A Union Busting Bishop?

A Union Busting Bishop? February 2, 2009

Over at Mirror of Justice, Vox Nova alum Rick Garnett takes note of a simmering conflict over whether to unionize Scranton’s Catholic schools:

More than 200 supporters, many from regional union locals, joined a noon rally outside Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino’s residence to mark the one-year anniversary of the fight to unionize local Catholic school teachers. Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers President Michael Milz handed out green and black arm bands.

“Black is the color of mourning, and without a doubt we are here for that sorrowful purpose,” Milz said, repeating the claim that Martino rejected more than a century of Catholic Church support for organized labor when he rejected the request to unionize.

More. Bishop Martino is hardly alone here. Religious organizations (including Catholic schools) are exempt from many labor laws (including the minimum wage and overtime) and many Dioceses have long resisted efforts to unionize Catholic schools.

Writing in semi-defense of Bishop Martino, Rick notes that “unionization comes with more supervision and intrusion by the secular authorities [and] the Bishop could, quite reasonably, not want to be put in a position of submitting questions about teachers’ hiring, firing, promotion, etc., in the hands of others.” This is true, of course. But the same is true for any business.

As a general rule, people tend to be much more supportive of laissez faire when it comes to rules governing their own conduct than they are when it comes to regulations governing others. I wouldn’t support removing the ministerial exception that protects the Church from the reach of many labor regulations. But I do wonder if being insulated from the effects of such regulations makes the Bishops more supportive of such rules than they would be if they had to live according to the same rules as everybody else.


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