In order to
form a more perfect union
By Becky Walters
prayed for His disciples of the first century that they
would be in the world but not of it. Pursuing that distinction
raises complex issues for Christians in today’s workplace,
especially when a labor union is involved and it supports
agendas conflicting with the faith of employees.
In recent years,
after several cases have captured national headlines, more
workers are opting to redirect their union dues to charities.
Others are choosing to support unions and work to make changes
Ohio school psychologist
Kathleen Klamut, who initially joined a union as an intern,
decided a decade ago that being a member of the National
Education Association would conflict with her religious
reading a union publication and came across this article,
‘Why the NEA must be pro-choice,’ ” Klamut
told PE Report. “I decided I would never let them
have my money again.”
agreed she didn’t have to be a member, but said Klamut
would still have to pay dues for collective bargaining.
The evangelical Christian objected again. “I don’t
want the union to get one penny,” she says. “I
felt such a conviction about it.”
Because of a
provision in the Civil Rights Act, it’s usually a
simple process for workers with religious objections to
have dues diverted to a charity, according to Dan Cronin,
director of legal information for the nonprofit National
Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
pretty simple to wrap up,” he says. “We just
tell people what their rights are, tell them which forms
to fill out. Then we wait for the reaction.”
as with Klamut’s case, things get complicated.
the time union officials know to back off, but sometimes
they want to play tough and we’re willing to do that
too,” Cronin says, referring to filing charges with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
by NRTW lawyers, won a nearly two-year battle with the Ohio
Education Association, an affiliate of the NEA, earlier
this year. She has filed requests to redirect dues in two
Ohio school districts, Louisville and Ravenna. Throughout
both battles, she says, neither union officials nor representatives
contested the statement that the NEA supports abortion.
After union officials
complied with the latest request, Klamut says, her annual
dues of $600 support the American Cancer Society.
surrounding this and other cases, Cronin says, has helped
inform Christian workers of their rights. The Springfield,
Va.-based NRTW receives 100 calls a year on this issue.
The workers Cronin
hears from are mostly concerned about unions supporting
abortion on demand and special rights for homosexuals. Those
issues, he says, conflict with the faith of many people.
“It’s not just people of one particular faith
that we’re getting calls from,” he says.
should know that the law is on their side, he says.
never lost a case like this,” Cronin says. “As
more people have the courage to come forward, they will
have their rights respected.”
Chaplain G. Michael
Collingsworth, a Ford Motor Company employee and Assemblies
of God minister, has chosen to share his faith inside the
United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement
Workers of America. From his perspective as international
chairman of the UAW chaplaincy program, he sees Christians
making an impact on their locals.
been a chaplain since 1989 and we’ve made great strides,
but it’s been 14 years of hard work,” Collingsworth
At his local
in Lima, Ohio, meetings have been moved from Sunday to Thursday
and are now opened with prayer, which has brought changes
in the language and atmosphere, Collingsworth says. Over
the years he’s heard many Christian workers ask whether
they can belong to a union and still be a Christian.
people you give two hours of pay a month to have representation,”
he says. Paying dues also allows Christians the opportunity
to help shape unions and determine where funds are allocated.
“We should have those rights,” Collingsworth
says. “And it’s a Christian’s responsibility
meetings is an important starting point, Collingsworth suggests.
should be involved in unions so they can have an impact,”
he says. “If your money is going somewhere, you need
to find out where it’s going. Then you’ll find
out if changes need to be made and get in there and help
make the decisions about where the money is going and on
the methods, Christians are challenging rules that conflict
with faith in the workplace. The EEOC reports that 2,572
religion-based discrimination charges were received last
year, up from 1,388 a decade earlier. It’s no surprise
that controversies with unions are part of the numbers,
going to have people in jobs that require union membership,
eventually the union will end up taking positions that are
in conflict with members’ views,” says Michael
Palmer, professor of philosophy at Evangel University in
But whether Christians
decide to express their faith in or outside a union is a
tactical question, he says, not a philosophical issue.
people will take different stands,” Palmer says. “You
can have two people who are equally committed Christians
and see the situation from two different angles.”
and the worker’s background often impact the stand,
he says. “People of honest, sincere faith will disagree
on these things. I think this really is a matter of moral
For Klamut, that
means withholding funds from a union she sees promoting
believe in living your convictions,” she says. “If
enough Christians would refuse to give their money to support
those causes, it would make a difference.”
it’s impacting the decision-making of a union, which
he stresses won’t be easy or quick.
be overnight; there will be battles,” he says. “But
when you stand fast in the faith, as the Word says, and
press on toward the mark — and I’m not talking
about standing up and preaching to them, just live the life
— you will see changes.”