Labor Unionism and the Rejection of Christian Values

Labor Unionism and the Rejection

of Christian Values

Years ago May Day (May 1) was a time when labor unions displayed their strength.  With the rise of the Soviet Union and their decision to accept May 1 as part of their celebrations, American devotion to May Day waned.  Labor unions want to revive May Day again. They hope for massive demonstrations and a show of solidarity.

One report says: “May Day protests may disrupt the morning commute in major U.S. cities Tuesday as labor, immigration and Occupy activists rally support on the international workers’ holiday” ( /_news/2012/04/30/ 11475277-occupy-may -day-protests-could -block-roads-shut -down-ferry- service?lite/).

The same report speaks of disruptions in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, and New York.  Leaders seek “creative disruptions against the corporations who rule our city.” They want protestors to block bridges in Manhattan. This is just a sampling of the public disturbances that union members seek to do.  When membership was much higher, strikes could paralyze a company or a city. Extensive violence could be perpetrated.

While we cannot deny that certain financial and working benefits were achieved by labor unions over the years (including the 8-hour day, pensions, job security, etc.), the Christian doesn’t make his decisions based on what pragmatically works, but on what is ethical, moral, and Scriptural.

Over the years, union membership has dramatically decreased.  One source says:

The changing conditions of the 1980s and 1990s undermined the position of organized labor, which now represented a shrinking share of the work force. While more than one-third of employed people belonged to unions in 1945, union membership fell to 24.1 percent of the U.S. work force in 1979 and to 13.9 percent in 1998. (economics.about. com/od/laborinamerica/a/union_


Another report speaks of union membership in the United States declining while membership in certain other countries remains somewhat high:

In 2010, the percentage of workers belonging to a union in the United States (or total labor union “density”) was 11.4%, compared to 18.6% in Germany, 27.5% in Canada, and 70% in Finland.[1] Union membership in the private sector has fallen under 7% [2] — levels not seen since 1932. Unions and many observers allege that employer-incited opposition has contributed to this decline in membership. The most prominent unions are among public sector employees such as teachers and police. Members of unions are more likely than non-members to be older, male and live in states such as New York, Hawaii, Michigan, Alaska, New Jersey, and Washington. Union workers average 10-30% higher pay than non-union in America after controlling for individual, job, and labor market characteristics.[3] (en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Labor_ unions_in_the _United_States).

We do not intend to analyze labor unions in a detailed way in this brief article; it is far beyond the scope of our intention and ability just now.  We simply note that union membership in America has fallen to only 11% after it was much higher in past generations.

As followers of the Lord Jesus, we assume that membership in labor unions would be wrong and sinful for various reasons. Consider a few of them.

First, the Christian refuses to be united with unbelievers in such a close relationship as unionism requires.  Paul urges believers, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Labor Unions

Second, unionism demands that the “rights” of the worker be honored.  The roles are actually reversed from what God would want.  Paul speaks of the slave-master relationship: “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:5-6; cf. vv. 7-8; Colossians 3:22-24; 1 Peter 2:18-20). The Christian is willing to submit to his employer—even “unreasonable” ones (1 Peter 2:18)—instead of the employee requiring the employer to submit to his (the worker’s) demands.

Third, much that the labor union does is dependent on force and even violence.  The union seeks to force the employer to give certain wages or provide certain benefits.  This is coercion, something that reveals a rebellious and insubordinate attitude.  Think of the extreme rebelliousness that picketing a company reveals! This becomes extreme when pickets refuse legitimate workers to gain access to the company and continue working! The Christian is to have all respect (1 Peter 2:18), is to be “well-pleasing, not argumentative” and submissive “in everything” (Titus 2:9-10). This definitely doesn’t describe union tactics!

