Monday Morning Theological Poll: Latter Labor Day Edition

Theologically speaking, what approach should Latter-day Saints take to unions?

Justify your answer below, you pinko!


  1. I remember the first time I read Malachi 3:5 and was shocked the company of those who underpay. I’m the CFO for a 60 store QSR franchisee in the south. Most people know what they’re worth. I’m also shocked how many people just want to make 10/hr and they’ll always be loyal. If you underpay you get disgruntled employees and turnover. Even if you don’t think it’s the right thing morally, it’s the right business decision.

  2. sidebottom says:

    So my only choices are shades of black and white? I’m sympathetic to the right of workers to bargain for better wages, but also recognize that police unions quite literally allow their members to get away with murder. Can we have a “by their fruits ye shall know them” option?

  3. What??! Pinko yourself! :P Actually I can provide no scriptural back-up to my point of view, but to me it makes sense. I’m Utah born and bred and unions have never had a place in at least Salt Lake City, that I know of. The only knowledge I have of unions is what I’ve heard, which is probably highly biased one way or the other. There are good points (workers have better rights, can file complaints against unsavory employers and get a timely hearing, are protected from hostile work environments and seedy bosses and supervisors. On the downside (to me anyway), the union itself can become all the bad things about work places and they charge a person for the privilege of belonging. Businesses have the benefit of turning away workers that aren’t in the union too. So one is forced to belong or be unemployed. Myself? I’m a woman and in Utah anyway, that means lower wages based on my gender, the assumption (false) that all I want(ed) was to get married and have children and stay home, and perhaps a union could have circumvented some of that. But the attendant crime associated with most unions (by report anyway, told you I don’t know for a fact) makes the idea a bad one.

  4. Sorry. Got caught up there. I never answered your question. Theologically speaking, what approach should Latter-day Saints take to unions? Pray about it of course. Listen for the answer, which in time the Lord will provide. That’s what we should do about any knotty problem.

  5. Did Lucifer organize a union based on collective salvation rights?

  6. You’ve got stumped on this one. I can’t pick from any of the options. I don’t even know what option should be added to the poll, so I could pick one.

  7. I get that this feature is and has been a bit tongue in cheek, but religiously speaking, an employer is required to pay a fair wage and in all circumstances pay why he or she promised (that may or may not be a “living wage”; not every worker is supporting a family or even him or herself). An employee is required to put in an honest day’s work, not steal from an employer (including time theft) and do what he or she promised to do. Beyond that, it’s all political.

  8. Marilyn Barney says:

    We should thank unions for giving us a 40-hour work week as well as safer working conditions. My dad was an AFL-CIO/IAM member so I grew up in a union household. My parents weren’t LDS, but I converted at age 20.

  9. johnCISApedo says:

    Surely the post author has forgotten about the story Jesus told about paying people the same regardless of how many hours they worked, and those who worked harder being upset…

    If ‘that isn’t a bosses perogative, I don’t know what is…

    The communist response would be killing Jesus and dividing the money bag to all of the people who are too lazy to work.

    The choice in 2020 is obvious, Trump or socialism.

    And a vote for socialism is a victory for Satan.

  10. nobody, really says:

    This is a freakishly easy question. Matthew 20 starts with the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Each worker negotiates a wage from the boss. Each worker sells a day of labor for a price. At the end of the day, some workers while and bellyache because “it’s not fair”, even though they got paid exactly what they agreed to be paid at the start of their shift.

    Every day that I show up for work, I once again agree to sell my labor for a pre-determined wage. If I don’t like it, I can find another job. Can’t live on what I earn? Find a second job, get some training, start a (non-MLM) business, hit up family.

  11. Malcom Gladwell has a super interesting podcast series that attemps to use Jesuit logic for just this kind of question. (
    He argues that instead of just arguing about the principle that we should descend into the particulars of the case and compare to standard cases to judge the right choice for new situations.

