JustFaith Catholic Program offered Online

9 Weeks on Zoom

Starting Monday, Oct. 10, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Central

What tools does my Catholic faith tradition have to offer as we address poverty and struggle for the rights of workers? Faith and Poverty: A Biblical Response explores God’s call to respond to poverty in our local communities, equipping participants to take action in effective and sustainable ways. The program helps people to engage more deeply with Catholic social teaching and to engage in grounding spiritual practices A 9 week small group program will start on zoom on Oct. 10 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. For more information go to https://justfaith.org/faith-and-poverty-a-biblical-response-jfc/, To register go to https://justfaith.org/faith-and-poverty-a-biblical-response-st-louis-fall-2022-small-group-catholic/.

Big Wins for California Workers

Chateau Marmont workers get union; Farm workers get vote by mail

Recent weeks have witnessed some big wins for California workers! Employees of Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont hotel have secured union membership, while farm workers won the right to vote by mail in union certification elections.

Workers at the Chateau Marmont, famous as a hideaway for Hollywood celebrities, had been seeking to join UNITE HERE Local 11 (the Los Angeles area hotel workers’ union) for years. In a blistering 2020 story, The Hollywood Reporter painted a picture of a toxic work environment in which ill-mannered guests harassed and abused staff, and management treated workers with disrespect. As workers began to organize they encountered mass layoffs attributed to the pandemic. This led to a boycott of the hotel. In December 2021, workers told their story to area faith leaders in a “listening session” hosted by the Catholic Labor Network and LA CLUE at nearby Blessed Sacrament Parish.

On August 25, the union reported:

We are thrilled to announce that UNITE HERE Local 11 and the Chateau Marmont have agreed upon a fair process that determines whether a majority of workers in certain classifications have chosen the union as their representative. A few days ago, after a neutral arbitrator validated the results, the Chateau Marmont promptly recognized UNITE HERE Local 11. All prior disputes have been laid to rest. Both UNITE HERE Local 11 and the Chateau Marmont are pleased with this new relationship. Our bargaining committee will soon commence negotiations for our first contract.

Meanwhile, for years the United Farm Workers have pressed for reforms of union election procedures under California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act. (While most private-sector workers won the right to organize in 1935 under the National Labor Relations Act, farm workers were excluded from NLRA jurisdiction. California is one of the few states that has passed legislation giving farm workers the express right to organize in unions and bargain collectively.) Under the existing law, farm workers were obliged to vote for or against union representation in-person on the grower’s property – conditions ripe for intimidation.

The United Farm Workers called for allowing farm workers to vote by mail in union elections. Last year Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have permitted this. He threatened to take similar action this year, leading the union to organize a farm worker march from Delano to Sacramento under the blazing August sun. The marchers received extensive support from both the California Federation of Labor and the California Catholic Conference, and the Catholic Labor Network organized its Golden State members to write Governor Newsom in support of the bill. In late September, Newsom relented and agreed to sign the bill.

Congratulations to both the Chateau Marmont workers and to California’s farm workers on their hard-fought victories!

Archdiocese of Washington Hiring

One of our CLN members, Lisa Calla-Russ of the Archdiocese of Washington, has alerted us that the Archdiocese of Washington is hiring for several positions, some of them related to social concerns – such as Director of Family Life and Program Director for Campus and Young Adult Ministry. CLICK HERE to check out the opportunities at the Archdiocese of Washington.

Airport Workers Rally in Northern Virginia

Most of the workers that keep an airport running – from cabin cleaners, to wheelchair attendants, to food service workers – are employed by contractors, not the airport itself. In the absence of clear and fair labor standards in contract solicitations, vendors slash worker wages and benefits to the bone to submit the lowest bid.

That’s why dozens of airport workers rallied in late September at Washington DC’s National Airport (actually located in Arlington, Virginia). They were calling on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which also operates Dulles International Airport, to incorporate fair labor standards in their contracts.

