Loyola University Chicago President Responds to Just Employment Task Force

How should we implement our Catholic faith in our employment practices? It’s a challenge faced by all of us – especially those administering Catholic institutions. In early 2017 Loyola University Chicago created a Just Employment Task Force to consider this question, evaluating Loyola’s personnel policies in light of Catholic social teaching and offering recommendations to bring them into alignment. The Task Force submitted its report to President Jo Ann Rooney in June, who published a response on Sept. 21.

On the positive side, the university will be exploring the task force’s proposal to adopt a living wage policy. From the time of Leo XIII’s Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum, Catholic Social Teaching has expressly enjoined employers to pay a wage sufficient “to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner,” even if the labor market permits them to get away with offering less – indeed, if they pay less they make the wage earner “the victim of force and injustice [45].” A few other Catholic Colleges and Universities, such as Georgetown, have done the hard work of trying to determine a “living wage” in their communities and have insisted that not only university departments but also university contractors (such as those providing cleaning and food services pay a living wage. A living wage policy at Loyola would be an impressive expression of Loyola’s Catholic identity.

Unfortunately, President Rooney dismissed the task force’s proposal to set up an advisory committee that would monitor university contractors and contracting practices – the very mechanism that makes the program work effectively at Georgetown. And the report’s language about employee unions and collective bargaining was vague at best during a time when Loyola is arguing that adjunct faculty who have voted to form a union don’t merit protection under the National Labor Relations Act. (The report was crystal clear about students who do paid work for the university, who have also voted for union representation – it said they are “not employees” and not to be afforded living wage protections.)

Georgetown University’s extensive Just Employment Policy did not appear at once in its entirety; it was the result of more than a decade of action and reflection by students, workers, faculty, and administrators. The Catholic Labor Network will keep you posted as this process moves forward at Loyola University Chicago as well.

Shop Talk

Working Catholic
by Bill Droel

Lousy writing is intentional, insists George Orwell (1903-1950). Shoddy writers may not be aware of their bad intentions. But our writing “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish,” he continues. And “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

I was a teacher at a community college for nearly 33 years. I tried to help students be better writers by presenting Orwell’s virtues and vices of writing. I would then ask students to correct phrases and sentences contained in memos from administrators. I did not save those memos for a subsequent semester. Plenty of new ones regularly arrived in my faculty mailbox.

Here are some tips. Keep in mind that we write poorly because at some level we don’t want to communicate. Though also keep in mind that acquiring a discipline for clear writing improves our virtues and decreases our vices.
Be concise. It comes from self-confidence and its regular use will increase confidence. Conversely, verbosity is related to insecurity. One discipline for conciseness is to chop off all false limbs like to the effect that or in order that or to serve the purpose of.
Eliminate jargon. In a medical setting, for example, get rid of all the buzz words and most of the acronyms. Jargon is pretentious. Simple nouns and verbs are related to humility and the desire to connect.
Avoid clichés. The virtue here is originality or creativity. The vice is laziness.
There is a sports program on cable TV during which the hosts replay an interview with an athlete beside their “cliché counter.” The other evening a baseball player used 11 clichés within 65 seconds.
A terrific example comes from the 1980’s movie Bull Durham. “It’s time to work on your interviews,” says veteran player Crash Davis to the younger Nuke LaLoosh. “You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: We gotta play it one day at a time.”
Got to play… it’s pretty boring,” says Nuke. “Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down,” commands Davis.
One more tip for now: Use the active voice. This is the virtue of responsibility. The passive voice betrays a writer’s cowardice. For example, a workplace memo says: “It has been decided…” In other words, the memo writer wants to hide responsibility for the decision.

