U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are backing public sector unions in an upcoming Supreme Court case, pitting church leaders against the Trump administration and conservatives in a legal battle over how organized labor is financed.
In an amicus brief filed on Friday (Jan. 19) in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sides with the union, which is being challenged by the State of Illinois over its right to collect money from nonmembers for collective bargaining.
The bishops equated the effect of a ruling against the unions to the landmark high court decisions, Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, which respectively legalized abortion and same-sex marriage.
A judgment against AFSCME, the brief says, “would represent another unfortunate decision of this Court that marginalizes the voice of the bishops with respect to an important public policy debate by declaring their position to lie beyond the constitutional pale.”
AFSCME, the nation’s largest union of public employees, argues that it needs nonmembers to pay “fair-share fees” to manage the costs of representing all employees in collective bargaining, as they are legally allowed to do, according to the 1977 ruling Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.
The Trump administration’s Office of Solicitor General and conservative groups including the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty have filed briefs in support of overruling the Abood decision, agreeing with the plaintiff that the fees are an infringement on free speech.
The bishops note their longstanding opposition to “right-to-work” legislation, which doesn’t allow employees to be charged for union representation they didn’t ask for, even if they might benefit from it.
In their amicus brief, the current bishops pointed to various papal statements and encyclicals in support of labor rights dating back to 1891’s Rerum novarum, issued by Pope Leo XIII. Pope Francis is also cited in a footnote, specifically a June 2017 address in which he told delegates from the Confederation of Trade Unions in Italy, “There is no good society without a good union, and there is no good union that is not reborn every day in the peripheries, that does not transform the discarded stones of the economy into its cornerstones.”
Despite this history, the latest brief is something of a shift: bishops did not file a brief in a case that dealt with almost the exact same issue roughly two years ago, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. President Barack Obama’s U.S. Office of Solicitor General sided with unions in that case, which it resulted in a 4-4 stalemate a the Supreme Court in 2016 — just a few months after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who was expected to rule against the labor unions.
Full story at Religion News Service.
Public sector employees should be prohibited from forming unions. Public sector unions are merely a way for Democrats to use taxpayer money to fund election campaigns for Democrats.
Bishops support unions in the public sector and in private business, but they don’t support unionization of church employees. Go figure.
Public employees should enjoy the same rights as all other Americans in forming associations, including labor unions. The U.S. Constitution does NOT state that public employees lose all of their rights upon crossing the threshold on the government property where they work. Hurrah for the Bishops – finally supporting “blue collar” workers.
I remember when Roger Mahony worked incessantly for the farm workers union but when the Catholic cemetery workers in LA sought increased wages, he came down on them like the hammers of hell. Now, we have the USCCB behaving like it is the Democrat Party.
Just one more reason why I no longer contribute to both Vatican and Diocesan collections.
Agree with X 100%
Public sector jobs are considered “public benefits”, which is why dismissal therefrom can be challenged in court. So I have to join a private organization to get a public benefit? That’s lunatic.
I did my master’s degree on Catholic school unions. I couldn’t believe how little some teachers receive for teaching and how much the administrators receive. There are very few bishops who put Catholic education at the forefront of their responsibilities.
It was depressing to hear what some teachers encountered when they even asked about unions by principals, priests, and bishops.
The decision by the Bishops Conference to support extortion of wages by a union is another example of the divide between the shepherds and their flock. The Bishops Conference should not be wasting what credibility they have on political issues which have little or nothing to do with the mission of the Church.
As a former public employee (31 years) I saw the effect of unions on the attitudes and efficiency of workers–it was uniformly negative. The unions want dues so they can contribute to their demoncrat party friends in legislatures and state houses. What they can’t get by negotiations they get via legislation. The workers don’t benefit that much; the public doesn’t benefit at all; the unions and politician gain power and money. Sad, we can’t even call them “public servants” any longer. The public gets the short end of the stick, and the privilege of paying for it!
A person should have a right to work without belonging to a union, a person should be able to support the candidate of their choice, not the candidate the union supports financially or tells them to vote for … The unions have a place in society but so does the individual…
What is the relevance of a NRA photo from the depression era of the 1930s? The major industrial unions such as the auto workers started in the late 30s, in part due to perceived abuses from management in that era.
The Church says workers are entitled to a fair wage. But many Bishops prohibit their employees from organizing.
Sounds like hypocracy to me on the part of the USCCB. You’d think that they would make salvation of souls their priority, afterall our being here is a test, being good to get into heaven for eternity, not supporting unions in this temporary world that finance the coomucratic party, by sucking the dues out of companies workers. Hell is a whole lot worse place to go than earthly work. I honestly believe good companies treat their employees good and don’t need a union. Unions are obsolete and corrupt.