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Pope Francis: Let Workers Organize

The Pope and President Biden both addressed the International Labor Organization's conference

Brian Young's picture
Jun 18, 2021

The leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is lending his voice to supporting the right of workers to organize.

In a video message to the International Labor Organization (ILO) conference, the Pope said efforts to rebuild economies after COVID-19 setbacks must aim at a future with “decent and dignified working conditions,” originating in collective bargaining. He called the “right to organize in unions” one of the fundamental protections for workers. He also criticized countries for excluding many migrants and vulnerable workers from national health plans. During the pandemic, “this exclusion complicates early detection, testing, diagnosis, contact tracing and seeking medical care for COVID-19 for refugees and migrants, and thus increases the risk of outbreaks in these populations,” Francis said.

Pope Francis also used his address to call on more protections for women in the workforce, especially ones who work in the “underground” economy in jobs such as domestic workers or as street vendors. “Therefore, it must be ensured that social assistance reaches the hidden economy and pays special attention to the particular needs of women and girls,″ Francis said.

He specifically mentioned the need for more childcare services since many of these women must decide between bringing their children to work or leaving them home unattended if they can’t afford childcare. Childcare issues have been one of the top reasons that women in the United States have listed as a reason why they have not returned to work this year.

President Biden also sent a video message into the conference, which was put on by the ILO, which a century-old United Nations Agency that promotes labor standards across the globe. In his remarks Biden called for empowering workers, raising wages, standing up for union rights, and holding those accountable who subject people to forced or child labor.

Biden is now the third U.S. President to speak at the yearly conference that brings together unions, employers, and governments to develop and adopt international labor standards.

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