SHARED VALUES: A Report on AFL-CIO and Catholic Conference Activity in the State Legislatures

The Catholic Church and the U.S. labor movement share similar positions in several major policy areas, with each supporting a living wage for all who work, the right to organize in labor unions, and the protection of immigrants – even those who are undocumented. So we in the Catholic Labor Network wondered: how often do the two groups work on the same issues?

To find out, we partnered with Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor to study the issue. The state AFL-CIO labor federations represent the labor movement in the state legislatures, while the state Catholic Conferences do so for the Church. Last summer, after most of the states had completed their 2017 legislative sessions, we surveyed state AFL-CIO presidents and Catholic Conference executive directors. Each was presented with a list of immigration and worker justice issue areas and asked whether they had worked on legislation in this area during the 2017 session.

We had a strong response, with 33% of the Catholic Conference directors and 29% of the state AFL-CIO presidents returning completed surveys. Both groups were strongly engaged in defending immigrants and immigrant workers. Fully 62% of the AFL-CIO presidents reported work on such an issue during the 2017 session, and 57% of the Catholic Conference Directors.

As one would expect, a state AFL-CIO works on many worker justice issues each legislative session. But the Catholic Conferences also reported significant activity: 64% of the Catholic Conference respondents reported working on legislation in one or more of the nine worker justice issue areas on the survey. While 85% of the AFL-CIO respondents worked on minimum wage legislation in 2017, 36% of the Catholic Conference respondents also indicated they had. And both groups seem equally invested in family and medical leave — 46% of AFL-CIO presidents reported work on this in 2017, and 43% of the Catholic Conference directors.

The report points toward greater possibilities for Church-labor collaboration at the state level on the basis of shared values in the arena of social justice. CLICK HERE to view or download Shared Values: A Report on AFL-CIO and Catholic Conference Activity in the State Legislatures.

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