Stated clerk backs public employees’ collective bargaining rights
Parsons: dignity of labor theologically connected to doctrine of vocation
March 3, 2011
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, General Assembly stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has written a letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, urging him to call off a plan to balance the state budget in part by de-unionizing state workers.
Parsons’ letter backs a Feb. 19 call from the Presbytery of John Knox ― based in Madison, Wisc. — for Walker “and Wisconsin’s other elected representatives to enter into good-faith negotiations with Wisconsin’s public employee unions to deal with Wisconsin’s current budget issues and to respect the rights of all workers to collectively bargain for wages and benefits.”
Parsons and other religious leaders are also appealing to President Obama “to take measures to preserve the integrity of government promises and the health of local and regional economies.”
The full text of Parsons’ letter to Walker, dated Feb. 28:
I am writing on behalf of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on the matter of collective bargaining by public employees of state governments. The policies of our General Assembly, the highest governing council of our church, have repeatedly addressed matters of unionization and collective bargaining. We fully support the urgent communication you have received from the John Knox Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), our regional judicatory based in Madison, Wisconsin, and repeat what they have quoted for you-a portion of our long-standing commitment to the right of workers to bargain collectively:
The 1995 General Assembly statement ("God's Work in Our Hands") specifically provides: "Justice demands that social institutions guarantee all persons the opportunity to participate actively in economic decision making that affects them. All workers ... have the right to choose to organize for the purposes of collective bargaining."
Therefore, The Presbytery of John Knox, meeting on February 19,2011 in Muscoda, Wisconsin, called upon Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin's other elected representatives to enter into good-faith negotiations with Wisconsin's public employee unions to deal with Wisconsin's current budget issues and to respect the rights ofall workers to collectively bargain for wages and benefits.
As Presbyterians we base the rights of all workers, corporations and governments in a doctrine of covenant or mutual accountability that undergirds all contracts and includes our social contract in the United States. We share with many people of faith the conviction that collective bargaining is a concrete measure by which burdens and benefits are shared in a manner deeply consistent with both our faith and our democratic values. Our doctrine of vocation affirms that all human beings have a calling from God to serve the common good.
It is our understanding that your state workers have already agreed to significant sacrifices as an appropriate part of the overall effort to reduce expenses. To take away their future right to collective bargaining is an attack on a basic principle, rather than simply a cost-cutting measure. We challenge your administration to embody fairness and the sharing of burdens in your tax and wage policies, and to lead by your own example.
To learn more about the PC(USA)’s historic understanding of collective bargaining, unions and labor relations, read the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy’s compilation of related General Assembly actions.