A Fair and Just Workplace

A recent LA Times article (Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange not siding with healthcare workers union) highlights the tension that can arise between Catholic Healthcare and Labor unions.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange sponsor a health system that includes 14 hospitals. They are being accused of anti-union techniques including: “holding mandatory meetings advising workers against unionizing, barring union officials from distributing leaflets, intimidating labor organizers with photographers and security guards, and hiring anti-union consultants.”

A nurses union already exists at hospitals in the system, but this refers to a service workers union, focusing on cafeteria workers, x-ray technicians, etc.

The most interesting part of the article, in my mind, was a brief reference to “a 1999 paper by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops [that] tried to reconcile problems between labor and Catholic healthcare providers.”

It took me a while to find this paper on the USCCB website, but it was very much worth the effort. A Fair and Just Workplace: Principles and Practices for Catholic Health Care - is actually a “working paper” that came out of the meetings of a subcommittee of the Domestic Policy Committee of the U. S. Catholic Conference [as the USCCB was previously known].

The document was “the result of a candid and constructive dialogue among leaders of Catholic Health Care, the AFL-CIO, and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The following groups were represented on the working group:

  • Catholic Health Association,
  • Leadership Conference of Women Religious,
  • the USCC Committee for Domestic Policy,
  • the AFL-CIO, and
  • the Service Employees International Union”

The LA Times article did clearly communicate that people are accusing the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange of hypocrisy, but I’m left wanting more of the story.

My biggest question is: What are the wishes of the workers? At the end of the article, I had a sense of how people felt about the sisters, but what did people think about the actions of the union organizers?

Lots of questions - but hope that the work begun by this USCC Subcommittee will continue.

Sidebar: The Wall Street Journal Health Blog picked this story up as well.

More Info on the document: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/workind.shtml

Update: (11 Aug.) I just found out that the New York Times covered this story as well - Theology Finds Its Way Into a Debate Over Unions

Another Update: (12 Aug.) St. Joseph Health System of Orange, as of May 10 of this year, has a new sponsorship structure. How does this affect things?

Michael Miller, Jr.