The Bishops and the Public Employee Unions

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The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. Organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical, but meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government.

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, August 16, 1937



When it comes to protecting the consciences of Catholic workers or the political power of public employee unions, always on the political left, for our hapless bishops it is no contest:


One of the highly watched cases of the Supreme Court’s current session, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, has sparked such passion that some 73 interested parties have filed amicus briefs in the matter. Among the most unusual is a brief by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urging the court to rule against Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee who claims that a law requiring him to pay AFSCME an “agency” fee violates his rights. In an unusual move, a prominent bishop, Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, has publicly disavowed the conference’s position, arguing that no consensus exists among Catholics regarding an issue “on which reasonable people can disagree.” Several Catholic scholars have also contested the bishops’ arguments, especially the prelates’ startling suggestion that a ruling for Janus would “marginalize” the church’s voice on public-policy debates in the same way that the Court’s decisions on abortion and same-sex marriage have done. The Court heard arguments in Janus on February 26 and will issue a ruling before the end of its term in June.

A social worker, Janus has sued to overturn a state law requiring him to pay AFSCME a fee to represent him, even though he had declined to join the union. He has asked the court to reverse a 1977 decision, Abood v. Detroit Federation of Teachers, which upheld state laws that give government unions the right to collect fees from nonmembers in a workplace where collective bargaining is in place. Janus contends that the activities of a government union, including collective bargaining, are political by their very nature, and that the union fee compels him to finance ideas with which he disagrees. If Janus prevails, it would likely mean the institution of right-to-work laws—prohibiting labor unions and employers from making union membership a condition of employment—across the public sector in the United States.

The bishops’ brief begins by citing the Catholic Church’s longstanding “commitment to protect both the poor and vulnerable from exploitation.” Unions, the brief observes, accomplish those aims by defending worker rights. In America, the church has a long history of supporting private labor unions, especially those composed of immigrant Catholic workers, such as the nineteenth-century Knights of Labor. At a time when many within the Church feared unions as “secret societies,” Baltimore Cardinal James Gibbons, a staunch supporter of the Knights, is thought to have persuaded the Vatican that unions could be instrumental in Church efforts to help the poor. Pope Leo XIII subsequently defended unions in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. “To enter into a ‘society’ of this kind is the natural right of man,” he maintained.

The Janus case, however, applies only to public-sector unions. Janus’s fundamental argument is that, unlike dues paid by a worker to a private union to support bargaining between laborers and an employer, the fees that he must pay “subsidize AFSCME’s efforts to compel the State of Illinois to bend to the union’s will.” That makes the act of collective bargaining political in nature, as Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito observed in Knox v. SEIU: “[A] public-sector union takes many positions during collective bargaining that have powerful political and civic consequences.”

The bishops justify their interest in Janus by contending that the lawsuit is somehow meant to “lay the foundation” for extending right-to-work nationally to private-sector unions—a dubious claim for which the brief offers no legal rationale. Bradley Lewis, a political philosopher at the Catholic University of America, observes that while the bishops’ brief “cites many passages in classic [social] encyclicals . . . none of them refer to public-sector unions nor do they concern mandatory agency fees.”


Go here to read the rest.  The public employee unions and the Democrats have had a scam going on for decades, since John F. Kennedy legalized them at the Federal level with executive order 10988 on January 17, 1962.   The unions provide the money to elect Democrats.  The Democrats pay back the unions  by enacting sweetheart contracts with the unions regarding pensions and health benefits that can only end in bankruptcy for the states.   However that would be down the road.  Now we are down that road and the unions and the Democrats wish this madness to continue and our bishops are fully on board, even though the Unions place in power politicians completely opposed to Church teaching on abortion and gay marriage, things that the Bishops are supposed to care about.  Like many of the laity, most of the bishops are Democrats first and Catholics second.

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  1. Good for Bp. Paprocki not taking sides. Now, if he can disavow and not go along with the bishops anti-death penalty and open borders advocacy. On the latter, he was part of the ad hoc committee that endorsed the calumnious portrayal of just immigration laws on the part of states like Alabama as a violation of religious liberty.

  2. One of the biggest collusions between public labor unions and our leftist government was the reward of a Dept of Education, paying off the teacher unions by Jimmy Carter, and left in place by every President since.

