Unions Must Reflect on the Interests of Latino Workers

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Labor activist Mike Westfall's interview of Fr. Schultze

110+ Years (Catholic Labor Network)

Strangers in A Foreign Land:
The Organizing of Catholic Latinos in the United States

In his new book, Strangers in a Foreign Land, Catholics for the Common Good Advisor, Rev. Dr. George E. Schultze, SJ discusses the organizing of Catholic Latinos who are a source of low-cost labor in the United States. 

"Today's labor leaders risk alienating Latinos and jeopardizing Catholic support if they accept and promote abortion and take anti-family and anti-marriage positions aligned with the radical homosexual and feminist movements," said Father George Schultze, SJ.  "This would be a shame because Latinos can benefit from union organizing and the growing population of Latino workers offers opportunities for significant growth in the sagging labor movement."

Strangers in a Foreign Land describes succinctly the history of the Catholic influence on the U.S. labor movement and offers a summary of the Catholic understanding of work life based on scripture and Catholic social doctrine.

In addition to his criticism of unions for embracing issues that divide the rank and file, Father Schultze explores approaches for economic development that will provide new opportunities for low-income workers. He recommends the creation of worker-owned cooperatives through the assistance of faith groups, unions, financial institutions, and Catholic universities. While not a panacea for globalization, models for community-based enterprises already exist and their replication would further the Catholic value of communal solidarity.

Father Schultze emphasizes that any free society needs a viable labor movement and he builds a case for supporting the Employee Free Choice Act as well as reasonable immigration reform to attain that end. The use of representation card checks in union organizing campaigns and similar labor law reforms will allow American workers to approach the minimum levels of economic democracy that the National Labor Relations Act intended.

Furthermore the book stresses, American employers and consumers are dependent on immigrant labor, and the United States should provide immigrant workers, without compromising on American sovereignty, their due as sons and daughters of God.

The Catholic Church in the United States has traditionally supported the organizing of low-income workers and immigrants.

Strangers in a Foreign Land, Organizing Latino Workers

"It is now the unions rather than Latino workers that are becoming strangers in a foreign land."

Father Schultze gives the example of the AFL-CIO endorsing and promoting Pride at Work, an internal labor caucus that promotes the gay agenda. Yet one would expect union membership to be as divided on this issue as the general public.

"Peripheral and membership-dividing issues, such as gun control, are not part of labor's political agenda, why should abortion and same-sex marriage be planks in labor's political platform," asks Father Schultze.

Father Schultze suggests, "Labor leaders and their intellectual advisors should reassess their support of public policies that are inimical to life at all of its stages and to the inviolability of marriage between a man and a woman. Labor leaders, union organizers, and labor supporters should at the minimum remain neutral on these issues as they have in the past." 

According to Father Schultze, Latinos now comprise over 13 percent of the U.S. population and between 30 to 35 percent of the Catholics in the United States. He observes that Latinos, the very group labor hopes to organize, and especially Latino immigrants, are culturally conservative. Latinos who leave the Catholic Church most often gravitate to evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which are much more active in opposing liberal cultural values.

Sixty percent of the Latinos in the state of California are Roman Catholic. In Los Angeles Latinos make up 47 percent of the total population and comprise 60 to 70 percent of the 4.3 million Catholics in the Archdiocese.

Moreover, Latinos have larger families than other ethnic groups and therefore will continue to grow in numbers and social significance. Twenty-nine million Latino immigrants and their children have contributed to the U.S. population growth since 1966. Latinos represent 53 percent of the U.S. population comprised of immigrants and first generation Americans.

Strangers in A Foreign Land: The Organizing of Catholic Latinos in the United States, by Rev. Dr. George E. Schultze, SJ, Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, Lexington Press, 2007

Father Schultze serves on the Catholics for the Common Good Advisory Board. He is currently the Director of Field Education and a lecturer of Catholic social doctrine at St. Patrick's Seminary and University in Menlo Park, California. Father Schultze holds a degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley, and a PhD. in social ethics from the University of Southern California. Prior to becoming a Jesuit priest, he worked for the National Labor Relations Board and the Hewlett-Packard Company in the early 1980s.

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