Intersection of Life and Faith

Christians and Labor Unions

  • 2000 31 Aug
Christians and Labor Unions
Written by Bruce N. Cameron, J.D., of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation

The upcoming federal election raises questions in the minds of many Christians about how their faith requires them to respond. For Christian employees represented by labor unions the matter is much more difficult. Without any conscious choice on their part, they find their union dues are being used to support political candidates -- almost always Democrats.

For example, the largest labor union in the United States is the National Education Association (NEA). Many Christian teachers are strongly opposed to the policies of the NEA supporting: abortion on demand, special protections for homosexual teachers despite contrary state law, the distribution of information to young girls promoting lesbianism, counseling services provided to those children who are struggling with their sexual/gender orientation, stringent regulation of parents who home school, complete elimination of religious practices in public schools, teacher strikes, the elimination of involuntary AIDS/HIV testing of school employees, school-based family planning clinics, litigation designed to eliminate tuition tax credits or tuition vouchers for parents.

Other Christian employees find that their union dues are used to support the same kinds of activities, or that the union dues are used to support political candidates who support these ideas.

Some Christians go further and find the whole concept of supporting a union contrary to their understanding of New Testament teachings. Unions typically use strong tactics, often including violent strikes, to force employers to concede to their demands. Three of the giants of the New Testament, John the Baptist, Paul and Peter, cast serious doubt on whether a Christian should be a part of this kind of organization. John the Baptist, in Luke 3:14, counseled believers to be content with their wages. Paul, in Colossians 3:22-24, told believers to work for their master as if they were working for the Lord. Peter, in 1 Peter 2:18-24, counseled Christians to suffer indignity at the hands of masters rather than retaliate. A Christian who understands that working for the employer is like working for the Lord will view most union tactics with grave concern. Since believers are warned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 against being "yoked together" with those who do not accept Biblical teaching, many find it impossible to join or financially support a labor union.

If you are a Christian employee and you want to stand apart from the union or prevent the use of your dues to promote ideas and activities contrary to your Christian beliefs, the questions are many. What are my rights? How can I legally take a stand? Can I refuse letting the union use my money to support these activities and still protect my employment?

The short answer is that if you do it right, in all fifty states you can take a stand and keep your job.

The first step is to resign your union membership. Unions take the position that members "voluntarily" support their political choices. On the other hand, unions recognize that nonmembers who object to having their union fees go for politics have a clear legal right to keep the union from getting that money. All the nonmember employee has to do is write a simple letter to the union saying, "I object to the use of my union fees for politics. I do not want any of my money going to political or ideological activity. However, I understand that my fees can be used for collective bargaining activities." That is all it takes to stop the union from legally using your money for politics.

Christian employees who cannot, because of their sincere religious beliefs, pay any money to the union are entitled to ask the union to accommodate their beliefs by allowing all their union fees to be paid to charity. This requires a more detailed letter to the union outlining the nature of the employee's religious beliefs.

Finally, many employees are not required to pay any money to the union once they resign their membership. In the 21 Right to Work states, all employees (except in the Railway and Airline industry) are entitled to resign from the union and pay nothing. In all 50 states, employees are allowed to resign and pay nothing unless their employer has entered into a contract with the union requiring all employees to join the union or pay nonmember union fees. Only if such a contract exists is the employee required to pay any fees.

Obviously not all the answers can be found here. Detailed information on the rights of employees to stop their union money from going for politics can be found at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation website.