Labor unions

Fourth, the members of labor unions threaten to strike against a given company. This reveals a rebellious, disobedient, and insubmissive attitude.  Generally, this is the extent to which the labor union will go and it can have devastating effects on the continuance of certain companies. In extreme cases, it can put a company out of business. Currently, employees of our local American Airlines and Lockheed Martin are rebelling against their employers. Would striking reveal a submissive, yielding, and nonresistant attitude? The Christian’s submissiveness to masters (or employers) is intended to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Titus 2:10).

Fifth, unionism is fed with the sin of greed.  Covetousness means “to want more” and it militates against the virtue of contentment.  Labor unions manifest greed and stimulate it.  Paul commands, “. . . Greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3b). He goes on to say that we know “with certainty” that the “covetous” [greedy] man, “who is an idolater,” has no “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (v. 5). He then says, “. . . Because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (v. 6; Colossians 3:5-7).  Whether it be promoting higher wages, longer vacations, higher pensions, or more benefits, we see greed as the motivation.

Labor unions

Sixth, labor unionism feeds a corrupt and evil system.  Many stories could be told of how the union leadership has been involved in wicked tactics, secret deals, and perverse dealings with others.  Paul declares, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).  When a member pays his “union dues,” he is helping to support and promote this kind of evil system.

Seventh, some justify membership in labor unions on the basis of the “good” that they claim to do for the workers.  This is an argument based on pragmatism.  Supposedly, because it “works,” this would justify involvement and support in the union’s tactics. The Christian doesn’t look at issues in this way. He asks whether something is right and does it—regardless of whether it has a desired effect.  We are never justified in doing wrong with the purpose of having a good outcome.  Paul was wrongly accused of teaching, “Let us do evil that good may come.” He responded, “Their condemnation is just!” (Romans 3:8). Those who would espouse this kind of pragmatic argument must be condemned since there is no consideration on what pleases God—but only on what appears to have a good effect.

Eighth, it may be that labor unionism is guilty of dishonesty.  I wonder how often union leaders reveal to prospective employees that they are not required to sign up for union membership?  Hopefully, this is openly revealed consistently, but I fear that it isn’t. In reality, the government has ruled that if one has Christian convictions against membership, he or she cannot be required to join the union.

Labor unions

Ninth, being a union member requires one to support a system that violates a wide range of evil attitudes and practices and the deeds of the flesh that will keep one from the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).  Paul instructs us, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Would you say that unionism is “true” and “honorable”?  Is it “right” or “pure”?  Is it really “lovely” or of “good repute”?

Tenth, unionism involves many of the “deeds of the flesh” that keep one from the kingdom of God.  Think of idolatry, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, disputes, and dissensions (Galatians 5:19-21).  Think of greed, evil, envy, strife, deceit, malice, gossiping, slandering, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, lack of love, and other sins (Romans 1:29-32). The Christian will want to run from all involvement in sins like this!

These are a few of the reasons that would cause the follower of Jesus Christ to refuse membership in a labor union.  Perhaps you can think of other reasons.  This is one reason why we rejoice that membership has dropped to only 11% of the workforce.  Sadly, one of the sources we noted earlier says that police officers and teachers are leading union members in the public sector of employment.

When I was a young wage earner, I worked at a textile plant as a cutter.  Things went well for a year or two—and then certain employee agitators instigated an effort to bring in a labor union. In time, the employees voted on whether they wanted or didn’t want to be represented by a union. The majority voted for membership.  When I revealed that I couldn’t join a union, I was given 30 days to comply. When I continued to refuse to join, I lost my job.  (At that time, I didn’t know that “Christian” convictions would have allowed me to refuse membership.) I learned first-hand the evils of this system as well as the need to take a stand even when it will cost one financially.  Jesus tells us that we must take up our cross in order to follow Him as a true disciples (Mark 8:34).

Will you take a stand on this matter of labor unions?  Will you choose to follow Jesus even when it may require hardship and suffering?  This is a sign of being a true disciple of the Lord.

[You may wish to check out the “war” category in the Biblical Subjects section of this website.  Some of the articles there are relevant to the present issue of unionism.]

Richard Hollerman







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