Thursday, February 24, 2011

Catholic Bishops: Right on Workers' Rights

Here's a link to a Huffington Post piece on the Catholic bishops of Wisconsin coming together in defense of workers' rights to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.  On paper, the church has a pretty good record of supporting workers' rights -- witness, for instance, John Paul II's support for Solidarity in the 1980s.  (Sure, some of his enthusiasm was likely due to Lech Walesa's anti-communist streak, but there are other examples of JPII's record on this issue.)  I vaguely recall reading somewhere (not sure where) that even the arch-conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke once championed the rights of migrant farm workers.  (There, I finally said something nice about Burke.)

Of course, there's also a history of some members of the hierarchy thwarting workers' efforts to unionize:  for instance, Justin Rigali opposing the right of elementary school teachers in Catholic schools to unionize within the Archdiocese of St. Louis in the 1990s.  (Those elementary school folks were, for one thing, more poorly paid than their already poorly paid counterparts in Catholic high schools.  Perhaps not coincidentally, most of the elementary school teachers were female, while the high schools employed a sigificant number of male teachers.)

In any case, I'm glad to see the bishops in Wisconsin come down on the good side in this dispute with Scott Walker.  Social justice is still one of the winning cards in modern Catholicism; may this card be played with greater frequency, that's all I ask.

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