The Catholic Church maintains "a preferential option for the poor." A right-to-work law would go a long way toward alleviating the poverty that has plagued Oklahoma's reputation since the Dust Bowl days. Right to work would boost our economy, as it has boosted the economy in surrounding right-to-work states.

Oklahoma has a persistently low state ranking in poverty-related issues such as crime, illiteracy, substance abuse, divorce and out of wedlock pregnancy. Hardly a day goes by when a domestic tragedy is not reported in the local news involving poverty-related abuse — or worse — of a child or woman by a spouse or live-in boyfriend related to poverty and the resultant frustration and rage.

With a right-to-work law, the influx of businesses who would be eager to relocate in Oklahoma for the quality of life offered here would contribute greatly to an influx of workers in the professions, and a widening of white collar as well as blue-collar opportunities which would raise the standard of living and the overall economic situation. These are matters which naturally occur in a business friendly environment, which right to work would help to create.

As anyone familiar with the modern work environment can attest, "business friendly" does not automatically mean "anti-labor" — and the presence of labor unions is no guarantee of stress-free working environments. In fact, modern unions in actual performance, as opposed to theory, often feed tensions in the workplace.

Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you." The poor are part of us and the goal of charity in the temporal realm is to try to help the poor out of poverty wherever possible, not to maintain them in it. The economic benefits of right to work for Oklahoma would go a long way in furthering this mission in an organic and not artificial way.

Catholics, and all Christians, should feel comfortable in exercising their prudential options as citizens and voters, when they consider supporting the right-to-work referendum Sept. 25.