Pope Francis – Labor is not a Commodity!

Pope Francis’ Union Message

Published July 8th, 2017 – 

Pope Francis delivered an address to the Confederation of Trade Unions in Italy (CISL), and his message is a compelling one.  It can be read in its entirety here.  For me, there were at least four important points.

  1. We should not think about labor without understanding, and having due regard for, the human being that labors.  Here, Francis is expressing three interconnected ideas.  The first is one of the central organizing principles of the labor movement: labor is not a commodity, and when it is treated as a commodity, enormous social harm follows.  The second, highly relevant as we think about the future of work and the potential for technological unemployment, is that human flourishing requires meaningful work. The third, though, also critical to our thinking about the future, is that work cannot entirely define human life, and “rest” is also critical.  The Pope put it this way…………….

2. Unions ought to embody the world they wish to create, and they ought to fight for a world that is different than the one we currently inhabit.  Francis calls this the prophetic role of unions.  In far more prosaic terms, we might understand it as a critique of business unionism.  In his words……………..


3. Unions must do more than defend their own members.  Indeed they must “innovate” – that’s Francis’ word – by reaching the unemployed and those that “do not yet have rights.”


4. Finally, and most broadly: “There is no good society without a good union, and there is no good union that is not reborn every day in the peripheries, that does not transform the discarded stones of the economy into its cornerstones.”

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Pope’s full speech here

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