June 20, 2024

Integrating Catholic Social Teaching in Maritime Leadership: Enhancing the Role of Per Diem Boat Captains


As part of my professional development, I am pursuing a dual master's program at the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. In December, I will graduate with an MBA and an MA in Philosophy. Situated in Bismarck, the University of Mary is a Benedictine university that emphasizes the integration of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) into […]


As part of my professional development, I am pursuing a dual master's program at the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. In December, I will graduate with an MBA and an MA in Philosophy. Situated in Bismarck, the University of Mary is a Benedictine university that emphasizes the integration of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) into our life and business practices. This essay explores how the principles of CST can enhance the roles and responsibilities of "per diem" boat captains, providing a framework that supports flourishing within both Catholic and secular contexts. By examining the intersections of CST and modern capitalist practices, we can identify opportunities to improve how we support each other's growth and success.

Labor is a term that might seem straightforward but warrants a deeper exploration. There is more to labor than just stacking bricks. For thoroughness in our discussion, let’s define “labor” as the exertion of physical or mental effort by an individual to produce goods or provide services in exchange for compensation. Whether it’s stacking bricks or piloting a boat, both activities fall squarely under this definition. Drawing on over three decades of hands-on experience, including my roles as a rescue boat captain and a tugboatman in New York Harbor, I can affirm the considerable physical and mental exertion involved in these professions.

Labor transcends mere economic activity; it is a deeply personal ambition that infuses individual lives with meaning and dignity. So the concept flourishes significantly. It extends from applying skills, knowledge, and effort to serving as a cornerstone for its members' societal and personal growth. Our work is more than just work; it is often our identity.

In Pope Saint John Paul II’s influential encyclical "Centesimus Annus," we encounter a profound analysis of economic systems, focusing particularly on the intersection of human dignity, rights, and labor. In "Centesimus Annus," St. John Paul II emphasizes that the true value of labor does not solely derive from the tasks performed but profoundly from the laborers themselves and their inherent right to fair compensation (John Paul II, 1991). This perspective necessitates a comprehensive approach, especially pertinent in modern employment practices such as freelancing and hiring vessel captains on per diem shifts, typical in sectors like mine.

The rise of freelancing and per diem employment reflects a flexible economic model that resonates with the capitalist principles famously advocated by Milton Friedman, who argued that a corporation’s primary duty is to maximize its profits (Friedman, 1970). This model enables businesses to maximize efficiency and swiftly adapt to market changes. For freelancers and per diem workers, such as vessel captains, the benefits include flexible work hours and potential for increased income, enhancing personal and economic well-being—often referred to by younger generations as a "side hustle."

Aligning with Catholic Social Teaching

However, aligning these employment models with the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching requires careful consideration. While the flexibility and economic opportunities afforded to freelancers and per diem workers are advantageous, it is crucial to ensure these practices also uphold justice and respect for worker dignity. Although freelancers benefit directly from their labor, reflecting the dignity of the human person, businesses must ensure fair compensation and respect for rights, embodying the principles of the Common Good and Solidarity (USCCB, n.d.).

Given the lack of security and benefits typically afforded to full-time employees, the employment of freelancers, including vessel captains, often leads to precarious work conditions. This raises significant concerns under CST, particularly concerning the dignity of the human person and the principle of solidarity. From a CST perspective, it is imperative for businesses employing freelance workers to view them not as expendable assets but as individuals with inherent rights and dignity.

This includes providing fair compensation, considering hazard pay where appropriate, ensuring access to safety training and emergency support, and embracing solidarity and the common good. It means extending beyond minimum legal requirements to create a supportive community that holistically includes freelance workers.

Balancing Capitalism and CST:

Combining flexible employment models with CST’s ethical imperatives illustrates that capitalism and moral responsibility can coexist harmoniously. This balance challenges businesses to focus on profit maximization and enhance the lives of their team members, contributing to a more equitable and humane economy. As St. Pope John Paul II suggested, while capitalism has spurred significant material growth, it requires a moral compass to ensure that this wealth positively impacts the entire human community, especially the most vulnerable (John Paul II, 1991).

Integrating flexible economic models within CST’s framework offers businesses a path to profitability while profoundly respecting and promoting human dignity. It is a call to action for business leaders to foster an environment where economic efficiency and ethical responsibility collaborate to pursue a just and flourishing society.

References:

Friedman, M. (1970). "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits." The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from NY Times

John Paul II. (1991). "Centesimus Annus." Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from Vatican

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). (n.d.). "Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching." USCCB. Retrieved from USCCB