  3. I meant to add that the teacher unions are a major supporter of abortion (figure that one out for developing a client base) so how do the bishop’s feel about that….?

  4. As a body, I consider the American bishops to be somewhere between dumb and stupid. There was an article on Breitbart of Friday (4/13) detailing how church attendance has dropped off under the current pontificate. Somehow the American bishops think they can make up the decline by importing Latin Americans. Most Latin American Catholics who come to the USA (illegally) are poorly catechized, did not go to Mass much in their home countries and are in no position to assist the Church financially here.

    Supporting a law that requires people to join unions, when unions have been nothing but a fund raising arm for Democrats for nearly a century, is stupid.

    The continued braying for unions, pacifism, open borders, “dialogue” and welfare state expansion as the solution for every issue and silence over abortion make the American bishops as a body look like cowards.

  5. There will be no collective bargaining at our Final Judgement.
    The benefit package is befitting the individual.
    The individual, Janis, should have the right to his money- non-members should not be forced to pay fees regardless of collective bargaining.
    The American Bishop’s must remind themselves that “true charity must care for the body and the soul.” Archbishop F.J. Sheen

    Is this not at the heart of unions? Charity. After all, wasn’t the concept to protect the individual from unfair practices and unfair wages. What about the individual as a whole? Body and soul.

    The Bishop’s might want to remember that the horizontal outreach is not complete without the vertical… since our eternity is forever the vertical aspects need to be protected and reinforced. The soul ( the vertical ) is not being considered, and the church will suffer. The individual will suffer.

    The unions have become soul-less as seen in it’s support for political correctness at the expense of the unborn. Most democrat’s and their unions are horizontal thinkers at best. To consider the vertical is to dismantle their power and platform. Case in point was Hillary Clinton telling her audience that Religions must change there views on abortion. (paraphrasing only)
    Really? Abortions should be embraced by religions. The commandments?
    Maybe they should be changed too. Euthanasia? Beastiality?
    Homosexuality and Transgender acceptance as opposed to mental health conditions has already attained a foothold in our collective.
    If unions are so powerful as to help direct our national demise then the future of the American Catholic is questionable as well.

    Retirement party planned…..on the last day.
    Bishop’s welcomed. Hope they can make it.

  6. A legitimate concern for worker’s rights is broader than a right to organize. Right-to-work laws, are not inherently anti-worker. No one should be compelled to join a labor union. Supporting a mandatory union shop law, empowers the unions, not the workers who are denied free choice.

    As the article correctly points out, public employee unionization presents an inherent conflict of interest and in practice has lead to corruption, with unions being in bed with the dominant political force in our nation, the Democratic Party.

    It’s unfortunate the our bishops waste their efforts in promoting a political agenda that misapplies Catholic social doctrine. Good of Bishop Paprocki for not being taken in.

  7. Agree with Foxfier. Dale Price might have an informed opinion about the matter at hand.

    I’d like to see collective bargaining functions in the private sector placed in the hands of company unions, with the task of defining the class of employee left out of the bargaining unit assigned to state and federal regulatory commissions and the task of supervising elections assigned to the local authorities who supervise elections for public office. Existing unions could be voluntary mutual aid societies which run pension funds, form actuarial pools for insurance programs, operate credit unions, and keep labor lawyers on retainer.

    As for public employee compensation, if mean compensation per worker for a given government’s employees was by law set at x% of mean private sector compensation per worker in a given geographic catchment, public employee compensation would rise pari passu with private sector compensation. It wouldn’t dictate the compensatoin of any particular class of public employees, just that the mean of the whole not exceed a particular level of what prevailed in the private sector. You could have an additional proviso that compensation in excess of, say, 3x the local mean (or a compensation package north of $250,000 per year in most areas as we speak) would require a public hearing and a vote of the local elected legislature, with the yeas and nays recorded. One thing that we do need: transparent compensation, which is going to require moving to defined contribution retirement programs and medical insurance financed strictly out of an assessment on stated employee compensation.

  8. No one should be compelled to join a labor union.

    That’s tantamount to saying you should never have collective bargaining. I voted no during the last organizing drive which took place where I worked, but once your co-workers vote yea (and they did), you’re in. If you don’t like it, there are plenty of unorganized workplaces. The trouble with collective bargaining is that it’s a response to industrial relations at a particular historical moment, and if that moment hasn’t passed entirely, it has in all but an odd minority of workplaces. My co-workers had to learn the hard way that what they got out of SEIU the company would give them – but with fewer transaction costs.

