Zubik backs unions in court case

Written by Peter Smith on .

Pittsburgh Roman Catholic Bishop David Zubik wrote his most recent column in favor of labor unions as they face a stress test before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bishop Zubik, who was himself the named plaintiff in a Supreme Court case recently, said if the challengers to current labor law succeed, it would undercut unions' right to speak and represent themselves publicly. Moreover, he said, the Catholic Church has long supported strong unions. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an amicus curiae brief in support of the unions, although a bishop in Illinois, where the case originated, rejected that stance.

Not Bishop Zubik, though:


The man who brought the lawsuit took a union job, agreed to the union terms, and then sued on free speech grounds because he objected to the union's political positions. It's similar to someone who has taken a job in the Catholic Church arguing that he should be allowed to keep his job while also publicly advocating for abortion. He knew the terms of employment when he accepted them....


Unions are already struggling. Only 6.5 percent of workers in the private sector have union representation. The public sector is higher, but still a minority at 34.4 percent. Yet, the very existence of unions benefits even those who do not belong — raising wages, bringing family benefits and ensuring worker safety. Unions are especially needed where workers are taken advantage of, as Pope Francis said, “on the peripheries.”

I don't agree with every position taken by every labor union. But I believe — as the Catholic bishops of this country have long believed — that unions benefit society as a whole. Like all human institutions, they are flawed. Their own rank-and-file, however, are empowered to reform them. When a beneficial institution is flawed, we should seek to fix it, not destroy it.




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