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Ending 2022 with Wins for Workers

The year 2022 has ended with some important wins for workers. Last week we noted in this space how, after years of effort, domestic workers in the US capital won a bill of rights in a unanimous vote by the DC City Council. This week we mark three more important developments over the Christmas season.

The Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act passed! All year Catholic Labor Network members and friends have been emailing their Senators or meeting with their legislative aides urging the Senate to pass this bill. The bill, supported by labor, women’s groups, and the USCCB, requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant women in the workplace. At the last minute, Senators adopted the legislation as part of the Omnibus spending passage and voted it into law!

Maryland Public Defenders won their union. Maryland’s public defenders and their support staff have been struggling with overwhelming caseloads. Unable to provide indigent defendants the legal counsel they deserved, they turned to the Maryland legislature and asked for the right to organize so they could bargain over this. The Catholic Labor Network and an array of civil rights groups supported their request with legislative testimony, and enabling legislation passed in Spring 2022. In a late November mail ballot, the employees voted overwhelmingly for union representation. The defenders and their staff are now represented by AFSCME Local 423, the Maryland Defenders’ Union.

Chateau Marmont workers won their first contract. For years, workers at the legendary Hollywood celebrity haunt had complained of poor treatment by ill-mannered guests and exploitative management. Last December the Catholic Labor Network co-hosted a listening session at nearby Blessed Sacrament parish, where the workers – some of them parishioners – told their story to Los Angeles faith leaders. The workers organized a boycott and in the course of the year won union representation with UNITE HERE Local 11. Now they have ratified a first union contract that includes a 25% wage increase, a pension fund, protections and free legal services for immigrants, and recognition of Juneteenth as a paid holiday, among other benefits.

Congratulations to the workers of the Chateau Marmont, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, and pregnant workers everywhere in the United States!

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