What pertains to writing is also true of speaking. Jeff Haden, author of The Motivation Myth (Penguin, 2018), keeps a list of executive nonsense phrases. For example, his boss constantly used the phrase “You need to square the circle.” Haden did not alter his behavior because he didn’t “know what this is supposed to mean.” The boss, we can assume, didn’t either. Thus both the employee and the boss stuck to behavior as usual.
Also on Haden’s list: “We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift.” To Haden this means: We “have no idea what the hell is going on.” I recently participated in a church meeting where the chairperson said: “It is of paramount importance that a significant step in contextualized hermeneutic be taken.” I got up for more coffee.
“We need to focus on adding value,” is another on Haden’s list. This too means nothing. If anything at the company is not adding value, a deep question arises: Why the hell are we doing it?
One more example of nonsense: “It is what it is.” To Haden this means “I’m too lazy to make it different.”

The point here is not simply to bash administrators or the boss. All of us can improve writing and speaking. We thereby improve our character and—believe it or not—make our company, our college, our hospital, our community group and even our sports team more efficient. Responsible workers grow in an environment of clear writing and clear speaking. Good use of language reinforces clear thinking which informs efficient behavior.

Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a newsletter on faith and work.

World Series

The Working Catholic
by Bill Droel

Back in March 2017 I picked the Dodgers in our usually friendly betting pool. I have admired the team, dating from the era that Roger Kahn describes in The Boys of Summer (Harper Collins, 1971). I wasn’t around to experience the debut of Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) in April 1947. In time, however, I followed Robinson and his teammates. (Full disclosure: the Dodgers were never my absolute favorite team, nor are they now.)

42, Brian Helgeland’s inspiring 2013 movie about Robinson and the Dodger’s president and general manager Branch Rickey (1881-1965) downplays the role of Christian faith in the integration of Major League Baseball. That’s the opinion of Eric Metaxas, the author of Martin Luther (Penguin, 2017) and other biographies. It is also the opinion of Carl Erskine, a Dodger right-hander from 1948 to 1959.
42 Faith: the Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story by Ed Henry (Thomas Nelson, 2017) brings Robinson’s and Rickey’s Christian faith to the center of the drama. Both men were evangelicals who prayed the Scripture. Both men kept holy the Lord’s Day; Rickey by not working on Sunday, first as a player and then as an executive. And, both men took Christianity beyond the strictly private realm and applied their faith to their workday lives.
Henry writes about each man’s doubts. Would Robinson hit and field at the major league level? Would the Dodger players and staff unify behind him? Would Robinson stay calm in the face of taunting? Would the owners of other teams tolerate integration? At a moment of serious doubt, Henry reveals, Rickey drew upon his faith. All the preliminaries for signing Robinson were accomplished, Henry continues. Just then, Rickey had an anguished “dark night of the soul.” His reading of Scripture did not calm him. And so, he walked a short distance from his office to Plymouth Church. There with visible hesitation he “sought spiritual guidance” with Rev. L Wendell Fifield (1891-1964). Rickey, as history knows, then decided to act.

Don’t get the wrong impression. Yes, Christianity was a major motive behind the integration of baseball, as it was during the subsequent Civil Rights era. But keep in mind that everyone does everything for mixed motives. Robinson wanted to further his athletic achievements and he wanted to use baseball as a means to financially support a family. In principle Rickey favored integration but he also wanted to make money by fielding a winning team.
Jimmy Breslin (1928-2017) features faith in his biography Branch Rickey (Penguin, 2011). But faith had to mix with money to make the April 1947 breakthrough possible. In 1943 the Dodgers were $800,000 in debt to Brooklyn Trust Bank. Rickey needed more money to scout colleges and minor leagues for prospects, including blacks. So Rickey, an evangelical political conservative, went to the bank to meet its president George McLaughlin, a Catholic political liberal. Neither man was into moralizing or into converting individuals. So Rickey consciously avoided the morality of integration at the bank meeting. He simply said the scouting would include black players. “What McLaughlin believes doesn’t matter,” Rickey felt. “How he behaves is what counts.”
Here is the liberal bank executive’s interesting reply to Rickey: “If you want to do this to get a beat on the other teams and make some money, let’s do it. But if you want to do this for some social change, forget it.” Both the bank executive and the baseball executive were men of faith and both believed that Christianity compelled racial inclusion. But both men were realists who knew that a black (eventually Robinson) was not being scouted to preach integration. He was paid to play baseball excellently and in the process to offer an example to bigots.

