Newsflash:
Lesli Messinger Economic and Social Justice 'Labor priests' reviving social justice teachings -- and action
Saturday, 07 June 2014 19:13

'Labor priests' reviving social justice teachings -- and action

Written by  Robert Richter | Facing South
Police arrest Father Andrew Switzer, a West Virginia priest and the son of coal miners, during a Mine Workers rally to save pensions and health care. Police arrest Father Andrew Switzer, a West Virginia priest and the son of coal miners, during a Mine Workers rally to save pensions and health care. (Photo by CNS/David Kameras, courtesy of UMWA, via Labor Notes.)

"Labor priests" were a recognized presence in the labor movement of the 1920s through the 1960s. Father Barry, the Karl Malden character in the 1954 film "On the Waterfront," was the model of the priest who sided with workers.

Priests conducted Parish Labor Schools where workers interested in collective bargaining studied Catholic social justice doctrine, labor law, and parliamentary procedure.

While parish-based Labor Schools have been largely replaced today by worker centers, labor priests are once again gaining numbers (100 at last count) who share their vision that to diminish workers is to rob them of their God-given vocation.

The Priest-Labor Initiative was founded in 2012 by Father Clete Kiley and held its third meeting last month in Atlanta, with two dozen priests in attendance. Kiley was pastor of a large immigrant parish in Chicago, worked on organizing drives at university food services and at O'Hare airport, and is now director for immigration policy for UNITE HERE, the hotel workers union.

Pope's Overhead Cover

Labor priests are doing at the parish level what Pope Francis is doing at his level. Immigration reform, income inequality, human trafficking, a living wage are some of the justice and peace issues on labor priests' agenda, with overhead cover from Francis.

The present-day labor priest is focused on the community as a core value, insisting that all members of the community receive an adequate share in the fruits of their labor. As he deals with those who labor and are heavily burdened by underemployment, no employment, low wages, no health care, wage theft, assault and abuse in the workplace, he can be a source of compassion, mercy, and counsel. To all he says, "Come, let us reason together how to make the workplace more humane."

Especially objectionable are imaginative, creative but harmful tactics that cheat the worker of a livelihood, health care, earned vacation time, and sick leave, and plunder pensions. At another level, the practice of pumping infusions of cash to legislators through lobbyists to fix the scales of justice for cheating, or shifting public services like hospitals, postal, prisons, and schools to for-profit contracts is even more troubling.

Labor priests believe there is a role for visible clergy supporting the religious, moral, and spiritual dimension of work, to advocate for oppressed workers, and to walk with them -- especially to witness when they return to work after an action. Clergy played this role after the fast-food strikes, escorting workers back to the workplace to fend off retaliation.

So priests continue to gather for the two-day Priest-Labor Initiative training events to develop a network and to invite priests to become closer with working-class men and women.

Actions the reader might take to help grow labor priests:

• Ask your priest to conduct a listening session for workers to tell their stories and discuss what to do about things they want to change, using parish facilities like parking, meeting rooms, and kitchen.

• Ask the priest to observe an organized worker action and be present, especially after, to witness events when workers go back in to work.

The bottom line for labor priests: This is not a special ministry. This is what we do as Catholic leaders.

Link to original article from Facing South

Read 3276 times Last modified on Saturday, 07 June 2014 19:18

Latest News from the Messinger Campaign

  • Savannah's Lesli Messinger gives Democrats best chance to beat Jack Kingston
    Savannah's Lesli Messinger gives Democrats best chance to beat Jack Kingston

    On Saturday, October 20, First Congressional District candidate Lesli Messinger visited Pin Point, Georgia and talked with locals about her candidacy and to listen to what issues those citizens believe are important.

    Messinger has traveled through her congressional district for months since her qualifying back in late May and has touted a strong progressive message and has been able to build grassroots coalitions.

    Written on Sunday, 21 October 2012 16:18 Read more...
  • Messinger Wins Race to Face Kingston
    Messinger Wins Race to Face Kingston

    Progressive Democrats say Congrats to U.S. Congressional GA District 1 Primary Winner Lesli Messinger. Lesli Messinger has claimed the Democratic nomination for Georgia’s 1st Congressional District Tuesday beating Nathan Russo in the Democratic Primary.  Unofficial results showed Messinger with 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Russo with 97 percent of the precincts reporting.

    Written on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 15:55 Read more...
  • Georgia’s Only Democratic Woman Candidate for Congress
    Georgia’s Only Democratic Woman Candidate for Congress

    Democrat Lesli Messinger seeks to end 20 years of Republican domination in coastal Georgia.  It’s a particularly difficult challenge to unseat an incumbent, and harder still for a Democrat in a Congressional District that’s been Republican-ruled for 20 years.

    Written on Friday, 27 July 2012 02:52 Read more...
  • Mickey Stephens backs Lesli Messinger for Congress
    Mickey Stephens backs Lesli Messinger for Congress

    State Rep. Mickey Stephens, D-Savannah, has endorsed Lesli Messinger for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District.

    Messinger, a Savannah businesswoman, is running against Nathan Russo, a retired St. Simons businessman, in Tuesday’s primary.

    The winner will face Republican incumbent Jack Kingston, who is seeking a 10th term.  Last year’s boundary changes left the district with a GOP tilt, but less pronounced than in the past.

    The endorsement apparently is intended to buttress Messinger’s claim to be a stauncher Democrat than Russo and a loyal supporter of  President Barack Obama.

    Russo has argued that, to beat Kingston in the district, a Democrat must make a strong appeal to many independents and at least some Republicans.

    Stephens prefaces his statement by saying he’s “a lifelong member of the Democratic Party for over 30 years.”  

    “Not only does Mrs. Messinger have fresh new ideas that I feel truly represent the people of our district, and the state of Georgia,” he said. “She is a proud supporter of President Obama’s policies. I know Messinger will stand with President Obama in Congress, on a true Democratic front with other members of Congress.”

    Written on Thursday, 26 July 2012 00:00
  • U.S. House District 1: Lesli Messinger says she speaks for middle class
    U.S. House District 1: Lesli Messinger says she speaks for middle class

    Lesli Messinger moved to Skidaway Island four years ago, she says, to escape the “dark and dreary” environs of New Jersey. But Messinger says she found darkness and dreariness near the tranquil community where she and her husband, Nathan, relocated. She says she met women who couldn’t afford cookies for their grandchildren and people whose jobless benefits were expiring.

    Written on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 00:00 Read more...

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Like Lesli Messinger

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of