The Priest-Labor Initiative: Pastoral Accompaniment in action

Fr. Clete Kiley talks to workers about their rights.

Fr. Clete Kiley talks to workers about their rights.

Within the last three weeks, the Priest-Labor Initiative, housed with the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, conducted a mission to support casino workers from the Boulder Station Casino, a group of 10 neighborhood casinos spread around the periphery of Las Vegas, attempting to organize a union. It involved two meetings. Two priests, Fr. Clete Kiley, founder of the Priest-Labor Initiative, and Fr. Gene Pocernich, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and representing the Association of US Catholic Priests’ Church and Labor Working Group, were in attendance at the first meeting to ensure that workers’ rights were bring adhered to.

Las Vegas Bishop Joseph Pepe with Culinary Workers Union members

Las Vegas Bishop Joseph Pepe with Culinary Workers Union members

On Monday, August 15, the casino workers formally filed their request for an NLRB election. Thanks to new regulations from the Obama Labor Department, the time between filing for an election and the date of the election is greatly reduced making it more difficult for an employer to mount an anti-union campaign.

Fathers Gene and Clete met with various groups, including the Culinary Union, the Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice of Las Vegas (CLUEJ-LV), Boulder workers, and Deacon Tim O’Callahan of the Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas who works directly with Bishop Joseph Pepe and oversees the work of Peace and Justice, CCHD, CRS, and more. Tim confirmed that the Bishop would make a pastoral visit to the Culinary Union and offer a prayer and a blessing to the workers at 11:00 am on September 1st.

Labor Priests with Boulder Station Casino workers - Background from left: Fr. Jon Pedigo (San Jose), Fr. Bob Bonnot (Youngstown), Fr. Bernie Survil (Greensburg), Fr. Clete Kiley (Unite Here), and Gene Pocernich (Milwaukee).

Labor Priests with Boulder Station Casino workers – Background from left: Fr. Jon Pedigo (San Jose), Fr. Bob Bonnot (Youngstown), Fr. Bernie Survil (Greensburg), Fr. Clete Kiley (Unite Here), and Gene Pocernich (Milwaukee).

The second meeting took place from August 29-Sept. 2. For this part of the mission we have a first hand report from Fr. Bob Bonnot, a priest of the Diocese of Youngstown who was with a contingent of six priests including Fr. Kiley, Fr. Jon Pedigo, Fr. Gary Lazzoroni, Fr. Gene Pocernich, and Fr. Bernie Survil to continue to listen to and support the workers and experience the intimidation so prevalent on the part of management.

For Fr. Bonnot’s essay tilted, “My Preparation for this Year’s Labor Day,” click here.