Catholic-Labor Network on DOD Regulations
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005
From: Sinclair Oubre email@example.com
(The Apostleship of the Sea - Beaumont)
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
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Sinclair Oubre, J.C.L.
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
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."
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