Tesla union labour battle shows need for church’s leadership and teaching voice

 — Mar. 2, 20232 mars 2023

In 1891, the same year Pope Leo XIII responded to revolutionary economic and industrial upheaval with the encyclical “Rerum Novarum,” the first car powered by electricity made its debut in America. More than 130 years later, dozens of Tesla employees in Buffalo, New York — a still heavily Catholic area — are alleging the electric auto manufacturer fired them in retaliation for attempting to form a union.

Tesla faces a complaint before the National Labor Relations Board over accusations the company fired more than 30 employees at its Buffalo facility within two days of workers launching their campaign Feb. 14 to unionize the Autopilot division at the Tesla plant. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has vocally opposed unions, but the company claimed the firings were unrelated to the union push.

OSV News’ request for comment went unanswered by Tesla, while Tesla Workers United representative Sara Costantino declined to indicate if solidarity was sought from the Diocese of Buffalo (which also had no statement). Additionally, the New York State Catholic Conference withheld comment, characterizing the dispute to OSV News as a federal issue.

But neither Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum” — nor church teaching that followed — is silent on the subject of labour unions. While urging workers to organize “societies for mutual help,” the pontiff emphasized “the most important of all are workingmen’s unions.”

Pope Francis echoed the teaching in December, telling members of the Italian General Confederation of Labour, “There is no union without workers, and there are no free workers without a union.”

Read the complete article in OSV News

In 2022, Gallup found 71% of Americans approve of labour unions. Yet nationwide, only 10.1% of wage and salary workers — 14.3 million employees — are union members, almost half of what union membership was in the 1980s and the lowest rate on record, according to a January 2023 U.S. Department of Labor report.

But the weakness of national labour unions may be changing, and with it comes renewed demands for the Catholic Church to provide both leadership and guidance from its social teaching. An analysis of survey data released October 2022 by the Center for American Progress found Millennials and Gen-Z — “the most pro-union generation” — are the ones behind successful drives to unionize. And according to the General Social Survey, Catholics make up 22% of America’s 336 million population.

“If you went back to the 1950s, if you were in your union meeting on Tuesday night, you would have seen a lot of the same people who you saw in Mass on Sunday,” Clayton Sinyai, executive director of the Catholic Labor Network, told OSV News. “That’s much less the case now.”

But Sinyai expressed concern about the state of the church’s catechesis on labour.

“I suspect most Catholics today don’t even know their church has a teaching about the dignity of work and the rights of workers,” he said.

For decades, “labour priests” — clergy who preached workers’ rights and accompanied their organizing efforts or resistance to corruption — were a numerous and frequent sight on picket lines, at union negotiations and gatherings, and even in entertainment. Karl Malden’s Father Barry, the mob-fighter and friend to longshoremen in the 1954 film “On the Waterfront,” had his real-life equivalent in Jesuit Father John Corridan, who battled exploitation of New York City Harbor workers.

“Catholic engagement with the labour movement now is going to look different than it did in the past,” explained Sinyai. “We have a shortage of priests, and their time to engage on these issues may be limited.”

The right to unionize and seek workplace equity is fundamental to Catholic social teaching, with St. John XXIII, St. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis expounding on Pope Leo’s “Rerum Novarum” in various ways.

In his 1991 encyclical, “Centesimus Annus,” commemorating the 100th anniversary of “Rerum Novarum,” St. John Paul II taught that trade unions and other workers’ organizations “defend workers’ rights and protect their interests as persons, while fulfilling a vital cultural role, so as to enable workers to participate more fully and honourably in the life of their nation and to assist them along the path of development.”

Likewise, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy” (1986) succinctly states: “The church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions.”

Some of the busiest union-organizing sectors include hospitality, food service, airlines, health care and nonprofit staffing. Retail giant Amazon and coffee colossus Starbucks have both encountered unionization campaigns, to the bewilderment and reported hostility of management.

Starbucks interim CEO Howard Shultz told CNN Feb. 21, “I don’t think a union has a place in Starbucks,” and in a November 2022 letter to employees lamented, “I am saddened and concerned to hear anyone thinks that is needed now.”

Only 282 of 9,300 company stores have so far voted to unionize, but Starbucks’ progressive image has been dented by hundreds of unfair labour practice charges.