At National and Dulles Airports, UNITE HERE represents most food service workers while the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) represents cabin cleaners, security guards, wheelchair attendants and other support personnel. Most of these contractors fail to provide paid sick days or offer affordable family health care coverage to their employees. The two unions came together to organize the rally, held during an MWAA board meeting.

The Catholic Labor Network has heard testimony from SEIU Local 32BJ members concerning the lack of paid sick days, and is supporting the workers’ demands from the MWAA board.

Nurses at Austin’s Seton Medical Center Vote Union

This month nurses at Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas voted by a landslide to join National Nurses United (NNU), making Seton the first Catholic hospital in Texas with a union. With 72% in favor of the union, NNU will now represent some 800 nurses at the hospital, part of the Ascension Health chain, a network of Catholic healthcare providers. The two sides must now sit down to bargain a contract.

“This victory is just the beginning,” said Geovana Hill, a registered nurse in the renal unit. “As nurses, we always have and always will stand committed to providing the highest quality of care to our patients. We are looking forward to bargaining for a fair contract to improve patient safety, as well as competitive wages to keep Austin nurses working here in our community. We are more than ready to win a strong first contract, which will help with nursing staff retention.”

Catholic Social Teaching holds that while unions have an important role in securing just wages and benefits for workers, they can do much more. Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Rerum Novarum, hoped that unions – like the medieval guilds – would serve to uphold quality standards in the workplace. This is nowhere more evident than in health care. Nursing unions frequently find themselves at loggerheads with managers over staffing levels, with the nurses speaking in support of better patient care facing off with administrators aiming to cut labor costs.

The Catholic Labor Network will monitor bargaining. We pray that both sides enter contract negotiations in good faith and that they settle on a just first contract without undue delay.

DC Domestic Workers Call for Bill of Rights

Domestic workers are falling through the gaps in our labor and employment laws. That’s why the Catholic Labor Network recently joined dozens of nannies, housekeepers and home-based health care workers from the District and beyond, visiting DC Council members and urging them to support a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.

Back in the 1930s, when our country passed the National Labor Relations Act (giving workers the right to organize in labor unions) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (setting the federal minimum wage), domestic workers – who were primarily women of color – were excluded from coverage. This exclusion set a pattern, and domestic workers have been excluded from much labor and employment legislation since that time. Consequently, domestic workers have organized in many cities and states to seek remedial legislation.

In Washington DC that legislation takes the form of the Domestic Worker Employment Rights Amendment Act of 2022. The Act would amend the DC Human Rights Act, which protects workers from discrimination and sexual harassment, to include domestic workers. It would also extend the protection of Washington DC’s occupational safety and health law to cover domestic workers, and guarantee these workers a written contract of their terms of employment, which should reduce the frequency of wage theft in this sector.

All work has dignity, whether performed in an office, factory or someone’s home. The Catholic Labor Network has marched alongside the domestic workers throughout 2022. In February, the Catholic Labor Network hosted a “listening session” for faith-based activists in the District of Columbia, where domestic worker Antonia Surco related her experience as a domestic worker. In June, the Catholic Labor Network joined the domestic workers and other faith leaders offering testimony in support of the Act during its hearings in the Labor Committee.

The bill has been assigned to three committees for markup before it is eligible for a vote by the Council.

Ultium Workers Vote to Strike for Recognition

A Guest Contribution from CLN Member Pamela Keresztesy

Ultium Cells, LLC, a battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio, is a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions. The plant mass produces batteries to support GM’s electrical vehicle assembly and for other industries including aerospace, marine, heavy trucking, and rail.

During the construction process, GM had no issues with intended unionization by the United Auto Workers (UAW) and stated it respects workers’ rights to organize and that the UAW was “well-positioned to represent the workforce.”

Now, in 2022, Ultium Cells has not recognized the UAW as the bargaining entity for the workers. Union officials claim 85% of the employees have signed union authorization cards. That is more than enough cards for Ultium Cells to voluntarily recognize the union.

