Bishops’ labor document seen as breakthrough
Jun. 24, 2009
By Jerry Filteau
The National Catholic Reporter
A new U.S. bishops’ document aimed at improving long-troubled labor relations in Catholic health care “is an enormous breakthrough,” said Manhattan College religious studies professor Joseph J. Fahey, chairman of Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice.
“This is a milestone event,” said union leader Gerald M. Shea, assistant for government affairs to AFL-CIO president John Sweeney.
“It’s just stunning,” said John Carr, secretary for justice, peace and human development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “I mean, you have the highest levels of the labor movement and the Catholic Church reaching an agreement when nobody else can, and it’s a wonderful process.”
The 16-page document, released June 22 by the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, is titled “Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions.” It is available on the Web .
The result of two years of dialogue by a team of bishops, national labor leaders and top representatives of Catholic health care, it offers a constructive alternative to what retired Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington called the “antagonistic, confrontational and resisting tactics which too often come in” when workers in Catholic hospitals seek union representation. Cardinal McCarrick chaired the dialogue.
“The heart of this unusual consensus,” he said, “is that it is up to workers -- not bishops, hospital managers or union leaders -- to decide ‘through a fair process’ whether or not to be represented by a union and, if so, which union, in the workplace.”