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Union needed and welcome

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Does America need unions? Yes. Despite the nasty stories many people will tell about unions, the truth is that unions are necessary to America’s well-being. Unions understand the dignity of human labor, and furthermore, they actually respect it. Union workers, according to the Bureau of Labor

Statistics, consistently make 30 percent higher wages than non-union workers. From a theological perspective, “Workers not only want fair pay, they also want to share in the responsibility and creativity of the very work process. The want to feel that they are working for themselves – an awareness that is smothered in a bureaucratic system where they only feel themselves to be “cogs” in a huge machine moved from above.” (John Paul II, Laborem Exercens)

Please understand this is not an attack on capitalism, on neither JPII’s part nor mine. Of course I would agree that an employer has the right to run his or her business the waythey see fit. I have a problem when the employer takes too many shortcuts to save a penny, and stops treating the person who cleans the floors as a fellow human being. We can call it “corporatist greed,” when CEO’s are making 262 times what their lowest-paid employee makes (in 2005). This is not “sharing in the responsibility and creativity of the work process,” this is not solidarity; it is creating a culture of fear and resentment.

Unfortunately, Notre Dame is no exception. It is supposedly the best place to work in the region, but stories from the workers here are enough to convince anyone otherwise. There are people on this campus that weren’t paid for those extra hours, people who have been working here 10 years or more and still treated like temporary workers without extra benefits. One of the greatest advantages to working at Notre Dame is that one’s child can go to school for free; however, Executive Vice President John Affleck Graves cites that Notre Dame doesn’t need to pay a living wage because many employees are single (2006). Where is the benefit?

Sixty-million nonunion workers would form a union, if they could, according to a recent poll by the AFL-CIO. Again, Notre Dame workers are no exception. What’s stopping them? The administration of our Catholic university should be first to welcome a union on campus, but this will not happen until the support of students, professors, and alumni are behind the idea, which will enable workers to speak up without fear of being fired. I urge everyone to find a CLAP member and sign a yellow “union welcome” card. It’s time we recognize the dignity of work, not just in CST or Theo classes but in action. It’s time we let our workers share in the responsibility, creativity, and success of our great university.

Christine Clark



Nov. 12