Catholic Labor Schools

Readers of this newsletter probably know that the Catholic Church endorsed the right of workers to organize as a basic element of Catholic Social Teaching in 1891, when Pope Leo XIII issued his Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum. But did you know that the Church in the United States played an active role in preparing workers to exercise that right?

In 1935 the U.S. Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act, guaranteeing workers the right to organize and bargain collectively, leading to a burst of organizing activity by workers in factories, shops and warehouses. New unions like the United Auto Workers and the United Steel Workers sprung up – and so did a network of Catholic “labor schools.” In these labor schools housed in Catholic colleges and universities and even Parish social halls, Catholic workers learned the basic skills of union organizing and administration – parliamentary procedure, handling grievances, negotiating contracts. Through the 1940s and 1950s thousands of Catholic working men and women were formed in these labor schools and became active in the labor movement.

It happens that one of these labor schools is still in existence: the Labor Guild of the Archdiocese of Boston. The late Fr. Ed Boyle, SJ, Executive Secretary of the Guild in the 1980s and 1990s, was one of the founding members of the Catholic Labor Network. Today the Guild continues to offer courses in union skills and administration to working men and women in the Boston Area under the leadership of Executive Director Dave Kowalski of the Utility Workers Union of America.

3 replies
  1. Jerry Blume
    Jerry Blume says:

    So, how come the church is super critical and supportive of unions except in the church? What is it going take for them to change?

  2. James Blum
    James Blum says:

    2 Blum’s commenting on the same subject? Sounds like a future President and Vice President team for 2022 or 2026. My industry needs the 2 person rail crew language re-added to the Senate version of the Invest Act. The House passed the Infrastructure Act properly but the Senate took the language out but it is back to the House for reconciliation. If Catholics want to do their good deeds, please make sure the 2 person rail crew language is re-added to the Invest in America Act. (Infrastructure). If you need more information, Clayton on this site knows how to get ahold of me. The Act is going to determine the future of Railroads and workers in the United States. It is super important that the 2 person language is re-added. The normal Catholic and Labor advocate is also fighting the $100,000,000 the American Association of Railroads has spent lobbying against workers. Union Workers need your help if you are reading this message. You can make a difference!

  3. Allan B Darr
    Allan B Darr says:

    I agree Brother. The problem is the Catholic Schools operate as independent contractors responsible to the parish leadership. The same situation exists with gay teachers being fired without cause for loving who they love.
    It take everything within me to remain a Catholic but I refuse to let man-made rules run me out. I refuse to allow the Church to interfere with my faith.
    Blessings Brother Blume.
    Allan B. Darr
    50 year member, Business manager and International Union of Operating Engineers.

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