The National Catholic Review

In his social encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI observed, "The repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum (1891), for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past." If you were a Catholic Law School offering an education “in fidelity to the Catholic Faith as expressed through Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church” and seeking an attorney to teach labor relations in line with Catholic Social Teaching, where would you look? Probably not the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, which has spent a great deal of time and money fighting workers' associations, and -- so far as I can tell -- none whatsoever in “promoting them”. Yet that is precisely where Ave Maria School of Law turned, hiring former National Labor Relations Board member and current National Right to Work attorney John Raudabaugh. Sure, it may be exciting to have a former NLRB member join your faculty. It would be exciting to have a former Health and Human Services Secretary, too, but even so I wouldn’t expect a Catholic university to offer Kathleen Sebelius a post teaching health policy.

Comments

C Walter Mattingly | 3/20/2012 - 6:53am
While Pope Benedict clearly has positioned himself as an advocate for organizations which protect the rights of the common good, I doubt he had in mind such organizations as the NEA, a self-interested corporate monopoly which has made major efforts to thwart the common good of providing a decent education to the citizens, especially damaging in depriving the inner city poor of this desperately needed tool for self-advancement.

Consider what the NEA has done. Despite receiving more money per student than any OECD nation up until 2005, and remaining very near the top of this group in dollars per student expenditures, the US now has a third quartile student performance. What has the NEA done to rectify this situation? It has provided the fewest hours and days of classroom instruction of any OECD nation, it has fought with all its might against teacher evaluations to discriminate between the good from the poor teacher, it has struggled to maintain a strict seniority system, protecting the mediocre senior teacher at the expense of the good junior teacher when cutbacks occur, and and it has fought against the competition vouchers would provide that would intrude on the continued functioning of this self-interested monipolistic mediocrity by providing inner city parents the opportunity to escape this educational trap as President Obama has for his children in the terrible DC school system.

No one would suspect Benedict would continue supporting this long-established social ill in our country knew he the specific details. 

I have no objection to America publishing such an opinion as above as some here do. What I do question is the starting omission of America failing to comment upon the survey of its own Loyola Marymount faculty which determined that the recent history of public school students indicate they are 15 times more likely to fail to graduate from high school than their inner city parochial school counterparts of similar demographic composition. Isn't this a startlingly positive comment upon both the Jesuits as educators and Catholic education in general, very hopeful for our underserved inner city student population? Does America contest these figures? Is it ashamed of the conclusions of this study? Is it embarrassed by the study published by its own order's school? Or does it simply not want to highlight this issue because it is untimely for the reelection of President Obama, who has fought vouchers with a passion, likely in repayment to the unions who have prepaid him for such a response with votes and big bucks? 
Anonymous | 3/20/2012 - 12:40am
This article is venomous.  America Magazine is like Obama.  He only claims to be post-partisan.
Tim O'Leary | 3/19/2012 - 11:42pm
Mike #16
Can you link me to any news story where a student has sued Ave Maria Univesity.  I can't find any using google.
Michael Appleton | 3/19/2012 - 7:23pm
The responses to this story are about what I expected, a series of rants against unions. I always find it amusing, although disheartening, that the usual conservative prescription for union corruption is union abolition. But I have yet to hear any suggestion that the cure for corporate corruption is the abolition of corporations.

I live in Florida.  It is well known here that Thomas Monaghan planned Ave Maria University as a Catholic version of Liberty University.  The plans call for the creation of an entire town surrounding the university, a sort of Stepford for Catholic authoritarians. Monaghan was even able to convince the Florida legislature to enact a statute giving him Disney-like control over community governance, not a good thing. It will be a company town in Monaghan's personal image of Catholicism.

He also moved his law school from Michigan to the new campus a  few years ago.  The law school has had serious problems and, mirabile dictu, claims a "ministerial exemption" for all its faculty members whenever it's sued by an employee. 
JIM MCCREA | 3/19/2012 - 4:40pm
The is absolutely nothing out of character for this appointment.  Ave Maria U makes no pretense about being Catholic - just Prudential Catholic according to the dictates of Thomas Monaghan, Esq.
Vince Killoran | 3/19/2012 - 2:28pm
I provided the links and references and we debated this at some length.

