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UFW and Brownsville diocese settle dispute over fired south Texas parish workers

UFW and Brownsville diocese settle dispute over fired south Texas parish workers
An agreement between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville and the Cesar Chavez-founded United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO has resolved a two-month dispute over five south Texas parish workers who were fired from their jobs on June 18.
Terms of the settlement include:
  • The church and the UFW will negotiate a diocese-wide grievance procedure so parish workers cannot be terminated without having exhausting a procedure to protect their rights.
  • As part of the grievance procedure, no newly assigned pastor or parish administrator will be able to fire a parish worker during the first 90 days after assuming duties at a church except in cases involving “egregious conduct” by an employee.
  • The church agreed to implement the UFW contract signed in July 2002 covering the workers at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in McAllen. In the interim, the parties will continue efforts to find a resolution over the validity of all five union contracts from last year. They cover between 40 and 50 workers at five parishes in the Brownsville diocese: Holy Spirit Catholic Church in McAllen, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hidalgo, St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in McAllen, St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in San Carlos and San Felipe de Jesus Catholic Church in Brownsville.
  • Back pay and lost medical benefits will be paid to two fired employees at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hidalgo, Bonifacio Quintero and Edna Cantu.
The dispute arose when five parish workers were fired after new pastors arrived at their churches: Holy Spirit employees Ann Cass, Edna Cantu, Martha Sanchez and Rosario Vaello from Holy Spirit; and Sacred Heart workers Quintero and Cantu (who also worked at Holy Spirit).
Rebecca Flores, Texas state director of the UFW, praised “the courage of these parish workers who in the face of mistreatment demanded respect for the important work they do on behalf of the church. As a result, parish workers across the diocese have won important protections through the terms of this settlement agreement.”
Flores says “this historic settlement reflects the spirit of what the church is all about. It mirrors the Catholic Church’s most basic teachings on social justice and the right of workers to organize.”
Those rights are contained in Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum, issued in 1891. As late as 1991, Pope John Paul II wrote in Centesimus Annus that Pope Leo’s encyclical affirms as “inalienable and proper to the human person [the] natural human right” to form unions. The church’s code of Canon Law also clearly affirms these rights.

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