Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The editors of America magazine take a look at the state of today’s labor unions , and offer some good insights into the reality of the American workerforce:

Despite repeated allegations about compensation packages that grossly exceed those found in the private sector, analysis of comparable public and private sector positions shows negligible differences in pay and benefits. But those comparisons may ultimately miss the point. The problem is not that public employees are compensated too generously, but rather that private sector workers are buckling under decades of income and benefits stagnation.

What makes the union death watch especially galling, in fact, is how quickly fellow workers, overcome by pension envy, have been persuaded to turn on their union brethren. Their outrage might better have been directed at the relentless assault on the middle class within America’s private sector, accelerated by the 2008 economic crisis and the breakdown in family wealth it caused.

Also disheartening has been the muted response of the church as this coordinated attack on public service unions, the last redoubt of organized labor, rolls on. The Catholic Church and the union movement stood together throughout much of the 20th century, propelled by landmark Catholic social teaching and accompanied by church leaders, from Cardinal James Gibbons to Msgr. George Higgins. Unions, often led by lay Catholics, have been vibrant expressions of both the spiritual and civic dimensions of Catholic social teaching. It is not an exaggeration to say this partnership effected profound improvements in the daily life of all Americans, raising standards of living and educational attainment and bringing decency and dignity to the workplace. Those advances have been gradually turned back, and they may fall away even further in this new century.

Middle-class and working-class people throughout the United States owe much to the 20th century union movement. It deserves better than to be served up as a scapegoat for a national economic crisis that has been cleverly exploited by forces eager to accelerate the demise of organized labor.

You can read more here.