Re. Ava Maria University: it is not the function of a college or university to hire a faculty member because they espouse a particular public policy. That is not an appropriate criteria.

I have no idea what you mean about a "selected subgroup" so I'll pass on that.
J Cosgrove | 3/19/2012 - 1:54pm
' I have responded to your anecdotes with government data and social science studies. '

I have never seen it so I would suggest you not make this claim.

'The university should not be proposing policy.' 

But is should be presenting the side that is more in tune with what most think Catholic social policy should be.  Or are you suggesting that Catholic social policy not attempt to help the poor but intstead provide way above average salaries and benefits for a selected sub group of the population?  That actually reflected Church social policy when it supported the nobles and guilds vs the serfs and peasants prior to the 1800's.  But then Napoleon freed the serfs and it hasn't been the policy since.  The guilds have been harder to kill off but we have their defenders here who preach protectionist policies to ensure high wages for again the select few.
Vince Killoran | 3/19/2012 - 1:43pm
Forgive me if my comment seems harsh but we have debated this many times. You have confused making a claim with making an argument.  I have responded to your anecdotes with government data and social science studies. 

BTW, you write that Ava Maria "seem[s] to know where Catholic policy should lie on this issue." The university should not be proposing policy.
J Cosgrove | 3/19/2012 - 1:25pm
'Oh jeez-Cosgrove is recycling his misinformation and selective anecdotes from his Westchester, NY haven.'

I wish you would give up the personal attacks and relate to facts and data which is a lot of what I present.  Nothing that I ever presented has been debunked by anyone here and if I have made a mistake, I have acknowledged it.  My two examples were indeed anecdotes but couched within each story was an overall presentation of data and history which are not anecdotes.  There is no misinformation and your attempts at rebuttal is to belittle those you oppose.  I suggest you change your tactics and respond to arguments honestly instead of attempts at personal mocking and implications that the person is lying.

The police I mentioned are not in Westchester county but in a middle class Rockland county town which is generally more down scale than Westchester and on the other side of the river.  It attracts a lot of New York city workers and Westchester workers because cost of living is lower there.  The salaries are accurate and the economic data on the town is from Wikipedia.  And five of the reported salaries of policeman in the town do make more than the governor and their pensions are much, much better.  Maybe the governor should get a better union representative.  But he is being groomed for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 so his current job could be thought of as just an internship for a more prosperous payout down the road.
Vince Killoran | 3/19/2012 - 12:59pm
Oh jeez-Cosgrove is recycling his misinformation and selective anecdotes from his Westchester, NY haven.  This has all been hashed out on IAT before.

Unions are a positive, democratic feature in our workplace. They have been at the center of shorter hours, minimum wage, laws against child labor, civil rights laws, and workplace safety measures. Plus, a few dozen other important matters of equality and fairness.  I'd pit them against corporations and the mythic "free market" any time.

Re. Ava Maria: it's not a true university in the sense that it doesn't engage in an open and free exchange of ideas and testing of received knowledge.  It functions more as an institute or training academy. 
Barry Hudock | 3/19/2012 - 12:57pm
John, my remarks were intended to be satirical, to express my disappointment with Benjamin's comment.  My point is that, as another commenter noted, our human institutions will always fall short, but that mustn't be used as an excuse to dismiss their existence or importance, or to question the validity of church teaching that supports their existence. (I do hope my comment is clear enough about that. I suppose satire always risks such a problem, but constructing it poorly invites it.)
J Cosgrove | 3/19/2012 - 12:39pm
'Ave Maria ought to be ashamed.'

