Press Releases
September 17, 2015

Chicago Working Families Welcome Archbishop Blase Cupich

One of Archbishop Blase Cupich's priorities since arriving in Chicago is to build bridges and partnerships.

The shared values between the Catholic faith and Labor are well-documented, including the Catholic Church’s social teaching on the dignity of work and the rights of workers. On September 17, 2015, the Chicago Federation of Labor invited Archbishop Blase Cupich to speak to the men and women of organized labor, as well as elected officials, and community and business leaders. Hundreds gathered in the auditorium of Plumbers Local 130 to hear his thoughts and insights on the shared values between the Church and working families, including workers’ rights, immigration rights and dignity of the human person. Archbishop Cupich’s address came just days before Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States. 

Archbishop Cupich was installed as the ninth Archbishop of Chicago on Tuesday, November 18, 2014. In that time, he received many invitations from individual unions to attend various events. He acknowledged that the Labor Movement has been both welcoming and patient with him during his first year and that this address was his way of responding to all the invitations he has received.

“One of my priorities since arriving in Chicago is to build bridges and partnerships,” said Archbishop Cupich. “Today, I reach out to leaders of the Labor Movement and all who are here today. I see this opportunity as the first of many to build on the proud tradition of collaboration and common commitment between Labor and the Church.”

Archbishop Cupich continued, “I come today to offer my friendship and support as Chicago’s new Archbishop and to renew an essential and longstanding relationship between the Catholic Church and the Labor Movement. Our ties are built not on personalities, though we have been blessed with great leaders, but on enduring principles: the dignity of each and every human being made in the image and likeness of God, the dignity of work and the rights of workers.”

According to Archbishop Cupich, it is not politics, economic theories, or ideology that brings the Labor Movement and the Catholic Church together. Instead, it is a commitment to human life and dignity, work and the rights of workers, solidarity and subsidiarity, and justice and the common good. The Catholic Church has long offered a strong vision on the dignity of work and justice for workers. Pope Leo XIII called for standards of justice in the workplace, including the right to a living wage, workplace safety, access to health care, and to provide for retirement.

“Unions are important not simply for helping workers get more,” Archbishop Cupich explained, “but helping workers be more, to have a voice, a place to make a contribution to the good of the whole enterprise, to fellow workers and the whole of society.”

Here in Illinois, political interests are threatening unions by trying to introduce so-called Right-to-Work zones in different areas across the state. Archbishop Cupich pledged to add his voice when fundamental values are being threatened or undermined. He stated, “For example in view of present day attempts to enact so-called right-to-work laws the Church is duty bound to challenge such efforts by raising questions based on longstanding principles. We have to ask, ‘Do these measures undermine the capacity of unions to organize, to represent workers and to negotiate contracts? Do such laws protect the weak and vulnerable? Do they promote the dignity of work and the rights of workers? Do they promote a more just society and a more fair economy? Do they advance the common good?’ Lawmakers and others may see it differently, but history has shown that a society with a healthy, effective and responsible labor movement is a better place than one where other powerful economic interests have their way and the voices and rights of workers are diminished.”

As one of the largest employers in both Cook and Lake Counties, Archbishop Cupich told the audience that he plans to practice what he preaches about the dignity of work and the rights of workers. He acknowledged that the Labor Movement has some of the best practices for employment. He invited Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez to join him and the Archdiocese’s labor liaison, Fr. Clete Kiley, in creating a working group of representatives from the CFL and the Archdiocese to review the Archbishop’s proposals and recommend ways both groups can work together, including updating the Project Labor Agreement the Archdiocese has held with the Building Trades for more than 30 years. He also affirmed that the Archdiocese will continue the long-standing policy of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference to hold its meetings and events in union hotel, or, in the absence of such, hotels free of labor disputes.

He concluded by acknowledging that the Catholic Church in Chicago and the workers of Chicago helped build the national Labor Movement. Now it is time for today’s leaders to build on this legacy to promote the dignity of work, protect the rights of workers, act with greater solidarity and pursue the common good. He stressed that, “We have to do more together – in solidarity.”