February 22, 2010

Toward More Christian Unions

Justin Katz

My February column for The Rhode Island Catholic takes up the subject of the Church's support for labor unions:

Catholic theology enters the political mix with the holding that God works through the individual conscience. What organized labor does, in the ideal, is to combine the power of individuals to construct a stronger, more substantive assertion of human conscience. In the workplace, the purpose is to counterbalance the economic power of business leaders or the political power of government officials.

The problem is that these sources of power are not parallel. A company gains influence by increasing the importance of its products and services to the market. The source of a business's power is therefore manipulable as a means to an end and constrained by regulation, competition, and employee morale. The source of a government's power is the entire society, and we rightly constrain its actions through civic structure. The parallel dynamic and constraints for unions are complicated by the doctrine that people — union members — must always be ends in themselves, with inviolable rights to pursue their own interests. And it's a much more comfortable (and remunerative) project to extort money from local communities than to fight foreign tyrannies on behalf of a distant workforce.

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–verb (used with object)
to wrest or wring (money, information, etc.) from a person by violence, intimidation, or abuse of authority; obtain by force,torture, threat, or the like.

"ex-tort mon-ey from lo-cal comm-unit-ies"

-phrase (used by Justin to demonize union members)
a. phrase used in article to incite mistrust, animosity and hatred toward members of a group.

Posted by: michael at February 22, 2010 8:08 AM

Michael, I suggest to you that there is a huge difference between principled, idealistic people who are union members and the cynical, dishonest, self-serving people who climb to leadership positions and use the union movement to feed their personal lust for power and money. You are a rare bird indeed.

It's like the Democrat voters who hold their party affiliation because their parents were Democrats, who believed Roosevelt's propaganda and missed the truth of his mismanagement of the Depression, and are true believers because they buy the "compassion" message that the Statists sell (being unskeptical in general, they also buy into global warming hysteria, world peace movements, animal rights and a host of other moonbat causes). They are perfectly nice, well-meaning people but are dupes and pawns in the real world.

A third category of union member is the lazy, pettily-corrupt "worker" who thinks of the union as his employer and the employer as the enemy. He does the minimum work required, takes every excuse for time off or extra money, works the system to extract maximum personal gain for minimal work, and exhorts and bullies his co-workers to do the same.

I've seen them, and so have you, and they are many. It would be disingenuous for you to claim that they do not exist. And they are particularly prevalent in government jobs because of the lack of accountability of which I wrote earlier.

Not all government workers go into their careers with the same sense of mission as firefighters and cops.

Posted by: BobN at February 22, 2010 8:36 AM

I do see them, and fight them every step of the way. For every deadbeat in government work there are others who have to do their work. Police and fire have some deadbeats as well, but they never last, there is nowhere to hide.

Posted by: michael at February 22, 2010 9:18 AM


Katz is a master of smarmy drivel and you pointed it out precisely. The fellow likes to hit below the intellect, the verbal equivalent of throwing a stone from behind a rock. Thanks for calling his hand.
As to Katz' echo:
Not all people who look at history come to the same warped conclusions as BobN.
Not all people mistake invective for argument.
Not all people who vote Democrat had parents who were Democrats.
Not all people who vote in this state were born in this state.
Not all people think hysterically about the realities of climate change, but in BobN's tiny world, to give him the benefit of the doubt, he probably really believes his delusions.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at February 22, 2010 10:36 PM


Just about every time negotiations get heated in the public sector, particularly in schools, the unions threaten to force large legal fees on the taxpayers. Is that not a threat? Last spring, in Tiverton, one of the more active members of the teachers' union demanded that the school committee make cuts that would intentionally "hurt" the children in order to prod their parents to the next financial town meeting to vote for bigger increases; let's just say that the current budget debate is not inconsistent with that instruction. Is that not intimidation and abuse of authority.

Wasn't it your union that threatened to picket an emergency training event?

I didn't use the word lightly, and I don't see that I used it inconsistently with the dictionary definition. Moreover, I'm continually disappointed to see you implicitly defending such behavior.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 22, 2010 11:11 PM

I see the children are back from their vacation.

Posted by: BobN at February 23, 2010 9:00 AM

Disappointed? You accuse unions of extortion and I call you on it and you are disappointed. Add extortion to all of the other little zingers, of which I have neither the time or inclination to search for and you will see a pattern of union bashing. Am I disappointed? Hell no. I respect your anti-union position and enjoy learning how you perceive labor.

I've never pretended to be anything but a proud union member. Because I admit we take things a little far now and then does nothing to change that. I have no intention of researching the vast amount of information concerning labor, for and against. I could look for pro labor statistics and then post my findings and say, "so there," but why? I belong to Local 799. I live and breathe the union. My union and its members are honest, hard working tax paying productive members of society. I know what I know through experience, not a Google search.

Posted by: michael at February 23, 2010 5:00 PM


I'm not disappointed that you're a union believer (or not newly disappointed, at any rate). I'm disappointed that you'd take the cheap, talking-point approach of pretending that there's absolutely zero justification for my use of the word "extort" — as much as the word accurately illustrates my bias.

My observations have been such that I think the firefighters unions most closely conform with the principle of unionization that I describe as closer to proper in the RI Catholic essay. Yet, you're so enamored with the concept of unionization — defense of it almost as a patriotic principle — that you'll tolerate, even support, behavior that clearly should not be acceptable.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 23, 2010 8:08 PM

One becomes defensive, perhaps to a fault, under constant bombardment. Most of the people I know who belong to unions don't engage in any debate. I'm tempted to do the same.

I only speak for my union and what I know to be true. We are far from perfect. As I have no idea what goes on in other unions other that what I read and hear, and knowing what I know about how the general public feels about all unions, and how misrepresented the facts are I lean toward the defense of labor as a whole.

I don't want to be the spokesperson for labor, or their defender, it just seems to always denigrate in that direction, which brings me back to my urge to sit back and ignore all the rhetoric. Labor wise anyway. I can still participate in other areas that I find of interest.

Posted by: michael at February 23, 2010 8:31 PM