Will You Do Something?
Ste„—Mr. Willoughby-Meade, in your issue of June 4, has opened up a subject which, now that it is permitted to talk " brass tacks," is of vital importance, and demands an immediate and practical solution. We have surely endured long enough the spate of theory which rightly assures us that the worker is entitled in justice to a wage sufficient to keep in frugal comfort himself, his wife, and a family. IL is about time that some effort was made to enable Catholic employers to fulfil this first and most essential duty in justice. Pius XI. writing on the subject of wages, says: " unless serious attempts be made, with all energy and without delay, to put them (i,e., Catholic social principles) into practice, let nobody persuade himself that public order and the peace and tranquillity of human society can be effectively defended against the forces of revolution." " Serious attempts," " all energy," " without
delay "! Catholic employers — those words are meant for you above all others.
We cannot look to Rome for an infal lible utterance in terms of s. d. as to what, as a matter of fact, constitutes a just family wage. " That is something for experts, economists, etc., to decide." Well, why don't they'? Why don't our Catholic experts, economists, sociologists, business men get together and give us some niinimum figure to work upon? It oughtn't to be too difficult for them to do that. Naturally it would be only an approximate figure, but it would serve as a guide for the individual Catholic employer, and possibly would open the eyes of some to their more flagrant acts of injustice. ' Or must we wail until big business and international linence have been converted to the sanity and safety of Catholic social teaching?
It is but natural to expect that Catholic business firms, and especially those whose names are most familiar to us because of their advertisements in the Catholic Press, should furnish us with examples of Catholic social teaching in action. Apart from anything else, it mould relieve those who are endeavouring to popularise that teaching from the thankless, and often futile, task of finding thin, if charitable, excuses to cover the obvious failures on the part of Catholics to put it into practice. It may be that for the most part these firms are paying their employes wages which are family wages; if so, then let us broad
cast the good news. Unfortunately, the only case I have investigated revealed a rate of wages which made marriage an impossibility. I may be asked: " What. can we do'?" I would answer : " Do what Leo X111 suggested over forty years ago. Form a guild of employers and employees." So far as I am aware we have failed to pro duce a guild of precisely that kind. Yet it has the approval and recommendation of Pius XI: " Such a bond of union is provided both by the production of goods or the rendering of services in which employers and employees of one and the same vocational group collaborate." And again: " Those who are engaged in the same trade or prolession will form equally voluntary associations among themselves,"
I would, therefore, suggest the formation, under legitimate authority, of a Catholic business firms' guild, of employers and employees, with the object of promoting fair conditions of work, a just " marriageable " wage, and, if possible, some system of profit-sharing. Of the latter, employers ought to be reminded of the words of His Holiness Pope Pius XI: " In the present state of human society We deem it advisable that the wage-contract should, when possible, be modified somewhat by a contract of partnership, as is already being tried in various ways to the no small gain both of the wage-earner and of the employers. in this way wage-earners and other employees participate in the ownership or the management, or in some way share in the profits."
I would also suggest that membership of such a guild be open to shareholders. The reason for the suggestion may be gathered from the following question and answer in a little book, entitled, A Catechism of Catholic Social Principles. written by James P. Kerr, LL.D., which has the e Imprimi potest " of the Archbishop of Dublin. The question is: " Ought a shareholder inquire into the methods employed by the board of directors in providing a dividend?" The answer is "Clearly a shareholder partakes in a material fashion in the gains of an industrial concern. If these gains are ill-gotten by the invasion of any natural rights of the workers, the shareholder undoubtedly partakes in the ill-gotten gains." He may do so through ignorance which may amount to innocence. He may do so through ignorance by refusing to make enquiry. Most shareholders appear content to leave everything to the directors, But it is clear. from the fact that the directors are only the agents of the shareholders, that there is a vinculum CrinlinIS (a chain of wrongdoing) proceeding from any injustice done to the workers to the ultimate receipt of the dividend by the shareholders. There may not be knowledge, but there is participation on the part of the :shareholders, which suggests a duty of precaution to see as far as they can that the dividend has not an unjust origin. Hence it would be well if shareholders took measures to ensure themselves that their dividends were not tainted with the injustice " which cries to heaven for vengeance." To neglect or refuse to make enquiries is too great a risk, and no shareholder is justified in taking it. Shareholders in Catholic business firms ought to have at least the opportunity of making such enquiries.
Catholic business firms--Will You do something?
.1. S. McVey. Our Lady and St. Hubert, Great Harwood.