This year, on the occasion of the World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict XVI’s message focused in part on economics. I thought I would highlight parts of that message over the next two or three weeks. The designation of January 1 as the World Day of Peace began in 1968 under Pope Paul VI. Herewith some thoughts on the right to work. The full message is accessible here.
Peacemakers must also bear in mind that, in growing sectors of public opinion, the ideologies of radical liberalism and technocracy are spreading the conviction that economic growth should be pursued even to the detriment of the state’s social responsibilities and civil society’s networks of solidarity, together with social rights and duties. It should be remembered that these rights and duties are fundamental for the full realization of other rights and duties, starting with those which are civil and political.
One of the social rights and duties most under threat today is the right to work. The reason for this is that labor and the rightful recognition of workers’ juridical status are increasingly undervalued, since economic development is thought to depend principally on completely free markets. Labor is thus regarded as a variable dependent on economic and financial mechanisms. In this regard, I would reaffirm that human dignity and economic, social and political factors, demand that we continue “to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.” If this ambitious goal is to be realized, one prior condition is a fresh outlook on work, based on ethical principles and spiritual values that reinforce the notion of work as a fundamental good for the individual, for the family, and for society. Corresponding to this good are a duty and a right that demand courageous new policies of universal employment.
[Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Day of Peace 2013]
Right to Work, as a political slogan in the United States, has a very different meaning. It is aimed at union-busting. Now it might be thought that unionization is a kind of class warfare, labor rising to confront management. But the union movement was a reaction to injustice—a failure of society to heed the higher message that is still being offered by the Church today.