    Standard case #1
    To me Christ’s response about taxes applies to this situation. Matthew 22:21 –

    or the interesting summary from Wikipedia.

    Taxes to a state and paying dues to a union are similar. The state in return for tax and loyalty protects the citizens from external threats through military action and negotiation with other states.
    The state improves day to day life by enforcing laws and providing public services. A union also helps protect workers from exploitation by employers and it helps enforce safety and working conditions, and helps to increase pay and improve working conditions for employees.

    Standard case #2
    A secret combination that grew to be a robber government/army that destroyed Nephite society in the Book of Mormon. They protected members from prosecution and presumably members had to share the profits from their wrongdoing in exchange.

    Unions at times can act like a criminal organization that protects members from prosecution or from losing their jobs when they have behaved badly. They sometimes have secret agreements and sometimes have graft and bribes to reach their ends.

    The particulars of the case:
    I would argue that there is nothing wrong with joining a union to negotiate for better working conditions, but if the union starts to act like a criminal organization, then a member should not remain in the union.

  12. Theologically speaking, one can use scriptures to justify just about anything they want. Everyone seems to think they have the one right way to interpret the scriptures. I’m going to make popcorn to eat as I read the comments.

    I’m not sure I even understand half the answers, so not going to vote, I think. Well, I often think that at first and then change my mind.

  13. UshallBcot says:

    Without question: “If you are not one, you are not mine: collective bargaining is endorsed”! Thereby, I could take all my concerns to my employers and my fellow employees and together we could work things out; not only that, but I learned how to treat others with respect and dignity as I did it. If I didn’t think I received respect and dignity in return, I (we) could go for a rinse and repeat and perhaps learn something I (we) didn’t realize, or they could. Thirty-five years of professional experience serving my employer and me and my fellow employees as a union representative as well as doing the employer’s work the very best I knew how.

  14. This is a political poll, not a theological poll. So often the two are conflated. We should love one another, but until we learn to do that… we seek power to bleed it out of each other a little… or a lot. I didn’t play this time.

  15. It’s amazing to me that so many have become brainwashed to the labor union propaganda!

    I guess all that the third world countries in poverty need to get weekends off is a bunch of labor unions? (and if that’s all they need why do we send foreign aid? Shouldn’t labor unions do the trick?)

    Or how about the 99% of human history in which more than 99% of the population was desperately poor; those societies just needed some labor unions?

    Until society grows wealthy enough, all the labor unions in the world can’t make it possible to take two days a week off from work.

    With little capital, and with most goods produced by hand, it takes all the labor power all the hours it can spare just to make life barely livable.

    Something did bring you the weekend, but it sure as heck wasn’t labor unions. The same goes for better working conditions and shorter hours.

    What was it? The very capitalism the pro-union propagandists despise.

  16. Lona,
    Everything is political.

    Mark L,
    You are eliding quite a bit of history in your analysis.

    John and nobody,
    There is quite a bit of difference between the reality and the allegorical in that parable. If the workers are at fault it was because the boss was already being generous.

  17. I answered the question as it was written: what approach “should” we take. (The approach we should take is “if you are not one, you are not mine: collective bargaining is endorsed”).

    I would have answered very differently had the question asked what the predominant LDS approach actually is (see many of the anti-union comments above).

  18. I grew up in a union home, and have been a management representative in CBA negotiations. So I have seen from both sides the truth of D&C 121:39–bosses can be irredeemably greedy jerks (my paraphrase). I didn’t vote, but the first option is the closest to what I think.

  19. Mark L, it is amazing to me how little some people on here know about the history of unions and how denialist they about their historical effects. Overall throughout the world, the average workweek hours have declined dramatically due to consciousness that labor unions in the now developed world created about working conditions. Unions didn’t achieve immediate success in the US, but their plight caught the attention of journalists and politicians because of strikes, protests, and even riots. So much so that US presidents (both Republicans and Democrats) implemented changes. The US and Western Europe became the examples that much of the less developed world sought to follow and consequently now most individuals in the less developed world works fewer hours for comparatively more pay and enjoy more leisure time than they used to. Of course, conditions in the less developed world are not as good as they are in the developed world, but by many metrics, they are much better than they used to be.

