Page 6, 18th April 1946

18th April 1946
Page 6

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The following account by The Catholic Herald correspondent in America of Catholic leadership in the Trade Union movement in the United States, and of the backing given by priests to recent strikes is of special interest in view of the continued industrial unrest there.

By HAROLD BUTCHER 1 flirty -five per cent. of America's trade union leaders are Catholics.

David Goldstein, noted convert, writer and lecturer, has been surveying the statistical analysis of the birthplace, education, political affiliation, salary, religion of U.S. trade union leaders compiled by Professor C. Wright Mills of the University of Maryland, and he made the discovery that Catholics share leadership with Protestants in the trade union field.

The Protestant percentage is fifty. After Protestants and Catholics four per cent. arc Jews ; 11 per cent. are unknown as they did not state their religion in answering the questionnaire.

in view of the fact that Catholics number 16 per cent, of the U.S. population and furnish 35 per cent. of the trade union leadership, it is clear that they are more than holding their own in the labour movement.

Senator James E. Murray (Montana) and Senator Robert F. Wagner (New York), both Catholics, have been active in support of a bill to raise the minimum wage of workers in inter-state commerce to 65 cents an hour for the first two years, and then successively to 70 and 75 cents at two year intervals. The raising of the minimum wage to the 65 cents level from its present position at 40 cents—Senator Wagner is father of the 40-cent minimum wage law—would mean an immediate wage increase to an estimated 4,000,000 to 6,000,000 persons working at wage levels below 65 cents an hour.

The National Catholic Welfare Council took a firm stand in support of the increased minimum wage when the bill was still in the hearing stage. It took the position that the proposed wage was still inadequate but a step toward a family living wage, which had a normal priority over dividends on investments.

N.C.W.C. PLAN FOR LABOUR The Social Action Department of the N.C.W.C. is keenly aware of labour problems and alive to the necessity of doing something about them. Here are a few of its recommendations: 1. Passage of the Wages-Hours Bill establishing a 65-75 cents minimum and of similar laws in the individual States.

2. Extension of the Social Security Law to those not now covered by it, including those in domestic service.

3. Unions should remove discrimination in their charters against Negroes.

4. Immediate efforts to make good housing available to Negro families. Public subsidies are deemed necessary to provide housing for the lowest inconic groups.

5. Efforts to relieve the fears among whites which keep Negroes from expanding into new neighbourhoods. Public statutes enforcing segregation are held a violation of social justice and charity.


The recent series of labour disturbances has brought priests to the picket lines in several instances. Fr. William J. Flanagan, of St. Mary's Cathedral, Lansing, Michigan, joined the men of Olds Local 652, United Automobile Workers (C10) and prayed for " an early and just end of the strike."

In Chicago, Fr. Ambrose Ondrak, of St. Michael's Church, and Fr. Edward Plawinski, president of the Yards Council (a stockyard area welfare organisation) carried the banners of the Packinghouse Workers' Union (CIO) on the picket line thrown around the Chicago stockyards.

Many other priests throughout the country have espoused. the workers' cause in the less spectacular manner of giving advice and encouragement. When 2,000 industrial workers were on the eve of an election to determine their bargaining agent—they had a choice of the American Federation of Labour, Congress of Industrial Organisations, and no union—Archbishop Rummel, of New Orleans, admonished the workers to " unionise in justice to

yourself." Supporting neither union specifically, the Archbishop urged the workers to vote union.

Henry Ford 11, Catholic convert, has a basic labour creed, which is that labour must be responsible with management. He is president of the Ford Motor Company, which at the beginning of this year came to terms with the United Automobile Workers in an agreement whereby some 200,000 Ford

workers would receive an 18 cents an hour wage increase effective February 1. The increase raised the basic wage rate at the Ford Company from $1.22 an hour to $1.40, highest in the industry. Almost immediately after, the Chrysler Corporation signed tip with the union also,


When a radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio, discontinued a series of broadcasts by priests of that archdiocese because of industrialists' opposition to statements of the Church's viewpoint on labour, no less a personage than the Rt. Rev. Mgr. Clarence G. Issenmann, Chancellor, came to the support of the priests.

In a protest against the station's attempt to suppress free discussion, Mgr. Issenmann stated : " The Catholic position has a solution of the problems of labour and capital, but big business and industrialists do not want it expounded, much less accepted. . . Labour should know that the Catholic Church is its true and disinterested friend and counsellor. The mission of the Church is to lead men in the way of truth, justice and peace.

" Capitalists and industrialists misunderstand the Church because she will not and cannot approve of many of their business practices. which are unjust. The Church will fearlessly express her disapproval of injustice, whether it is found in the ranks of capital or labour. In the ranks of labour there should be a demand for the statement of the Catholic position regarding the principles governing labour and capital, and the solutions that are offered as a result of the study of these principles."

America, the Jesuit weekly, has broken many a lance for trade union ism in the United States. It has defended the right of workers to organise and to bargain collectively with their employers. It has rejoiced in the growth of the country's organised workers from around 2.500,000 ten years ago to roughly 15,000,000 at the present time. On the other hand, it has never taken the line that all efforts to curb abuses in unions or to promote the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes is necessarily anti-labour.

Significant in the life of Catholic trade unionism is the Association of Catholic Trade Unionsts, an organisation of Catholic members of A.F.L., (C10) and legitimate independent unions whose purpose is to advance the cause of unionism and sound social reform. The association is not a union ; it is an organisation working and fighting for democratic and progressive trade unionism.

Action, publication of the Council for Social Action of the Congregational Christian Churches, recently staled : " The Roman Catholic Church in America is much further advanced than any Protestant denomination in the development of an approach to labour. The organisation which probably has the most to teach Protestants in this field is the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists."

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