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.