    And no, unions don’t inherently despise capitalism, nor are they inherently proponents of socialism and communism. The US has a long union tradition that was historically influential on the most powerful of leaders. The US never became a socialist country. It became, instead, more of a mixed economy, as did Western European countries. Regulated capitalism with moderate social spending is what has flourished in most of the developed world. And the unions have a heck of a lot to do with this.

    Trade unions have arguably made conditions better for workers in the less developed world as well.

    Lastly, you seem unaware of an irony about unions: they’re representative of the very values that capitalists claim to champion; namely, private action. You strike me as someone who is either a libertarian or partial to it. If you don’t identify as a libertarian, then you still strike me as someone who nonetheless strongly supports free markets and wants less government regulation of them. Well, you should be championing unions then. Historically they had nothing to do with the government, and in fact were strongly against big governments acting in the interests of big business. They were nothing more than a group of people organizing laborers on their own accord to negotiate managements for better working conditions and better pay, which they were far less likely to achieve individually. A good number of unionists in the 1800s and even today were anarchists and were more closely aligned with libertarians than not. They were against big government, which they saw as responsible for their plight.

  20. I don’t know why my other comment isn’t showing. I think the answer is that it depends on the union and the situation. I don’t see any revelation in ancient or modern times that directly answers whether it is right or wrong to join or form a union. Most responses seem to be triggered by response to socialism and not directly the question.

  21. Brian G,
    Lots of links will get you put in moderation (to keep out spammers). I’ve freed your comment. Thank you for letting me know.

  22. I have been thinking more about @nobodyreally’s use of Matthew 20, which may have partially triggered my first comment. I’m sure @nobodyreally’s interpretation seems reasonable to some.

    I do not interpret Mathew 20 to be about fair labor practices. In fact, it starts out, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who…” (NIV) indicates to me that the metaphor is about the kingdom of heaven, and not about labor.

    More specifically, I think the passage is about grace.

    “13 But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’”

    16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

    To use this as an argument for capitalism and free markets, on the basis that the different groups made different agreements, seems to me to be a proof-text; I see no contextual basis for it. I think the metaphor is used specifically because it makes the landowner look unfair and capricious, giving an equal portion of his pay (grace) to everyone, regardless of when they joined the workforce. Jesus is saying that God is NOT like a good business man who holds back as much as the market allows. And those who joined earliest and work the most receive the same grace as those who joined last, not because it was the market demanded it, but because God’s grace is a gift to all, not compensation for services rendered.


    I claim no special knowledge or insight on the scriptures. Perhaps @nobodyreally’s interpretation is as valid as mine. My preference is to not use the scriptures or theology to decide this kind of thing: it’s too easy to misinterpret. Rather, People should use their own moral compass. It is everyone’s responsibility to form a society that is a fair and moral as possible. I don’t think scriptures dictate precisely how this should be done.

    Free-riders are a problem. So is corporate greed and corruption. Wealth inequality is a huge issue right now, and getting worse.

    Collective bargaining is one tool in our bag to solve some of these problems. Market incentives and capitalism are another tool. Meanwhile regulation protects our markets from abuse. I don’t really see why they can’t all coexist.