It is wrong to say that baseball would not have integrated without the faith of Robinson and Rickey. This notion does not fully appreciate mixed motives. Other executives and players would have integrated the sport. In fact, Bill Veeck (1914-1986), who became a Catholic, was prepared to have black players on the Philadelphia Phillies in 1943—four years ahead of the Dodgers. Owners of other teams blocked Veeck at the time. In July 1947, less than four months after Robinson’s debut, Veeck signed Larry Doby (1923-2003) and thereby integrated his Cleveland Indians.
The faith of Doby, Veeck, Robinson and Rickey, as prudently applied in their workaday settings, is still instructive these weeks and months as professional sports and our entire culture grapple with race relations.

Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629).

Siena College Adjuncts Have First Contract; Boston College TAs Say Union Yes

Good news from New York’s Siena College! Adjunct faculty at the Catholic College near Albany voted for representation by the SEIU two years ago – and have reached their first contract. Both sides pronounced themselves satisfied with the outcome. The secret of their success? Negotiating in a spirit of charity and mutual respect.  As the Times-Union reported…

“Siena College and the union’s bargaining committees worked together diligently and in good faith to come to a fair and equitable resolution,” said Siena President Edward Coughlin. “I’m pleased that the new contracts have been ratified, and that we can continue the new academic year with this matter resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.”

Meanwhile, in Boston College, graduate teaching and research assistants voted 270-224 in mid-September to join the UAW (which represents TAs and RAs on some other campuses in the Northeast).  The Catholic Labor Network hopes that BC will follow Siena’s lead, and bargain with the student employees in the spirit of Catholic Social Teaching.

Queen of the Valley Hospital (Napa, CA) refuses to recognize employees’ union vote

In late 2016, health techs and other employees at Queen of the Valley Hospital voted 60%-40% to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Hospital administrators, however, don’t want to recognize or bargain with the NUHW. Having lost the mail ballot election, they are demanding a rerun held in person at the worksite. The union has filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge, and the National Labor Relations Board has upheld the union’s position. Simple fairness dictates so: the losing side doesn’t get to keep running elections until they get the outcome they want!

Catholic social teaching requires employers to honor the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, but Queen of the Valley continues to pursue ever-more remote legal appeals. More than 100 US Catholic hospitals model Catholic social teaching by recognizing and bargaining with the unions their employees have chosen.  In fact, the California Nurses Association represents nurses at Queen of the Valley! It’s time for the hospital to extend the same respect to their other employees as well.

CLICK HERE to review the NLRB proceedings in the case to date.

UNITE HERE, Teamsters Fight for Immigrant Members

The situation for immigrants in the United States continues to grow bleaker. The president has ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; the administration is targeting cities whose police don’t want to serve as adjunct Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers; legislative proposals call for reducing legal immigration.

Our nation’s labor unions represent millions of immigrant workers, including some who are undocumented, and are moving forward to defend these brothers and sisters. Bloomberg News reports how the hotel workers’ union (UNITE HERE) is making it a key contract demand in negotiations with employers.

UNITE HERE says curbing collaboration with ICE will be a priority in bargaining for the 270,000 hotel, casino, and food-service workers it represents, almost half of whose contracts expire within the next year.  “We know the companies that we have relationships with are going to comply with the law,” says D. Taylor, the union’s international president. “We just don’t want them to do anything that makes it easier for ICE to come in and just take people away.”

New York’s Teamsters, meanwhile, are raising the cause of a long-time member, Eber Garcia Vasquez, who was deported to Guatemala after 26 years in the country. George Miranda, President of Teamsters’ Joint Council 17, explained to In These Times that they have become a “Sanctuary Union.”

Immigrants’ rights and labor rights are explicitly tied together. You can’t have one without the other. If you lose on one issue, whether it is immigrants or labor, you lose the other. It is obvious that we are tied together, and there is no way that we could say that we are not a union of immigrants… we have decided to be a sanctuary union, meaning that we protect our members. They are working, they are earning their living, they are supporting their families, and they are not doing anything that is criminal or whatever. We are not going to cooperate with the immigration service whatsoever in going after our members.

