Workers in the Vineyard: Catholic Social Thought and the Workplace
42 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2007
Date Written: 2007
Labor themes have long played an important part of social teaching of the Catholic Church. The principles of Catholic social thought have something very real to say about how we think of the workplace and about the relationship between employer and employee, as well as about the extent to which the law should insert itself into that relationship. Although Catholic thought is accepting of capitalism and private property (and with them, the modern business corporation), there is much about the situation of American workers today that can only be characterized as deplorable when viewed through the Catholic lens, including the failure of employers to pay workers a just or living wage, the failure to provide most workers with any say in the structure of their work environment and the failure to provide safe working conditions. Although the list could go on, the individual failures all trace from a distorted vision of human work, of the human worker and of the relationship between the worker and the employer. This article, written for the Villanova University School of Law Fifth Annual Symposium on Catholic Social Thought and the Law, contrasts a secular market view of work, the worker and the relationship between the worker and her employer with the vision offered by Catholic social thought, considering both the Church's specific statements about human work and other principles of Catholic social thought. With respect to each of the three, it explores the implications of accepting a Catholic rather than secular view, suggesting that the principles of Catholic thought are not mere abstractions but rather must inform the actual choices we make about the workplace.
Keywords: Labor law, Catholic Social Thought, Just Wage, Living Wage, Workplace
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