Catholic bishops denounce worker exploitation in economy, back unions

Washington (PAI) –The nation’s Catholic bishops have strongly denounced worker exploitation in the U.S. economy, and reaffirmed the positive role unions play, in their annual Labor Day statement.

The bishops’ statement is important for its moral backing of workers, and for its criticism of an economy that leaves too many behind.

 “Exploitation of working people, whether subtle or obvious, injures their humanity and denies their inherent dignity.  Exploited and mistreated workers require our care and solidarity.  An economy that allows this exploitation and abuse demands our attention and action,” the bishops said.


 “Our nation needs an economic renewal that places workers and their families at the center of economic life and creates enough decent jobs for everyone who can work. Work is more than a paycheck; it helps raise our families, develop our potential, share in God’s creation, and contribute to the common good,” the bishops conference declared.

Unions have a large and essential role to that renewal, the bishops stated. And they called political candidates’ silence on poverty, bad working conditions and workers’ rights “ominous and disheartening.”

“Our church has long taught unions are ‘an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies’ and are examples of the traditional Catholic principles.  At their best, unions demonstrate solidarity by bringing workers together to speak and act collectively to protect their rights and pursue the common good.

“Catholic social teaching supports the right of workers to choose whether to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively, and to exercise these rights without reprisal,” the statement adds.


The bishops’ statement wasn’t wholly pro-union: It alluded to the differences between the church and some unions over reproductive rights, but without using those words or openly mentioning the issue.

“Indeed, economic renewal that places working people and their families at the center of economic life cannot take place without effective unions.  This renewal requires business, religious, labor, and civic organizations to work together to help working people defend their dignity, claim their rights, and have a voice in the workplace and broader economy.”

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