Actually Ave Maria should be praised for following Jesus' message of helping the poor more effectively.  Unions hurt the poor by taking needed resources and giving them to a special select group to the harm of all but the union members.  So those such as Mr. Sinyai who are ultra pro union are essentially going against traditional Catholic policy especially when it is applied here in the United States.  Union activity in the US definitely does not help the poor and in fact increases poverty.  Let me relate two stories:

We have a very good elderly friend who has had a nice middle class life.  She lived in upstate New York and got a college degree in the early 50's when most women didn't go to college.  She is an extremely nice person and raised a family of 6.  She told us that she had a comfortable up bringing despite being born early in the Great Depression.  She was born in 1931.  Why was her upbringing comfortable?  Her father worked for the railroads and his job was unionized and he made a very good salary for the time.  Sounds idyllic and it was for our friend but the high union wages during the depression prevented the railroads and other businesses from hiring others who were then forced to live at the edge of starvation.  High union wages have been identified as one of the major reasons the depression lasted so long and why high unemployment reigned till WWII.

Yesterday, my wife and I attended the second largest St. Patrick Day's parade in the New York area.  It was in Pearl River in Rockland country.  Pearl River is at best an upper middle class town but more just plain middle class.  There are no fancy neighborhoods and the shopping is strictly your normal strip mall, street stores you find in most middle class towns.  It is the home of a large segment of New York City policeman and fireman.  Cardinal Dolan was there for the parade.  It was an absolutely beautiful day as thousands marched by.  Many of the marchers were union members of local police and fireman.  Their average salary is $133,000 of the local policeman who were either all marching or maintaiing security.  Five of the policemen in this small middle class town with little crime make more than the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.  I am not sure but I believe these salaries do not include retirement benefits which are egregious in NY state.  The average salary of a male in Pearl River is $58,000.  Or in other words the average cop makes over twice as much as the average male in Pearl River.  The unions at work.

As usual Mr. Sinyai gives us apples and oranges.  He is a union organizer whose job is increasing union salaries and benefits has done a remarkable job in many areas but do not fall for the emotional argument of Catholic social policy which is more about the poor than about unions.  Once the unions served the real social interest of the community but most of the flagrant issues are long gone from the market place and legislated away.  Where they remain, we should support activity to eliminate them.   That does not mean that once the problem disappears that the social institution that helped eradicate them should remain without scrutiny under the cover of Catholic social policy. 

But for the most part the unions in the US are not some Don Quixote like organiztion that is saving the people from the unscrupulous capitalists.  Instead they are the unscrupulous ones that are sucking money out of the people's pockets, money which could be used for more social spending where needed and to create more jobs.  So essentially the unions are anti poor.  Let's not let Catholic encyclicals interfere with this understanding, encyclicals which are meant for other areas of the world and not the United States or most of the Western world.

If Catholic policy is to support unions then it has contradictory policies as support for one policy frustrates another.  I believe that Catholic policy should come down on supporting efforts to help the poor and not propping up high salaries for the unions.

Good for Ave Maria.  They seem to know where Catholic policy should lie on this issue.
JOHN SULLIVAN | 3/19/2012 - 11:34am
Wow! It's amazing how the venom and generaliztions articulated here undermine any poosibilty of intelligent discussion on social justice. I would simply say to Mr. Benjamin that exploitation of any person or groups is wrong(sinful!) regardless of the source.

To Mr. Hudock, your remarks are shameful and RACIST!
Barry Hudock | 3/19/2012 - 10:51am
Benjamin is right. 

Come to think of it, you can preach theoretically all day about the glory of solidarity and preferential option for the poor, but poor people are so damn lazy and uneducated.  And you know, you can preach theoretically all day about equality and human dignity, but blacks are so dishonest and violent.  And while we're at it, you can preach theoretically all day about the glory of family life as a leaven for building a civilization of love, but husbands and wives really just cheat on each other and abuse their children. 

