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Bishops Urge Peace in Unionization Bid

Religion News Service

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops have voiced their support for efforts to unionize strawberry workers in California but said both sides should refrain from violence or intimidation.

The statement by the administrative board of the U.S. Catholic Conference puts the weight of the national church behind the workers and Bishop Sylvester Ryan of the Monterey diocese, who last year issued a pastoral letter on the union organizing effort.

In issuing their statement, the bishops frequently cited Ryan’s pastoral, making his words their own.

“Many of these workers experience working conditions that violate both [California] state laws and all fundamental human rights, oftentimes to the extreme,” the bishops said.

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At the same time, they noted “there are growers who provide adequate, safe and humane working conditions and fundamental health and safety benefits to their employees.” But they noted the contrast between the few who are treated with dignity and “the mistreatment of vast numbers of seasonal workers” that they said calls for redress.

“As Bishop Ryan insists, ‘Profits of the industry must not be gained at the sacrifice of paying just wages to the primary workers in the industry,’ ” the statement said.

They called on parties to the dispute to convene “in any and every way that will promote significant steps toward just wages and working conditions of all strawberry workers as well as the continued success of the industry.”


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