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Catholic-Labor Network on DOD Regulations
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005
From: Sinclair Oubre sinclair@pernet.net 
      (The Apostleship of the Sea - Beaumont)

Dear Friends:

I WAS ABLE TO speak with Deborah Kleinberg of the Seafarers
International Union. She noted that there was great concern on this 
issue, and asked that the best assistance that can be done is to:

1. Go to http://www.uniteddodworkerscoalition.org for an outline of the 

2. You can find a sample letter to submit at: 

3. You can go directly to the National Security Personnel System web 
site to read the text: http://www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps/

4. You can submit comments electronically to: 

I realize that this is a last minute deal. However, we have seen tens of 
thousands of government employees lose their rights to collective 
bargaining over the last few years. These new regulations will have a 
significant impact on workers retaining their dignity and natural rights 
to associate.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Sinclair Oubre, J.C.L.
Web Master
March 16, 2005

Dear Sir or Madam:

I AM GREATLY concerned about the proposed regulatory changes embodied in 
the National Security Personnel System, and their effect on the rights 
of American workers to have a voice and input in their work.

In past years, our country has seen in great crises and threats to our 
security. During World War II, our country faced two war theaters. Yet, 
American union workers were not seen as impediments to our nations war 

During the 40 years of the cold war, both Republican and Democratic 
president's did not feel the need to strip civilian employees of their 
labor rights. This was a time when tremendous weapons of mass 
destruction were not just a potential, but were aimed at us from the old 
USSR and Eastern-Block countries.

Today, many of the 700,000 defense department workers who will be 
affected by the National Security Personnel System regulation changes 
are themselves veterans, and have heroically served in our armed forces. 
The implication in these new regulations are that present Department of 
Defense civilian employees will not respond to our nations needs in 
times of crisis in the manner. These are the children of parents and 
grandparents who were members of unions and served their country 
bravely. To feel the need for such sweeping regulations is an insult to 
their patriotism.

However, as a Catholic and one committed to the Catholic social gospel, 
I am tremendously disturbed by these regulations because they trounce 
the inherent human dignity that is given to each person by God and is 
proclaimed by my Church.

In 1986, the National Council of Catholic Bishops (now United States 
Conference of Catholic Bishops) issued a pastoral letter entitled: 
Economic Justice for All. In this document they stressed that any 
undermining of a worker's right to organize and participate in 
collective bargaining was an affront to his or her dignity. They wrote 
in paragraph 104:

"...No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human 
dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as 
those regrettably now seen in this country, to break existing unions and 
prevent workers from organizing . . . "

Many of the proposed regulations, while not stripping workers of their 
right to join unions, strip the unions of having any role in the work 
environment. I am left with the question, "What does it mean to have a 
right to join a union, if the union cannot participate in collective 
bargaining, and assist me in promoting the common good at my job?"

When the U.S. Bishops issued this pastoral letter, they did not pull it 
out of thin air, but followed a tradition that stretched back to Pope 
Leo XIII in 1891. In his encyclical Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo stressed 
that the State had an obligation to promote and protect human 
associations including worker associations. He wrote:

"Although private societies exist within the State and are, as it were, 
so many parts of it, still it is not within the authority of the State 
universally and per se to forbid them to exist as such. For man is 
permitted by a right of nature to form private societies; the State, on 
the other hand, has been instituted to protect and not to destroy 
natural right, and if it should forbid its citizens to enter into 
associations, it would clearly do something contradictory to itself 
because both the State itself and private associations are begotten of 
one and the same principle, namely, that men are by nature inclined to 
associate." (Paragraph 72)

More recently, Pope John Paul II has continued this tradition in his 
encyclical On Human Work in 1981:

" Importance of Unions: To secure these rights, the workers need the 
right to association in labor or trade unions. These organizations 
should reflect the particular character of each work or profession. In a 
sense these unions go back to the guilds of the Middle Ages, which 
organized people on the basis of their work. Modern unions differ from 
these guilds because they grew from the workers' struggles to protect 
their rights in their relation to the owners of the means of production.

"History teaches us that organizations of this type are an indispensable 
element in social life, especially in industrialized societies. This 
does not mean that only industrial workers can form these associations. 
Every profession can use them: agricultural workers, white-collar workers,
and employers. Catholic social teaching does not see unions as reflecting 
only a "class"' structure, and even less as engaged in a "class" struggle. 
They are indeed engaged in the struggle for social justice, but this is 
a struggle for the common good, and not against others. Its aim is social 
justice and not the elimination of opponents. Work unites people; its 
social power builds community.

Those who work and those who manage or own the means of production must 
in one way or another unite in this 'working' community. Even if people 
unite to secure their rights as workers, their unions remain constructive 
factors of social order and solidarity, impossible to overlook." 
(Paragraph 20)

Although human institutions are incomplete and in need of reform, the 
present regulations, by their ambiguity and lack of clear protection for 
the dignity of workers, by the protection of their right to association, 
raises tremendous concerns for me. It is truly a sad day in our country 
when in order to protect ourselves from those who wish to take away our 
freedom and inherent human dignity, we institute regulations that strip 
more than 700,000 of our fellow citizens of their natural right to 
associate because we cannot trust them sufficiently to serve their 
nation and promote the common good of their fellow citizens.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Sinclair Oubre, J.C.L.
The Catholic-Labor Network

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