The Church and Ethics in Construction
“History attests what excellent results were effected by the artificer’s guilds of a former day. They were means not only of many advantages to the workmen, but in no small degree to the advancement of art, as numerous monuments remain to prove. Such associations should be adapted to the requirements of the age in which we live… It is gratifying to know that there are actually in existence not a few societies of this nature, consisting either of workmen alone, or of workmen and employers together; but it were greatly to be desired that they should multiply and become more effective.” Leo XII, Rerum Novarum
Unions in the Building Trades hold a unique position in American labor, fulfilling the vision of Catholic social teaching in a special way. More than any other labor organizations in our nation they have conserved the excellence of the “artificer’s guilds” that Leo so greatly admired and from whose roots these unions sprung. In those places in our nation where labor unions have flourished in construction, they have guaranteed to working men and women in the trades not only a fair wage but have contributed “in no small way” to the advancement of their “art.” In jointly administered Apprenticeship programs and other skill and training initiatives, union workers in every construction trade come together with their employers to improve the quality of work in their craft.
In several Dioceses across the nation the Church has recognized this fact and implemented policies favoring the employment of union building contractors employing union construction labor when building or renovating church buildings, schools, and other Diocesan properties. Like the workers’ associations themselves it is greatly desired that these should multiply and be made more effective! Links to some of these model policies may be found below.
- Archdiocese of Milwaukee – Procedures for Major Renovations and/or Building Construction Projects & Procedures for Catholic Institutions for Selecting Vendors – 2004
- Diocese of Youngstown – A Model Policy: Diocesan Union Labor Contract Policy for Renovations and New Construction – 1997
- Archdiocese of Baltimore – Guidelines for When Selecitng Constractors for Construction or Remodeling – 1993
- Archdiocese of Milwaukee – Guidelines for Catholic Institutions in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Concerning Labor and Employment Relations with Employees – 1993
- Archdiocese of Boston – Policy Concerning Construciton/Maintenance/Renovationof Archdiocesan/Parish Properties – 1986
- Building Projects and Religious Values: Ethical Questions for Congregatons to Ask Building Contractors; – National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice
- Slide Presentation on following Catholic Social Justice Principle in Church Construction from the
Diocese of Owensboro