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Video: Professor Joe McCartin
NFPC is pleased to offer a link to a YouTube video of a presentation by Professor Joe McCartin to the April 2013 gathering of Labor Priests at the NFPC Conference held in Reno, NV.
The theme of the 35-minute presentation is Labor, Labor Priests, and the Catholic Church in America: An Overview.
Dr. McCartin is Executive Director of Kalmanowitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor based at Georgetown University. He is also Associate Professor of History at Georgetown.
"Not paying a just wage, not providing work, focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at making profit...That goes against God!"
Labor Day 2018
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development has posted a series of resources you can use to make Labor Day at your parish an opportunity to learn and reflect on Catholic teaching about work.
For those of you planning the Sunday September 2 Mass, there is a pastoral aid that examines the readings of the day and suggests how they can be applied to Church teaching on work, with examples from today’s world. It also includes a list of prayers of the faithful suitable for the holiday and ideas for parish activities following the same theme.
The Bishops also provide a selection of bulletin inserts for the holiday weekend, including a primer on Catholic Social Teaching regarding work, workers and labor unions with quotes from Papal Encyclicals and USCCB statements and letters on the topic.
And don’t overlook the four-minute video CST 101: The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers, available on Youtube!
BONUS CONTENT: Where’s Mark Janus Now?
This June the Supreme Court dealt unions a severe blow in 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, making the entire public sector “right-to-work.” The decision that Illinois social worker Mark Janus had a “right” to be a free rider, enjoying the wages and benefits of a union contract without paying any dues or fees to the union that bargained them, had been opposed by the USCCB and inspired much reflection in the Catholic press in the month the followed.
Among the best contributions came courtesy of Professor Joe McCartin, who heads Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor (and serves on the board of the Catholic Labor Network). In his Commonweal article “Labor’s Existential Crisis” he explains why “like our forebears in the era of Rerum Novarum, we now face the challenge of articulating principles and devising practical mechanisms that can build a more humane and democratic world.”
Under the provisions of the Janus decision, governments must assume that their employees prefer to be free riders unless they indicate otherwise… The devastating effects of the decision are already being felt. Public-employee unions are now cutting their budgets, laying off staff, and putting once robust campaigns like the fast-food workers’ Fight for $15 on hold. The nation’s largest union, the National Education Association (NEA), which represents more than three million teachers, estimates that it will lose 370,000 members over the next two years. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) also expect significant membership losses…
Interestingly, these unions, through trial and error, are landing on an approach with strong echoes in Catholic Social Teaching. They are trying to add the common good to their list of bargaining demands.
Realizing that they must revitalize bargaining in response to these new conditions, public-sector unions began to experiment with new approaches in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Since 2012, teachers’ unions affiliated with the NEA and the AFT in Chicago, St. Paul, and Seattle, and municipal workers affiliated with the SEIU and AFSCME in San Diego and Los Angeles, have sought to expand the ranks of those who participate in collective bargaining, open up its processes, and broaden its purposes. They have invited community allies to help craft bargaining demands that advance shared goals, then insisted that these allies get a seat at the bargaining table…. To survive, unions know they must enlist allies and cultivate public support by defending the common good.
McCartin is optimistic about the prospects of such “Bargaining for the Common Good.”
Meanwhile, in the National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters greeted the decision with the observation that “the badly named “right-to-work” laws have been made universal within the United States…. Freeloaders and libertarians are thrilled.” Ken Briggs saw the decision as a defeat for the Catholic notion of solidarity and a win for a Protestant individualist ethic in which “it is up to the person to succeed without a group.”
Where’s Mark Janus?
And what of Mark Janus, the child support specialist at Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services who explained to us that
I went into this line of work because I care about kids. But just because I care about kids doesn’t mean I also want to support a government union. Unfortunately, I have no choice. To keep my job at the state, I have to pay monthly fees to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, a public employee union that claims to “represent” me.
Thanks to Janus v. AFSCME, Mr. Janus no longer had to pay monthly union fees in order to keep his state job. Curiously, Mr. Janus celebrated his victory by promptly resigning from his Child Support Specialist job to work at a free-market think tank.
5-4 court majority ignores appeals from USCCB, unions in Janus v AFSCME
In a dramatic decision announced June 27, a narrow supreme court majority overturned decades of law and found that workers represented by public sector unions have a new constitutional right – the right not to pay union dues or fees. In the case, an Illinois state employee named Mark Janus – with deep-pocketed supporters from the Koch network and elsewhere – argued that paying a fee to cover the union’s costs for bargaining and grievance handling abridged his freedom of speech. The nation’s labor unions in turn argued that it was unfair for dues-paying members of the union to bear all the costs while Janus and like-minded “free riders” got union-negotiated raises and benefits for nothing.
The USCCB filed an important amicus brief urging the Court to reject Janus’s request, pointing out that Catholic social teaching favored solidarity and the common good and had long supported labor unions as essential in the struggle for social justice [Laborem Exercens, 20]. The brief also pointedly noted that, just as in Roe v. Wade, a decision for Janus would be declaring Catholic teaching unconstitutional. Most of the Catholic justices were unimpressed: of the five, only Justice Sotomayor sided with the union, while Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and Chief Justice Roberts supported Janus.
Bishop Frank DeWane of Venice, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, was saddened by the Court’s move, observing:
It is disappointing that today’s Supreme Court ruling renders the long-held view of so many bishops constitutionally out-of-bounds, and threatens to ‘limit the freedom or negotiating capacity of labor unions.’ [Caritas in Veritate, no. 25]. By reading the First Amendment to invalidate agency fee provisions in public-sector collective bargaining agreements, the Court has determined—nationwide, and almost irrevocably—that all government work places shall be “right-to-work.” Now that such agency fee agreements are outlawed, state and federal legislators should explore alternative means “for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights. [Caritas in Veritate, no.25].”
Speaking for the US labor movement, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka responded:
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, abandons decades of commonsense precedent. In this case, a bare majority of the court, over the vigorous dissent of four justices, has conceded to the dark web of corporations and wealthy donors who wish to take away the freedoms of working people. Until it is overturned, this decision will be a political stain on what is intended to be the most honorable, independent body in the world. But more importantly, it will further empower the corporate elites in their efforts to thwart the aspirations of millions of working people standing together for a better life.
For more Catholic coverage, see High court rules against unions in dues case; USCCB backed labor by Mark Pattison of the Catholic News Service, and Janus decision was a blow, but workers point the way forward by Michael Sean Winters at the National Catholic Reporter.