  23. GEOFF -AUS says:

    I was a little disapointed that there is not a linear correlation between the proportion of the population in a union, and the distribution of wealth. But there is a general relationship.
    So America has 13% union membership, and 45% of wealth held by top 1%.
    Northern European countries have 60 to 70% union membership and 15 to 20% of wealth by top 1%.
    As a church we claim to believe in a zion society, which to me means that is a political ideal. And yet so many US members would immediately describe any attempt to move toward it as scialism. Can you believe in a zion society and yet politically vote for the opposite, a society where there is most inequality, and increasing, and largest proportion of poverty in OECD.
    Unions would help a little, but with only 13% membership limited potential.
    There seems to be a mistaken belief among conservative Americans that having more super rich people is good for the country. That some how the wealth trickles down to the common folk.
    At the bottom of the second article I show it has individual wealth by country. Americas median wealth is about $60,000, Canada and northern Europe $100,000, and Australia close to $200,000.
    So I don’t think unionising the country, but it might be a canary in a coal mine. High union membership indicates community common good for society. Union membership in America peaked at 28% in 1954 and is now 13% , inequalty has increased markedly in this time too.
    America is the least zion like society in the OECD, and members continually vote to make it less zion like. To me this is a big problem. Honesty?

  24. Folks, the trolls done found us again. To watch the “Korihor” answer climb from the bottom to the top with a ton of new votes is a tad suspicious.

  25. I agree with Rockwell’s comments above. The question and poll itself is actually quite silly and only serves to invite controversy, or perhaps rigorous intellectual debate (you decide). The scriptures, all of them, can be interpreted and twisted to mean almost anything, or absolutely nothing. Mormons have perfected the art of proof texting. Actually, most all Christians proof text the Bible. There is no theological answer to the original question, just a mountain of opinion. So, follow these steps: 1.) Determine your position on Unions; then, 2.) Use the Bible to defend your position.

  26. Perhaps this question might elicit a more gospel-supported answer if we think about the reason behind unions rather than the mechanism of a union itself. I think that it is fair to say that unions exist because of the substantial discrepancy between the bargaining power of the laborer and the that of a large employer. They also exist because many modern labor practices–particularly the use of machines or technology to assist or replace workers–serve to increase the fungibility of laborers, which both dehumanizes labor and increases the bargaining power of the employer.

    When considered from that perspective, I think there is then an obvious next question: is the gospel supportive of large discrepancies in power between individuals? Well, Ephesians 6:5 says, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ”. [Note that “servants” is rendered as “slaves” in other translations.] But Colossians 4:1 says, “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven”. Neither scripture opines on the moral justification for slavery or imagines a world in which there are no discrepancies in power. In fact, it is quite the opposite: every biblical reference I could find (and there are many) implore each side to be good to the other, but does not suggest that such discrepancies in power ought not to exist.

    However, it is entirely possible that the absence of such ideas is primarily a function of a lack of imagination on the part of the various scriptural authors, an assumption that large differences in power will always exist. Both in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon, the visitation of Christ is followed by a time when the people have all things in common (Acts 2:44 and 4 Nephi 1:3). It seems a reasonable assumption that the lack of disparity in income or power among the people of Nephi contributed to that being a time where “surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” Joseph Smith clearly envisioned a utopian existence in which all people were economic equals. Those examples seem to suggest genuine value, if perhaps not practical durability, in the elimination of power and economic discrepancies.

    All of that said, I find the way in which Christ interacted with others to be most instructive. He consistently reached out to those without power and lifted them up. He was unfailingly generous and encouraged people to leave behind the corrupting influences of power and wealth. The parable of the merciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) is especially relevant. In that case, the two scenarios presented are both of a person with (relative) power/wealth either treating the person without power/wealth well or poorly.

    If unions exist to help keep the power and relative wealth-keeping of employers in check and create a world in which the outputs of labor are fairly shared with those who labor, then it seems that those goals are well-aligned with the what Jesus was doing–treating all people with fairness and generosity.

  27. And then there’s the seemingly anti-capitalist D&C 49:20: “But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.”

  28. I was indifferent to unions until I became a teacher and saw how poorly teachers in my district are treated by the administration. I joined the union mainly to make it harder for the admin to fire me for not doing things they never trained me how to do.

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