Earlier this month, AFL-CIO union chief John Sweeney sunk his teeth into Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical, Charity in Truth, which addresses the global economy and, in part, the role of unions -- and that nation's largest union boss umbrella organization even insinuated that the Vatican supports passage of the Card Check Forced Unionism Bill.
But it's worth revisiting the Catholic Church's teachings on human freedom, autonomy, and politics. Several years ago, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorney Richard Clair compiled an educational dossier on Catholicism, unions, and Right to Work. For instance, in 1981, Pope John Paul II wrote about unions:
[T]he number of associations of almost every possible kind, especially of associations of workers, is now far greater than ever before. . . . But the opinion is, and it is one confirmed by a good deal of evidence, that they are largely under the control of secret leaders and that these leaders apply principles which are in harmony with neither Christianity nor the welfare of States, and that, after having possession of all available work, they contrive that those who refuse to join with them will be forced by want to pay the penalty. Under these circumstances, workers who are Christians must choose one of two things; either to join associations in which it is greatly to be feared that there is danger to religion, or to form their own associations and unite their forces in such a way that they may be able manfully to free themselves from such unjust and intolerable oppression. Can they who refuse to place man’s highest good in imminent jeopardy hesitate to affirm that the second course is by all means to be followed?
Emphasis added. Right to Work laws protect true freedom of association for Christians and non-Christians alike, allowing them to act on their conscience if they disagree with a union's practices. Moreover, once a workplace is unionized, monopoly bargaining provisions in labor law actually ban dissenting employees, including Christians, to form their own associations or unions to negotiate with employer.
John Paul also addressed the destructive effects of the politicization of unions:
[T]he role of unions is not to "play politics" in the sense that the expression is commonly understood today. Unions do not have the character of political parties struggling for power; they should not be subjected to the decision of political parties or have too close links with them. In fact, in such a situation they easily lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the framework of the common good of the whole of society; instead they become an instrument used for other purposes.
In total, Big Labor spent well over one billion dollars in the 2008 election cycle to elect their favored candidates. And now, their favored politicians are rewarding the union bosses by slashing union financial transparency regulations and appointing union chiefs and their allies to key positions in the Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board, and other agencies and offices.
Furthermore, Clair notes that other aspects of Big Labor's politicking tend to diverge from other Catholic teachings:
Eventually, [University of Detroit professor Robert] Roesser discovered that the NEA union was heavily involved in promoting abortion rights. When he thought about his dues money going to an organization with such an immoral agenda and compared it with the "Vatican Declaration on Abortion," which says that it is a serious sin to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law," as well as "Christ Speaks Through His Church About Abortion" and the 1895 encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Catholicism in the United States titled, "Longinqua," he came to the conclusion that, in good conscience, he could no longer financially support the NEA and the MEA, the state and national levels that were involved in promoting abortion rights.
Roesser asked the NEA union brass if he could pay his fees to a charity instead, but the union bosses refused to accommodate his religious objection and had him fired (he eventually prevailed in the courts with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation).
Read the rest of "Catholic Social Teaching and Right to Work" here (PDF).