‘Labor Priests’ Reviving Social Justice Teachings—and Action

Source: Robert Richter, Labor Notes, May 28, 2014

“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 this 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….