The UAW held a vote to authorize a strike for recognition on September 9, 2022, and claims 94% of the workers have voted to strike for recognition. Although the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) allows voluntary recognition if 50% of workers sign union authorization cards, Ultium Cells wants an election conducted by the NLRB.

County Workers Seek Union Rights

CLN Testifies in Support

The right of workers to form unions and bargain collectively is one of the first principles of modern Catholic Social Teaching. Pope Leo XIII first enunciated this right in his 1891 Encyclical Rerum Novarum, and Pope Benedict XIV reaffirmed this teaching in Caritas in Veritate, arguing that “the repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum [60], for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must be honoured today even more than in the past.” Neither Leo nor Benedict distinguished between public and private employees in their exercise of this right.

That’s why the Catholic Labor Network was pleased to support the workers of Prince William County, Virginia, who are seeking union rights.

The Prince William County workers are part of a wave of public employee organizing in Virginia. Until recently, Virginia law forbid public workers from forming unions and engaging in collective bargaining – but a recent law allows cities and counties in the Old Dominion to pass ordinances granting those rights. Workers in the capital, Richmond, and a number of Northern Virginia jurisdictions have won this right in recent years.

Several Prince William County workers testified in support of union rights at a September Prince William County work session, backed by dozens of their colleagues. “Passing collective bargaining rights is a historic moment for Prince William County employees. If we get this right, we can address high turnover rates across the county, inequities in pay and bargaining, and improve the services that we provide,” said Kim Finn, a licensed practical nurse for Prince William County’s Adult Detention Center. “Since this will impact our rights at work, we want to have a say in what is included in this ordinance.”

Clayton Sinyai, speaking for the Catholic Labor Network, supported the workers’ demands for meaningful collective bargaining rights.

Sodexo Workers Rally for Living Wages

Sodexo food service workers from government agencies across Washington DC rallied Tuesday at the Capitol, following a similar action last week in New York City at the Federal Reserve. Represented by the hotel and food service union UNITE HERE, the workers, hard hit by inflation, are calling for a living wage in upcoming contracts.

The French multinational operates institutional cafeterias across the country at corporate offices, colleges and universities (including many Catholic ones), and in government buildings, the focus of the recent actions. Sodexo is the largest federal food service contractor.

For more than a decade, UNITE HERE has been organizing to transform the institutional food service sector from a poverty-wage industry into one featuring living wage jobs, affordable health care, and retirement benefits. While the union has reported success in much of the sector, Sodexo has remained an obstacle, stridently resisting organizing efforts and favoring a low-wage business model. According to the union, some Sodexo workers based in Washington DC are paid the DC minimum wage of $16.10/hour – that is, about $32,000 per year for a full-time worker, well below the cost of living in the expensive capital region.

According to Catholic Social Teaching, every worker is entitled to a living wage. This principle was first elaborated in Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Rerum Novarum [45]. In Laborem Exercens, St. Pope John Paul II explained further that a just wage should be sufficient to support a worker’s family [19].

“Last year in September, I had to move out of a house I’d been in for 14 years because I couldn’t afford to keep up with rent,” said Venorica Tucker, a banquet server/bartender at the House of Representatives. “I live with my son, so we chip in and try to make it. It’s difficult, even with their help.”

On September 28 the Catholic Labor Network will be hosting a listening session with Sodexo workers. Interested? CLICK TO REGISTER

Free e-book collects Bishops’ Labor Day Statements

A Guest Contribution from CLN Member Greg Guthrie

This e-book, Union Communion – Labor Unions and the Catholic Church, presents the Bishops’ authoritative annual Labor Day statements supporting labor unions. These statements are framed by commentary by America’s current preeminent  Labor Priests, “America’s most prominent labor leader,” and the Catholic Labor Network. The book intends 1) to educate anyone about the Catholic Church’s official stance on Labor Unions; 2) to remind all Catholic Church members of this official stance; and 3) to edify those who seek to deny, misrepresent or obscure this official stance.