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Papal Encyclical: Workers’ Rights to Form Unions Must Be Honored

By AFL-CIO Staff

In a new encyclical released this week by Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of the Catholic Church discusses the challenges of a global economy. He notes that workers’ ability to form a union and bargain is at risk and makes it clear it’s a matter of moral imperative to preserve that freedom.

Here’s what the pope has to say on the need for workers to have the freedom to form unions:

Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.

The Vatican and a wide variety of Catholic leaders have continued to express support throughout the year for workers’ freedom to form unions, and many Catholic scholars and organizations like the Catholic Labor Network and Catholics for Working Families have come out in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Here’s what AFL-CIO President John Sweeney had to say:

The new encyclical offers a much-needed reminder that to create an economy that works for everyone it is critical to protect workers’ fundamental right to join together as a union and bargain for a better future. As the Pope makes clear, it is not only working people, but also entire communities–nations even–that stand to benefit when workers exercise this right. In the document, the Pope reaffirms the Church’s longstanding position that labor unions play a vital role in efforts to build a more just economy—one in which even the most marginalized workers are guaranteed basic dignity and respect.

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