At the same time, the effect of Starbucks’ unionization extends beyond the company. Tesla Autopilot division employees in Buffalo have benefited from the support of the Starbucks Workers United, which started its organizing efforts in Buffalo.

However, the modern labour movement faces stiff headwinds in the face of corporate opposition, underscoring the need for the church to provide clear, consistent teaching on labour and unions.

“It’s almost next to impossible to successfully organize a union today in the United States, if an employer deliberately tries to oppose it,” Daniel Graff, director of the Higgins Labor Program at the University of Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns, told OSV News.

“The idea of what unions are and what they do has slipped out of public consciousness and public conversation,” he added.

The recent union organizing uptick is, Graff suggested, “really a sign of the American people waking up to the last 50 years of the erosion of jobs in terms of quality and pay, and increasing inequality.”

He said, “It will be interesting to see if this particular moment transforms the union movement both in reality, as well as in the popular imagination.”

Posted: Mar. 2, 2023 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=13450
Categories: OSV NewsIn this article: catholic social teaching, Labour relations, Rerum Novarum
Transmis : 2 mars 2023 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=13450
Catégorie : OSV NewsDans cet article : catholic social teaching, Labour relations, Rerum Novarum

A scene set in Bethany at the Oberammergau Passion Play in Germany

Ways of the Cross

 — Mar. 1, 20231 mars 2023

In September 2022, I traveled to Oberammergau, Germany, to attend the village’s world-famous, once-a-decade Passion play. I’m working on a book about how local communities reinterpret the Stations of the Cross to claim divine solidarity in the face of injustice, a project that has led me to Passion rituals of many kinds. Last Good Friday, students invited me to join an ecumenical Atlanta congregation composed predominantly of people living on the street as they carried a cross down a gentrified stretch of busy Ponce de Leon Avenue to lament the racialized displacement wrought by recent urban redevelopment. The next day, a community in Atlanta’s Peoplestown neighborhood memorialized Jesus’ Crucifixion beside the burned-out Wendy’s parking lot where police officers killed Rayshard Brooks in 2020. I’ve become captivated by the question of what it is about the Stations of the Cross—this quintessentially traditional, medieval devotion and its fourteen-station template—that makes it such a rich site of theological agency for communities on the margins.
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A statue of Jesus in La Verrie, France

Ecumenical Dialogue—Why bother?

 — Feb. 27, 202327 févr. 2023

Our Lord Jesus prays in His High Priestly prayer in John 17: “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one” (v. 17). Our Lord Jesus is praying for His disciples. He is praying for His Church. He is praying for you and me today.

Our Lord’s prayer can be understood in this way: that His Church would remain one—not that we would somehow achieve this oneness by our actions. Our Lord is praying that the oneness that we already have in Him would be preserved. That we would remain one. The Lutheran Reformers expressed this in the Augsburg Confession in saying that after coming to agreement on what we teach and confess we would live “in unity and concord in the one Christian Church” (AC Preface 4).
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Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church in the village Bohorodychne, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. The village came under attack by Russian forces in June 2022

500 churches and religious sites destroyed in Ukraine during the war

 — Feb. 22, 202322 févr. 2023

At least 494 religious buildings in Ukraine have been destroyed, damaged, or looted as a result of the Russian invasion—and seizure of religious buildings for use as Russian military bases increases the scale of destruction of religious sites in Ukraine, reports the Institute for Religious Freedom.

The Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF Ukraine), a non-governmental human rights organisation founded in 2001 in Kyiv, Ukraine, presented the data on the impact of the war on Ukrainian religious communities during the Summit on International Religious Freedom in Washington, DC on 1 February.
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Pope Francis gives a crucifix to a layperson he installed as a catechist during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. The Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life is sponsoring a conference aimed at promoting the

Partners in mission: Dicastery promotes ‘co-responsibility’ of clergy, laity

 — Feb. 17, 202317 févr. 2023

For too many Catholics, ordained or lay, the responsibilities of the laity are those “delegated” by the priest or bishop.

