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Religious school employees legislation hearing held


September 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Religious school employees legislation hearing held


REGION, September 2nd- Democratic Pennsylvania Representative 121st Legislative District, Eddie Day Pashinski of Luzerne County, announced the State House of Representatives Labor Relations Committee conducted a public hearing on August 18th that would give teachers and other employees in the Catholic school system more rights under state labor laws in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Pashinski introduced House Bill 2626, which has support of more than 50 legislators from across the state. The bill would allow lay teachers, support staff and other religious education workers the opportunity to seek employment representation and membership through labor organizations.

The right to unionized became a major issue in 2008 after the Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino refused to recognize the Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers (SDACT) as the bargaining representative of Diocesan teachers.

The union represented the teachers of ten of the fourty-two grade schools and nine of the ten high schools of the Scranton Diocese until Bishop Martino restructured the system in 2007. The new system eliminated the small school boards and created four regional boards. SDACT previously had contracts with each Board of Pastors that represented each school. Bishop Martino implemented a “Employee Relations Program” and eliminated the union.

Michael Milz, SDACT President and a 33 year employee of the Scranton Diocese who worked as a science teacher and later a social studies teacher at Bishop Hoban High School in Wilkes-Barre, now called Holly Redemmer, and a vocal critic against the elimination of the union, was laid-off by the Scranton Diocese during the summer.

Mr. Milz stated SDACT has not represented the workers since August 2007, when their previous contract expired. SDACT now has 22 active members employed by the Diocese at St. Michael’s School in Tunkhannock. The current five year contract agreement with the Scranton Diocese will expire in August 2009.

Mr. Pashinski, a member of the American Federation of Musicians and former President of the Nanticoke Area Education Association, said the proposed change in Pennsylvania labor law would force dioceses to recognize and bargain collectively with its teachers union. “My bill does not have anything to do with the religious doctrine but instead, gives workers in the religious education system the right to accept and join unions,” said Mr. Pashinski.

On August 18th, the State House of Representatives held a public hearing on H.B. 2626 that would also allow unions in religious schools to bring grievances to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) in Harrisburg.

Mr. Milz told the newspaper he will provide testimony on the unionization issue at future public hearings on the legislation. Mr. Milz is currently employed by the Northeastern Area Labor Federation in Dunmore.

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