"We cannot write off whole groups of people because part of their agenda is not in line with Catholic teaching," he said. "Rather, we are called to engage these groups, be active in the organizations, and like in the past, direct these organizations in ways that respect God's truth."
The record of Catholic social teaching also backs labor and the right of workers to organize, Oubre said.
In the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII recognized that economic changes introduced new relationships between those who had wealth and those who did not.
"As cities grew, and manufacturing and industry developed, the relationship of responsibility that has existed in the past between the landowner and the peasant no longer existed," Oubre explained.
"Pope Leo XIII recognized the natural right of people to associate with each other, whether these were religious associations or work guilds, he endorsed the importance of collective bargaining to promote the common good, and recognized the unequal contractual relationship between the worker and the employer."
The labor market meant that workers were negotiating not only with an employer, but competing against all the other workers seeking the same job. Leo XIII said these pressures to accept employment at ever-lowering wages could lead workers "to agree to employment terms that did not supply the basic needs for a dignified family life."
The labor-focused traditions of Catholic social teaching have continued especially through the work of Popes Pius XI, John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.
The Second Vatican Council's apostolic constitution Gaudium et Spes names the right to found unions for working people as "among the basic rights of the human person." These unions "should be able truly to represent them and to contribute to the organizing of economic life in the right way." These rights include the freedom to take part in union activity "without risk of reprisal."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' 1986 pastoral letter "Economic Justice for All" also addresses the place of labor in Catholic thought and action.
In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME struck down a 1997 Illinois law that required non-union public employees to pay fees to public sector unions for collective bargaining.
A U.S. bishops' conference spokesperson said the decision threatened to mandate a "Right-to-Work" environment in government employment in a way that undermines the ability of workers to organize.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Oubre said Catholic union backers object to such a legal principle "because it works against the principle of solidarity and the right of association."
"'Right to Work' laws have their primary intention of weakening the organizing power of unions, and allow people to receive the benefit the union, without taking on the responsibility of being part of the union," he said.
In Oubre's view, a union-friendly legal environment is critical.
"One can pass laws that promote workers ability to organize together, or to discourage it," he said.
He noted the proposals for a "card check" unionization effort, in which an employer must recognize a union if a majority of workers express a desire for a union using signed cards.
Obure said this effort now faces legal obstacles and simply "begins a long process where union avoidance experts are brought in, one-on-one meetings take place with workers, sometimes the leaders are fired, and every effort is made to dishearten the workers."