As the continental assemblies for the Synod of Bishops make clear that hot-button issues — like sexuality, climate change and the role of women in the church — are not going away, the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life is pointing at a more fundamental issue at stake in learning to be a “synodal church”: What responsibility comes from baptism and unites all Catholics?
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An illustrated page from a new publication by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The 20-page guide, titled <i>Our Common Home: A Guide to Caring for our Living Planet</i>, connects the science of climate change, biodiversity and sustainable resource use with the messages of Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical, <i>Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home</i>

Science institute partners with Vatican on guide to protect ‘our living planet’

 — Feb. 16, 202316 févr. 2023

A new collaboration of faith and science looks to equip Catholics with the knowledge and means to turn prayers into actions on the multitude of environmental challenges around the globe, from climate change and pollution, to the rapid loss of species and ecosystems.

“Our Common Home: A Guide to Caring for Our Living Planet,” is a just-released digital and print resource to help Catholic communities respond to Pope Francis’ calls to protect the created world and develop a more sustainable future. It was the result of a joint initiative between the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Stockholm Environment Institute, a scientific research and policy organization headquartered in the Swedish capital. The idea was first raised in 2020 by the Swedish embassy to the Holy See. The embassy funded the project.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, takes time out from a tour of Cape Coast Castle with members of ACC-18 for a moment of personal prayer and reflection in a former slave dungeon

ACC-18 visits former British slave castle in Ghana with the Archbishop of Canterbury

 — Feb. 15, 202315 févr. 2023

Members of the global Anglican Consultative Council took time out from their week-long 18th plenary meeting (ACC-18) in Accra today to visit a 17th-century castle on Ghana’s Cape Coast. At the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, many enslaved Africans were held at Cape Coast Castle before being transported to the Americas on British slave ships. After touring the castle and visiting the basement dungeons, known as slave holes, and the cells for condemned prisoners, members of the ACC took part in a Service of Reflection and Reconciliation at the adjacent Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.

They were joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, President of the ACC; the Archbishop of Ghana and Primate of West Africa, the host province of ACC-18, Cyril Ben-Smith; and the Archbishop of the West Indies and Bishop of Jamaica, Howard Gregory, attending ACC-18 in his role as Chair of the Commission on Theological Education in the Anglican Communion.
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Bishop Graham Tomlin addresses members of the Anglican Consultative Council in Accra, Ghana

ACC-18 welcomes exploration of “structure and decision-making” in the Anglican Communion

 — Feb. 14, 202314 févr. 2023

A proposal for a piece of work to “explore theological questions regarding structure and decision-making [in the Anglican Communion] to help address our differences” has been welcomed by members of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

Today (Tuesday 14 February), at their week-long meeting in Accra, Ghana, members of the ACC, gathered for their 18th plenary meeting (ACC-18), affirmed “the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible, and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate differentiation patiently and respectfully.”
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The Episcopal Church’s delegation to the 18th Anglican Consultative Council — Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton, Annette Buchanan, a lay leader from the Diocese of New Jersey, and the Rev. Ranjit Mathews, the Diocese of Connecticut’s canon for mission, advocacy, racial justice and reconciliation — poses with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Accra, Ghana

ACC discusses ‘good differentiation’ amid divisions in Anglican Communion on human sexuality

 — Feb. 14, 202314 févr. 2023

The Episcopal Church’s representatives to the Anglican Consultative Council participated Feb. 14 in a discussion on the challenges of maintaining – and, in some ways, restoring – unity among the worldwide Anglican Communion’s 42 provinces at a time of stark divisions over human sexuality and marriage equality.

About 110 representatives from 39 of those provinces are in Accra, Ghana, this week for the 18th meeting of ACC, one of the Anglican Communion’s four Instruments of Communion and the only to include laity. The other three are the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, the Primates’ Meeting and the archbishop of Canterbury, an office known as the “focus of unity.”
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, delivers his presidential address to members of the Anglican Consultative Council during their 18th plenary meeting in Accra, Ghana

Archbishop of Canterbury addresses concern over global Anglican structures

 — Feb. 12, 202312 févr. 2023

In a post-colonial world, the Church must find ways of demonstrating unity without one powerful group imposing its values on another, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said today.

In a presidential address to the 18th plenary meeting of the global Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-18), gathered in Accra, Ghana, Archbishop Justin said that “no one group should order the life and culture of another. Such control is often neo-colonial abuse.”
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