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Labor groups, teachers protest in front of chancery

May 1, 2015
Catholic San Francisco

Labor representatives and archdiocesan high school teachers were among more than 200 people who demonstrated in front of the archdiocesan Pastoral Center April 27 to support the teachers in their contract negotiations with the archdiocese.

A press release given out at the demonstration at One Peter Yorke Way in San Francisco said the teachers rallied “to protect their rights as workers and to ensure that their schools remain safe for all students.” The statement noted concern over any contract changes that would “eliminate anti-discrimination and other workplace protections” for school employees.

The statement also mentioned concern over teachers’ job security under proposed revisions to the high schools’ faculty handbook designed to affirm key points of Catholic morality and religious practice in Catholic high school education.

Speakers at the rally included Art Pulaski, secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, who was quoted in the press release as saying the contract and handbook language threatens to “strip workers of their labor protections and muzzle their voices in their classrooms and in their private lives.”

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone stressed when the handbook changes were announced in February that the revisions contain nothing essentially new and that there is no intention to target any teachers for dismissal. A statement by the archdiocese April 27 affirmed that point.

“The men and women who have been called to a career in Catholic education, and who serve our schools and students with distinction, have our greatest admiration and respect,” the archdiocese said. “They make vital contributions to the formation of minds and of character. They teach our students to think, read, speak, and pursue wisdom and happiness in a place where the gifts of each person are cultivated and valued. This cannot happen without skilled and dedicated teachers who remain inspired and motivated by their calling.

“Much has been written and
broadcast in recent weeks that exaggerates and mischaracterizes the archdiocese’s intentions with regard to the proposed teacher contract,” the statement continued. “Some information reported has been incorrect for at least two months. Some of the information in these stories has been so inflammatory as to cause genuine pain and unease with many teachers.

“Most disturbing is the suggestion that the contract negotiations are being used only to provide an excuse to fire teachers. That could not be further from the truth. Today Archbishop Cordileone met again with some administrators from the archdiocesan high schools and reiterated his determination to keep teachers, not fire them. There will be no ‘witch hunts,’ no prying into people’s personal lives, no shaming, no hidden agendas. This is something the archdiocese has sought to make clear from the beginning,” the statement said, referring to a question-and-answer article published in the Feb. 6. issue of Cathollic San Francisco.

“The archdiocese reiterates its commitment to do what we can to listen to teachers’ ongoing concerns, to restore respectful discussion, and to heal any rifts that may remain,” the statement concluded. “(The archbishop) understands that the teachers want to make sure that the final language in the contract both promotes Catholic identity and protects the rights of the teachers. He too wants language that protects the rights of the teachers, and he is willing to make adjustments to firmly secure those rights.”

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