At some point, Catholic teaching has to deal with facts about the real world.  Or, as Benjamin implies, maybe it's the teaching itself that's the problem.
Timothy Bauman | 3/19/2012 - 8:56am
Ave Maria ought to be ashamed.
Stanley Kopacz | 3/18/2012 - 9:38pm
If we get rid of the unions, maybe we can get back to the good old days of 14 hour work days, child labor and unsafe working conditions.  You can find criminal behavior in any human institution.  Look at BP's culture of lies wrt safety, or the Church's coverups of you-know-what.  Our human istitutions will always fall short.  Not an excuse to close them down, except maybe for BP.
Craig McKee | 3/18/2012 - 6:54pm
Location! Location! Location! This appointment makes perfect sense, being a stone's throw from IMMOKALEE, FLORIDA, a center for the tomato industry which has been exploiting migrant labor workers for decades, thus providing the perfect LABORATORY experience for the types of anti-union labor lawyers one would expect Ave Maria to be growing. And besides, we all know how important TOMATOES are to the PIZZA INDUSTRY!
http://bittman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-immokalee-fla/
http://ciw-online.org/
Benjamin Alexander | 3/18/2012 - 6:50pm
Like it or not, you can preach theoretically all day about the glory of unions, but they historically have been criminally discriminatory (especially against non-whites) and their demands for benefits/salaries/etc. both price some of the poor out of jobs (thus benefitting themselves at the expense of others directly) and force individuals to accept terms they might not otherwise accept on their own for jobs they want (thus treating them as unthinking cattle and forcing them to hand over dues for causes, especially left-wing ones, they might not believe in).

I have nothing against the past mutual aid societies of workers and collective representation, but currently as unions stand they violate a person's rights as a thinking, feeling, and deliberating individual. And they are abusive: ask any middle manager who has had to deal with union attorneys that coach employees to lie in arbitration to get what they want. (Like the my friend whose hotel employee all of a sudden didn't speak English-even though she served as a translator for the non-English speakers!-as her excuse for not understanding that she was supposed to clean a hotel room. Please.) At some point, Catholic teaching has to deal with facts about the real world, especially if you want to preach that material goods and wealth must be spread and yet at the same time poop all over the systems that create those goods and wealth. 
Beth Cioffoletti | 3/18/2012 - 5:10pm
Yes, but Ave Maria is not a typical Catholic University.  It was founded by an eccentric billionaire who also founded Domino Pizza, and who has the "power" to make it run according to his own ideas. 

I have visited the campus (and town) of Ave Maria, and find it to be both intriguing and strange.  Located right smack in the middle of migrant farmworker land, the nearest town is Immokalee which is probably the poorest town in Southwestern Florida.  It is a simple, hard-scrabble, and colorful placce with housing projects, Haitian bakeries, and many little ethnic grocery stores.

You can see the Ave Maria development from a couple of miles away, rising up out of the Florida fields.  It is advertized on billboards like another Florida amusement park: shopping, dining, golf, a water park - a planned community in the middle of a corn field, but with a religious theme.

The Ave Maria Church is the dominant structure.  No expense spared, it is impressive with its size and the very rock from which it is it made.

Everything is new.  Air conditioned.  The message of investment and sales is confused with the underlying philosophy of a lay contemplative life.


I don't know what will become of Ave Maria.
I am interested in the concept of a  lay contemplative community, but I don't know that I could ever adapt to what is going on at Ave Maria.  Something is contrived about this development, perhaps especially its disconnectedness from the living world surrounding it.
Vince Killoran | 3/20/2012 - 12:26pm
That seems a little contrived: if only the Pope (why him only? Catholic social teaching happens at many levels) knew the facts he'd be against the rights of workers to engage in collective bargaining.


If you haven't seen it yet I encourage folks to view the documentary, THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH BEHIND WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. If offers a compelling response to the anti-union, privitization arguments.

Much of the resistance to reforming teacher evaluations has come from administrators who want total control over the process. For an example of a recent NEA success story in convincing administrators and school boards to work collaboratively see http://neatoday.org/2012/01/12/teacher-evaluation-reform-collaboration/.