Pope Francis: Corporate Dehumanizing Causing Worker Death and Injury

Never one to pull his punches when supporting workers and opposing capitalist greed, Pope Francis I blames deaths and injuries on the job on corporate dehumanization of workers.

The pope told the Italian Association of Injured Workers those “tragedies begin when the goal is no longer man, but productivity, and a man becomes a production machine.” 

“Thank you for keeping a focus on the issue of safety in the workplace, where too many deaths and injuries still happen,” the pontiff began on Sept. 12, after eulogizing five Italian railroad workers killed in job accidents the week before. 

“This happens when work becomes dehumanized, instead of being the tool that lets human beings reach their fulfillment within the community. It becomes an exhausting race for profit.”

The Argentinian-born pope’s speech, posted on YouTube by RomeReports.com, is in line with Francis’s prior denunciations, during his decade in the Vatican, of corporate and capitalist degradation of workers. He’s called capitalism “an economic system that continues to discard lives in the name of money.”

The official Vatican News Agency later added more of his text. “Good and enforced legislation” protecting workers is important, too, Francis said. But corporate attitudes override it, he warned.

"One cannot, in the name of greater profit demand too many working hours, decreasing concentration, or think of counting insurance or security demands as unnecessary expenses and loss of earnings.

“Safety at work is an employer's first duty," Francis said. He criticized times “when entrepreneurs or legislators, instead of investing in safety, prefer to wash their consciences with some charity work."

Francis’s record as archbishop of Buenos Aires oscillated concerning the left-leaning Kirchner government, with a split on abortion the turning point, the Associated Press reported  this year. The right there now hates him, too, and he’s been advised not to visit his native land because doing so would draw him into its political turmoil.

Francis’s outspoken support of workers and unions is also in line with 130 years of Catholic social teaching, which heavily favors the need for unions to protect workers, enhance their living standards and as a counterweight to corporate exploitation. 

And in a prior more-obvious gesture of support, Francis met months ago, as part of a general audience, with Teamsters President Sean O’Brien, as the union’s ultimately successful campaign for a good collective bargaining agreement with United Parcel Service was revving up. 

Francis’s stands on workers’ rights and other issues anger a significant segment of higher Catholic clergy—bishops, archbishops and cardinals—in the United States, almost all named by Francis’s two predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Leading Catholic laity, including right-wing U.S. lawmakers and university and health care administrators, disregard or defy Francis’s statements on social justice, especially worker justice. 

University presidents, to give one example, won a case before the majority right-wing of the U.S. Supreme Court that lets them unilaterally fire professors who disagree with what the administrators say is church dogma. And Chicago’s Catholic-run Resurrection Health Care system often broke labor law in its successful effort to bar AFSCME’s campaign to unionize its workers.

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