Scripture tells us, “You shall not oppress a resident alien (Ex 23:9).” The Catholic Labor Network salutes the Teamsters, UNITE HERE, and the many other unions that have stepped up to defend the rights of immigrants.

EPA Union Chief (and Catholic Labor Network VP) Speaks out on Climate Change

O’Grady cites Laudato Si in campaign to “Save the EPA”

The Environmental Protection Agency, established in 1970, is 47 years old – but will it make 50? Those of us old enough to remember smog-choked American cities and shocking environmental lead levels of the 70s recoil at the idea of an America without an EPA. Those coming of age in the 21st century, facing the risk of catastrophic climate change for themselves and their children, have even more to fear. Yet the new administration has withdrawn from the Paris Climate accords and proposed cutting the EPA budget by one third.

John O’Grady, President of the AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees) National Council representing EPA employees, has linked arms with the nation’s major environmental groups to lead a campaign to Save the EPA. O’Grady, who studies theology at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union and serves as Vice President of the Catholic Labor Network, is inspired by Catholic thought on labor – and the environment, drawing special inspiration from Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on the Environment, Laudato Si. To learn more, read O’Grady’s blog post “Addressing Climate Change without the EPA,” on the Center for Concern website.

Theology of Work

Working Catholic
by Bill Droel

Death is the penalty we pay for Eve and Adam’s disobedience. How do we know? Because that is what our religion teacher said. Also, it is mentioned now and then in sermons. It is, however, fake news. Take a look at Genesis 3:4. Who explains things to Eve? It is the Prince of Lies who links mortality with Eden’s special fruit tree. In Genesis 2:18 God names a relationship between the fruit tree and death, but God never promises immortality to the residents of Paradise/Eden. This whole business about the fruit tree, by the way, is something Eve heard about second-hand.

Well then, work is the penalty for Eve and Adam’s disobedience. Again, fake news. Look at Genesis 2:15. Adam is already working, even before the snake incident. And after that episode, in Genesis 3:21, God too is working; this time as a clothier.
Admittedly there is a strong note in Catholic tradition that regards work as a penance for original sin or maybe a necessary evil or possibly a negative prod to make people pray and obey. During the Middle Ages some monks gave work a positive spin, but only as a backdrop to contemplation and other prayer. And Martin Luther (1483-1546) certainly knocked against the idea that ordinary work is beneath those so-called higher-ups, those round-the-clock spiritual types. Yet with some exceptions, work was not regarded as integral to the spiritual life, at least until recent times.

Not to overlook the French worker-priest movement and the writing of Fr. Marie Dominique Chenu, OP (1895-1990), it can be said that a decisive turn toward a Catholic theology of work took place in Poland. It was Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski (1901-1981) who heaved aside erroneous interpretations of Genesis. “God set Adam and Eve down in paradise and commanded them to dress it and to keep it,” he writes in a pastoral 1946 book, Duch Pracy Ludzkiej. “Work is therefore the duty of people from the first day of life. It is not the result of original sin. It is not a punishment for disobedience.”
In hundreds of talks and sermons, in poems and in his writings, most thoroughly in his 1981 On Human Work, Saint John Paul II (1920-2005) develops “a spirituality of work” which he considers normative; its basics “should be a heritage shared by all.” It is through work, John Paul II says, that we are co-creators with God, participating in God’s plan for a renewed world, a new Eden. Further, says John Paul II, our work is participation in Christ’s on-going redemption. This elevation of human work is not heresy, unless you are willing to say that our faithfully departed pontiff is a fake saint.

Just at a time a theology of work enters the Catholic mainstream, some people are echoing the Prince of Lies: Work only brings death. Today, asserts James Livingston in No More Work (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), “most of our labor has…little, diminishing or no value in the labor market.” Work does not contribute to “self-respect, self-discovery and social mobility,” Livingston continues. So, knock off the romanticism, take off the rosy glasses, and put away any spiritual spin. “Work means economic impoverishment not moral possibility.”
Well yes, romanticism has to go. After their disobedience Adam and Eve were told that work is entangled with toil. The Pharaoh’s hardness of heart caused work to be miserable for his slaves. So too, disregard for the innate dignity of each worker infects some companies today. Those formerly enslaved in Egypt wandered in a desert without meaning. They lost their solidarity; their connections. So too, many workers now ask: “Is God is in our midst or not?”

