Friday, November 10, 2006

Don't Look for the Union Label

In 47 hours, the Big Dance kicks off in the Premier See with the opening liturgy of the USCCB's November meeting.

The meeting has been moved to Baltimore's Inner Harbor from its usual site on Capitol Hill for the next five years, and in today's Religion News Service "get" of the week, Dan Burke reports that the conference's choice of a non-union hotel has rankled some among the labor-friendly crowd:
Organizers looked for a union hotel in Baltimore but could not find one that could accommodate the bishops conference, Walsh said. The bishops conference will be held Nov. 13-16.

The bishops conference is facing tough financial times. Under a plan the bishops are expected to approve next week, diocesan contributions to the conference's yearly budget will be cut by $1.9 million and more than 25 percent of the organization's workforce will be eliminated.

But a century-long trail of papal pronouncements and Catholic social teachings says people should be put before profits, according to the Rev. Edward Boyle, director of the Archdiocese of Boston's Institute of Industrial Relations.

"Economics have never been the bottom line in the church," Boyle said.....

Alyson Harkins, who organizes Baltimore's hotel workers for the union group Unite Here, said there is only one unionized hotel in Baltimore: the Wyndham Hotel in the Inner Harbor. That hotel has more than 700 guest rooms, 25 meeting and event rooms and about 30,000 square feet of space for conventions, according to Renee Uhlman, Wyndham's sales director. It holds conferences every week, Uhlman said.

Boyle, 75, said Catholic support for labor unions stretches back to Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical "On the Condition of Workers" [Rerum Novarum]

"It's been a consistent policy that moral thinking rather than the marketplace must be the principal value or criterion on which decisions must be made," Boyle said.

In a 1981 encyclical "On Human Work" [Laborem exercens], the late Pope John Paul II wrote: "History teaches us that (unions) are an indispensable element in social life, especially in industrialized societies.

"The purpose of unions is not simply to defend the existing wages and prerogatives of the fraction of workers who belong to them, but also enable workers to make positive and creative contributions to the firm, the community and the larger society."
It's a good time to remind that this is Day 313 since the union contract at Catholic News Service expired. The Wednesday lunchtime pickets outside USCCB headquarters have been continuing, last week's was YouTubed, and the crew are promising a demonstration at next week's meeting.

It's shaping up to be quite the week... or two days of it, at least.