The National Catholic Review

Clayton Sinyai

The speaker at the Falls Church, Virginia Memorial Day observance began with the usual acknowledgements. “Do we have any World War II veterans among us today?” A few elderly men stood and received the grateful applause of the audience. “Do we have any here who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan?” the roll call continued. “Does anyone here have a spouse, son or daughter serving in Afghanistan right now?”

Today our nation and workers around the world mark Workers’ Memorial Day, pausing to remember those who have died on the job.

In mid-February, a group of Chattanooga workers voted in what conservative commentator George Will called “the most important election of 2014.” They were workers in the Volkswagen plant, choosing whether or not to form a union.

In December Seattle University joined the list of Catholic colleges and universities fighting to prevent their adjunct faculty from forming a union.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is calling on Congress to extend emergency unemployment benefits for more than one million job seekers who lost this critical lifeline as 2013 drew to a close, and asking American Catholics to exercise faithful citizenship by

As I discussed yesterday, the AFL-CIO’s Constitutional Convention in LA this week began with a lot of buzz about proposals that progressive groups that were not labor organizations might be invited to affiliate with the AFL-CIO.  A number of union leaders expressed both practical and principled objections to such a tie-up. Practical, because there were times when their interests diverged – as when the Sierra Club and the construction unions clashed over the XL pipeline.

Along with the outreach to alt-labor groups I discussed yesterday, the AFL-CIO Convention delegates have been weighing ways to form tighter associations with progressive groups like the NAACP, La Raza, the Sierra Club, the National Organization of Women, and others. In politics, these organizations frequently find themselves confronting the same movement conservatives.

This week witnesses thousands of trade unionists and labor activists assembling in Los Angeles for the 27th Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO.  With union membership continuing to decline, the federation has been seeking new approaches to advocate for American workers. 

The fast food workers who walked off the job today to call for fair wages have very few cards in their hand. They don’t have strong, established unions in place to represent them. They don’t have scarce job skills that make it difficult to replace them.  They don’t occupy strategically critical points in the economy to force powerful interests to accommodate them.

Here's what the U.S. bishops suggest.