Yet work, with all the blemishes of sin, is good and in itself capable of contributing to the spiritual life. Thanks to some well-grounded thinkers, a Catholic theology has been sketched. It remains for more theologians in dialogue with loads of workers (executives, janitors, lab technicians, civic leaders, retail clerks, food processors, homemakers, solar panel installers, computer scientists, engineers, students and more) to flesh out a full pastoral theology that pertains to what 99% of Catholics do most of the time. Without a theology for and by workers, Christianity—hate to say it—is more fake news.

Droel is the editor of John Paul II’s Gospel of Work (National Center for the Laity, PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629; $5)

US Bishops: “Something is terribly wrong with how we value the work of a person”

Unions called to prophetic role

The Catholic Church has a rich tradition of social doctrine on labor and work, a history of papal encyclicals, pastoral letters and other teaching documents affirming a worker’s right to a living, family-supporting wage, working conditions that respect human dignity, and the right to form trade unions. As part of this tradition, each year the Chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development issues a Labor Day statement on behalf of the bishops, reflecting on worker justice and the signs of the times.

This year Bishop Dewane of Venice, Florida, begins by observing that “This Labor Day, we find ourselves at a time of kairos, a moment of crisis as well as opportunity.” The bishop notes that technological advance and economic growth seems to be growing hand in hand with economic inequality.

Study after study shows that the economy is growing and unemployment is declining—but wages remain stagnant or are decreasing for the vast majority of people, while a smaller percentage collect the new wealth being generated… Leaders in business and government must revisit, therefore, the Church’s moral framework on balancing the legitimate role of profit in a business and the moral obligations to pay a just wage… When a parent—working full time, or even working multiple jobs beyond standard working hours—cannot bring his or her family out of poverty, something is terribly wrong with how we value the work of a person.

Unions have an important part to play in this enterprise as well. Reflecting on Pope Francis’ much-reported remarks to Italian trade unionists this June, he said that unions were called to be prophets and innovators.

The Pope laid out two “epochal challenges” that unions must face in the world today.  First, he explained that unions must retain and recover their prophetic voice… The union is “born and reborn” whenever it “gives a voice to those who have none, denounces those who would ‘sell the needy for a pair of sandals’ (cf. Amos 2:6), unmasks the powerful who trample the rights of the most vulnerable workers, defends the cause of the foreigner, the least, the discarded… The second challenge is “innovation”:  although the union must watch over those within its care, it must also work for those outside its walls in order to innovate and protect those “who do not yet have rights.”   Unions are especially valuable when they speak on behalf of the poor, the immigrant, and the person returning from prison.

We in the Catholic Labor Network pray that all of us in the labor movement take up these “epochal challenges” named by the Holy Father – and that all Christians join in the effort to reduce economic inequality and ensure jobs at just wages for all.

CLICK HERE to read the bishops’ 2017 Labor Day Statement in its entirety.

St. Louis University, two NYC Catholic high schools join list of Catholic institutions with union employees

Catholic institutions, such as hospitals, schools and social service providers, employ approximately 1 million American workers. This year a few Catholic colleges (such as Duquesne, Manhattan, St Xavier University and Seattle) continued to draw attention through determined efforts to deny their adjunct faculty the right to form a union. Fortunately, this handful of colleges represent the exception, not the rule. More than five hundred Catholic institutions around the nation exemplify Catholic Social Teaching in their employment practices by bargaining with unions representing their employees.

The Catholic Labor Network celebrates these institutions in its annual Gaudium et Spes report listing these institutions by state and Diocese. In it you will find more than 300 Catholic K-12 schools, 150 Catholic hospitals and nursing homes, more than 30 Catholic colleges Read more