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  • Catholic School Says Labor Laws Are Against Its Religion

    I think everyone who grew up in at least a mildly progressive household has had an experience along these lines: For years, parents and teachers instruct you in the importance of respecting others' religious beliefs. Shlomo doesn't have to eat that because it's against his religion. Christopher gets to drink the Jesus wine because it's part of his religion.

    Soon comes the grossly mistaken idea that religious beliefs can be used as a trump card over what are seen as onerous responsibilities. Popular examples include, "the Flying Spaghetti Monster forbids me to eat vegetables," and "I didn't do my homework because it's against my religion."

    Most of us quickly age out of this phase. The same cannot be said for a consortium of Catholic institutions, led by Duquesne University.

    At the heart of the matter is an attempt by Duquesne to withdraw from an agreement to allow the National Labor Relations Board to oversee an election by adjunct faculty who want to collectively organize under the United Steelworkers. Rather than allow certification to proceed, Duquesne filed a motion with the NLRB, claiming that it qualifies for a religious exemption from the Board's authority…

    "Our Catholic identity is at the core of who we are and everything we do as an institution," said Bridget Fare, university spokesperson. "Our mission statement proclaims that Duquesne serves God by serving students. Those words are lived out every day on our campus in very real ways in every part of the university."

    Not included in "Those words," apparently, is the doctrinal Catholic commitment to social justice and workers' rights. In fairness, there are A LOT of words on this topic, including a Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy from U. S. Catholic Bishops

    The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions. This is a specific application of the more general right to associate. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "The experience of history teaches that organizations of this type are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrial societies."

    Maybe following the dictates of their religion is against their religion.

    Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Catholic Church, Education, Religion, Unions
  • Union Workers Prevail in Stunning Victory

    It's been a difficult few weeks for unions and the workers they represent. Really, it's been a difficult few decades.

    In 1964 nearly 1 in 3 American workers was unionized. Today, the figure stands at less than 12 percent, with a paltry 7 percent of the private sector workforce belonging to labor organizations. Nearly half the states operate with "right to work" laws, which mainly grant employers the right to make employees work more hours for less pay.

    Last month, a federal judge ruled that a pro-labor proposal by the National Labor Relations Board to speed up union certification elections was "invalid." Last week in Wisconsin, most voters couldn't recall what it is that public employee unions were good for, and so refused to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

    But it's always darkest before everything goes completely fucking black. I mean, the dawn! Always darkest before the dawn, as proven by the efforts of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in the Sharpsville Area School District cafeteria in Pennsylvania.

    Years from now, we may speak of AFSCME's victory in the same breath as the Flint sit down strikes that birthed the modern United Auto Workers. We will remember them as we do the martyrs of Ludlow and Homestead and Pullman. We will sing songs about their successful grievance procedure, just as we mythologize in song the brave women of Lawrence's mills and the coal miners of Harlan County…

    The grievance was based on the allegation that the school district "violated established past practice" in charging cafeteria workers for food or drinks that couldn't be sold or consumed by students. These items would include food or drinks with expired dates or foods that had been reheated, none of which can be served to students according to safe food regulations.

    But according to the settlement, cafeteria employees indeed can eat and drink those expired or reheated items — at their own risk. And they don't have to pay for them… AFSCME members working in the cafeteria however must pay for any other a la carte items they consume.

    Things are really looking up for labor! Sure, collective bargaining agreements are soon to become ineffective tools to settle beefs between workers and employers, but at least the exploited laborers of the future will have all the expired beef they can eat.

    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Education, Food, Pennsylvania, Unions
  • Tweet Untweet: Secure Job Security

    Tags: TSA, Tweet Untweet, Twitter, Unions
  • Wisconsin Poll Shows Gov. Scott Walker in Danger of Recall

    At first, the idea of Wisconsinites successfully recalling their new governor seemed like a liberal pipe dream, which is to say, a particularly pipe-dreamy type of pipe dream. But then momentum started to build and the extremely unlikely became only moderately unlikely and then only a little bit unlikely.

    Now, according to a new poll, the unlikely actually seems kind of likely, which itself seems incredibly unlikely

    A new Rasmussen poll finds that Republican Wisconsin Scott Walker is in trouble of being recalled June 5, with a majority, 52 percent, saying they will vote him out less than two years after he took office and immediately went to work to cut the power of public service unions…

    Worse for Walker: 53 percent disapprove of his job as governor with a whopping 46 percent saying they "strongly disapprove" of Walker. Majorities of both men and women now support his recall.

    I don't know. It seems kind of unfair for the people of Wisconsin to be taking out their frustrations over the gutting of the public right to collectively bargain on Gov. Walker. I mean, he's only following orders.

    Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Charles Koch, David Koch, Polls, Scott Walker, Unions, Wisconsin
  • One Million Wisconsinites Sign Petition to Recall Scott Walker

    Aw, look at this. The citizens of Wisconsin are trying to get their state back. Can they actually do that? I was under the impression that Scott Brown sold it off with a no-return policy

    A total of 540,208 valid signatures, or 25 percent of all of the votes cast in the election that put Walker in office last January, were needed to force a recall election, but organizers had aimed for hundreds of thousands more than the minimum requirement to ensure they met the threshold even if some signatures are disqualified.

    The Wisconsin Democratic Party was quick to dub the recall effort — which also targeted Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and a handful of Republican state legislators — the "biggest" in American history and boasted that organizers had gathered a whopping 460,000 extra signatures for the recall of Walker, who infuriated many in his state last year by pushing through a law that ended most collective bargaining rights for many public workers.

    You know, that's fine and all, but I don't think that petition will considered legally binding unless at least a third of those signatures are Charles Koch's.

    And I'm pretty sure the other two-thirds need to be David Koch's.

    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Charles Koch, David Koch, Democrats, Recall, Scott Walker, Unions, Wisconsin