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 (Updated: April 24, 2004)


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SITUATIONAL SOCIAL JUSTICE

From the President of the National Catholic Association of School Teachers

Rita Schwartz

This school year, I have done quite a bit of traveling and have sent and received a large number of e-mails and calls, mainly to and from St. Louis, Missouri and Boston, Massachusetts.  The main issue in both places has been the complete and utter failure of both Archdioceses to follow the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church.

     Let's first take a look at Boston, where the NCEA Convention is taking place this April.  Boston, the home of the Boston Archdiocesan Teachers Association, which has represented the high school lay teachers for thirty years and represented them well.  The master contract covering the eight Archdiocesan high schools is set to expire in August.  When BATA seeks to open negotiations for a new Agreement, it is told that the schools are going to become independent in September of 2004.  It might look that way to the Archdiocesan officials, but to the rest of the world everything they read and hear is pointing to Archdiocesan business as usual.
     The BATA leadership has been unable to open negotiations with the Archdiocese.  It has also been ignored by the individual schools that are supposedly going independent.  These same schools have passed on information during faculty meetings that the Archdiocese will still be running the show and BATA will no longer be recognized as the teachers' bargaining representative.  Needless to say, you will not find the approval of such "union busting" in Canon Law, papal encyclicals or U.S. Bishops' Pastorals, but that is what is becoming Archdiocesan policy in Boston.
     Unfortunately, it will probably be necessary for the Boston Archdiocesan Teachers Association to file grievances in order to protect the teachers and the contract.  BATA may also be forced to initiate court action to keep the provisions of their contract from being torn apart and the teachings of the Church from being turned upside down.
     Next stop, St. Louis, where there has been an ongoing campaign by the Association of Catholic Elementary Educators to bring collective bargaining to elementary teachers in the Archdiocese.  Since August, ACEE, under the leadership of President Mary Chubb, has been contacting pastors and informing them that their teachers want to be represented by a teacher association and they want to negotiate a contract.  Thus far, pastors have said they know what is best for their teachers and that is the diocesan controlled Compensation Committee which is asked for salary input only.  Job security, a grievance process and working conditions which the Vicar for Education states "are best resolved at the local parish school level," are not addressed at all.
     In a December 19, 2003 Memo and attached question and answer sheet from Vicar for Education, Bishop Bob Hermann, all pastors, principals and teachers are told that "The Archdiocese will not recognize formally any intermediary organization to participate in this process and it will not enter into a collective bargaining agrement with a union or other organization representing teachers."  They are then told that it is strongly recommended that parishes not recognize the union or bargain separately either.  "Every pastor should know beyond a shadow of doubt that he does not have any moral obligation to recognize any union for collective bargaining purposes..."
     How do Bishop Hermann's words in St. Louis compare with the U.S. Bishops' pronouncements from their Pastoral, Economic Justice for All: Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy?
 "All Church institutions must also fully recognize the rights of employees to organize and bargain collectively within the institution through whatever organization they freely choose,"  "All the moral principles that govern the just operation of any economic endeavor apply to the church and its agencies and institutions; indeed, the church should be exemplary."
     It would seem that the Archdioceses of Boston and St. Louis are engaged in a classic game of "situational social justice."  Does anyone see a problem here?




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