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Catholic Social Teachings and Unions ERDs obligate CHP to respond to the representatives designated by our associates through legitimate, legally Currently there is considerable discussion surrounding the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) corporate campaign and its efforts to enroll CHP associates into its membership. Catholic social teaching requires church institutions, and it is the policy of Catholic Healthcare Partners: defined elections (ERD #7). This obligation stems from Church teaching and especially the teaching of recent popes such as the late John Paul II and the teaching of the American bishops (Health and Health Care: A Pastoral Letter of the American Catholic Bishops, pg. 10-12; Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, pg. 52-55). Thus To fully recognize the rights of employees to organize and bargain collectively with the institution through whatever association or organization they freely choose. CHP supports our employees’ right to representation by unions. CHP also respects our employees’ right not to join a union. The only way of knowing for sure what our employees want is to protect their fundamental right to decide for themselves whether or not to join a union. CHP believes this is best accomplished by requiring a secret ballot election for union recognition conducted by the National Labor Relations Board – it is the only way to ensure the decision itself is made free of coercion by employers, unions or other employees. the SEIU’s corporate campaign is an appropriate occasion to reflect upon elements of the Church’s social teachings as they pertain to work, workers and unions. In this brief monograph I would like to outline John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem exercens and to then propose some ethical guidelines for our response to the SEIU’s campaign. Laborem exercens was written to commemorate the ninetieth anniversary of Rerum novarum, the 1891 encyclical of Leo XIII which launched the genre that has come to be called “Catholic social teaching.” John Paul begins his letter by indicating the various ways in which the social context that he addresses is different from that of his predecessor, Leo XIII. Leo XIII addressed the world of the industrial revolution, a social and economic
Catholic Healthcare Partners is guided by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs) in responding to these union efforts. The
milieu that tended to pitch capital against labor and class against class. It was an age in which these issues took on a particular hue or aura depending upon the individual nation in which these issues were at odds with one another. John Paul II’s social teaching is not focused on issues within nations, but rather on the social condition of the whole world. Thus he sets out to address not just issues of inequality between classes, “but also the world sphere of inequality and injustice” (2).
The subjective side of work pertains to the capacity of individual men and women to decide about themselves and exercise their capacity for selfrealization (6). Through work women and men realize their humanity. The subjective dimension of work reveals the essential dignity of the worker and work. Because the self-identity of the worker is, in part, embodied in his or her work, labor can never be viewed as simply a commodity, a sort of merchandise that can be purchased. This aspect of work also grounds the basic ethical principle enunciated in the encyclical, the
The first two lines of Laborem exercens set the tenor of much that is to follow: “Through work man must earn his daily bread and contribute to the continual advancement of science and technology and, above all, to elevating increasingly the cultural and moral life of society within which he lives in community with those who belong to the same family. And work means any activity by man, whether manual or intellectual, whatever its nature or circumstances; it means any human activity that can and must be recognized as work.”(1) Work is a constitutive element of being a person, a Christian in the world. Work provides elements of one’s self identity; it links the worker to others through bonds of community and society.
priority of labor over capital. The goods and services that constitute an economy are produced through the efficient means of labor and the instrumental means of capital. Laborem exercens contends that unions are an “indispensable element of social life” (20). Workers have a right to form or join associations that will protect their just rights and defend their legitimate interests. However unions should not construe their role as a struggle against others or engage in group “egoism.” In other words, unions like the work of those they organize, are for the benefit of the common good or society as a whole.
The encyclical continues by distinguishing the objective and subjective sense of work. The objective dimension of work pertains to the goods and services produced through the labor and energy of workers. This dimension of work is relatively easy to measure and evaluate. Within healthcare, the objective dimension of work is calculated in terms of quality outcomes, productivity and similar measures. This is also the dimension of work through which each worker contributes to the common good and thus produces the goods and services upon which each of us draws to sustain, nourish and elevate the level of human well being within communities and society. * Bracketed numbers refer to sections in the encyclical.
In the same section of the encyclical, John Paul II teaches that unions should not “play politics” and “should not have too close links with” political parties. Unions that advocate for civil legislation that is contrary to Church teaching, e.g. same sex marriage and abortion, are not organizations that CHP would choose to cooperate with in the delivery of health services.
John Paul enunciated a sophisticated understanding of labor relations and thus the labor contract. He distinguishes between the indirect and direct employer. The indirect employer refers to all the factors outside the direct control of employer or employees that influence labor relations. Market conditions, international trade agreements, labor law
and similar realities constitute the indirect employer. To the extent possible, employers may have an obligation to attempt to improve these conditions, but such factors lay outside the immediate control of the direct employers.
CHP must ensure that managers at all levels are aware that there is to be no discrimination, retaliation or any other negative actions or attitudes towards associates who support a union initiative. An associate’s decision to affiliate with a union is the associate’s personal
The direct employer has the obligation to provide a just remuneration to workers, i.e., an income that will enable the worker to have appropriate access to the goods and services contained within the common good. Salary should be sufficient to provide for a family and enable it to set aside something for the future. Benefits should include health insurance, a pension plan and free time for religious services and vacation. •
decision and is to be respected. There is nothing in Catholic social teaching to support a “corporate campaign” that seeks to damage the reputation and economic performance of a company. The encyclical’s assertion that union activities ought not constitute a struggle against others would seem to argue against this sort of tactic. Catholic social teaching is precious element within
Ethical Guidelines • The principle of the priority of labor over capital should encourage CHP leadership to continue to respect the centrality of our associates to the accomplishment of our mission. They are the efficient means to its success; physical and financial resources are merely instrumental means. • Many human resource’s tools and measures focus on the objective dimension of work. CHP should seek to enhance its capacity and resources to assess, promote and reverence the subjective dimension as well. Programs currently in place such as participative management, shared governance, gainsharing and professional practice groups are examples of initiatives that promote and reverence the subjective dimension of work through meaningful, individual participation. • The decision whether CHP associates will enter a union is their decision; it is not the decision of a union or the management of CHP. The role of CHP and the union is to provide information; it is improper for either to cajole or coerce.
the Catholic tradition; it is highly respected both within and outside the Church. At ordination the Book of the Gospels is placed in the hands of the man to be ordained as the bishop prays, “Believe what you read, preach what you believe, and practice what you preach.” The challenge to all of us within CHP is to practice what we believe to be the sound teaching of Catholic social teaching.
If there are clinical, operational or management issues that you would like to see discussed in the future, please refer your suggestions to:
John A. Gallagher, PhD Corporate Director, Ethics 513-639-2826 email@example.com
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