  9. Among the many “revolving doors” in Washington is the revolving door between Democrat Congressional staffs and the staff of the bishops’ conference. Like the bishops themselves, their staffers not only don’t care about abortion; they don’t know anyone who does. This is why their agencies are constantly getting caught in bed with pro-abortion organizations and politicians.

  10. Public employee unions enshrine corruption of the State at the expense of the Public. Consequently, it is always evil. The Bishops again are on the side of the devil.

  11. This USCCB support of public sector labor unions is like supporting PPH in charge of the Right to Life organizations.

  12. I pray to God the USCCB be dissolved and bishops be allowed to guide and direct their dioceses individually. Each of them would have responsibility for teaching their sheep, and the sheep would have direct access with their shepherd. That was the way it used to be when I was growing up in the Joliet area back in the 50’s and 60’s.

    I remember reading a column in the local Herald Newspaper, front page, of the local bishop calling the manager of the Rialto theater (the most elegant theater in town) after the theater showed a movie that was a little on the dirty side. The manager went to meet with the bishop in his office, where he agreed not to show that movie. or any movie like that, again.

    We Catholics need bishops like that. What a Church and country we would have if our bishops were like that or Bishop Paprocki. He is the only one I know that reminds me of what bishops used to be like before they became an organized, bureaucratic institution that produces people like Cardinal Bernardin, the father of the anti-constitutional “consistent ethic of life,” which has enabled Catholics to endorse, with their names and actions (votes), the apostate party – the Democrat Party.

  13. A lot of Catholics in that apostate organization have and are going to Hell, and they don’t even know it.

    Don’t believe me?! It’s a mortal sin against the 5th Commandment to join the Nazi Party or the KKK according to my high school Catholic catechism. I emailed Cardinal George of the Archdiocese of Chicago, which published that catechism, and asked if that was still the teaching of the Church today. He responded saying, “Yes.”
    If it’s a mortal sin against the 5th Commandment to join an organization that supports and promotes religious or racial prejudice which “hurts peoples’ FEELINGS (my emphasis), which is a sin against charity”; and “to deny any person her or his rights is a sin against justice, as well,” which occurs when joining either of those organizations, then how can joining an organization that “deny any person her or his right” TO LIFE, AND IS THE SOLE ORGANIZATION RESPONSIBLE FOR ABORTION REMAINING LEGAL RESULTING IN THE MURDER OF OVER 61,000,000 UNBORN CHILDREN CREATED BY GOD, not me a mortal sin? Catholics are the largest single group in that organization and are responsible for who gets elected to be their presidential nominee, such as Obama and Hillary Clinton, and to the US Senate, and House of Representatives where they block any talk of a Constitutional RTL Amendment, and any other legislation that would restrict abortions.

    If our bishops were individuals and not part of an organization with elected leaders, run by unelected lay bureaucrats, I assure you they would never have remained silent all this time on it being a mortal sin for Catholics to endorse with their names and actions the pro-abortion, pro-same sex “marriage” and pro teaching of transgenderism starting in public school kindergartens, Democrat Party

  14. Public Servants do not have competition for their jobs. When they are allowed to collectively strike and withhold service in return for financial demands there is no competitive alternative, as there is in the private sector. That is why they are not allowed to unionize.

    Collective bargaining is a mechanism, voluntarily chosen by some private employee groups, to equalize power disparities between powerful management and weak employees in a highly competitive environment. That is in accord with Catholic social doctrine, as long as voluntarism and conscience is supported.

    But, competition does not exist in government. Government is s monopoly of service they provide. Government unions are just a mechanism to enable that monopoly to blackmail its customers (taxpayers) by withdrawl of essential services.

    I am a lifetime union member. I’ve served in elected union office. I support the labor movement ideal; voluntarily chosen by willing participants in a competitive marketplace. What the Bishops support is not that. It is more along the lines of German Kirchensteuer. And it is fundamentally immoral. Their money streams are drying up because the Faith is drying up. The Bishops should worry more about the Faith, conversions, and less about secular money streams from government and public “unions”.

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