Labor Day Mass to support local workers

BOSTON -- The Archdiocese of Boston will celebrate a Mass of solidarity with janitors who up until recently faced layoffs at the hands of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, Aug. 30, at Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel in South Boston.

Father James Flavin, Episcopal Vicar of the Central Region, told The Pilot that the union representing the janitors recently reached out to him to plan a Mass of support and solidarity for the janitors at noon on the Saturday before Labor Day.

"We want to make sure that everybody has the right to work and can make a living wage. That's Catholic. Everyone has the right to a living wage and certain protections," Father Flavin said.

Father Flavin said the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ contacted his office and has been promoting the Mass locally. He said his predecessor in the central region, Bishop Robert F. Hennessey, had been consistent in his support for workers in such cases.

"The union called me, to continue what Bishop Hennessey has been doing, and the Catholic Labor Guild to ask if we would continue to support those folks," he said.

Father Flavin said the Mass will also support upcoming attempts by workers at Logan Airport to unionize in the face of a conflict over wages that developed in 2012.

After the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority announced a plan to cut almost 100 jobs of those who clean stations and facilities in and around Boston in 2013, local unions, supporters of worker's rights, and those facing layoffs began protesting and organized to fight back.

Local 32BJ began a public campaign and protests against the plan, including recent protests this summer.

According to the local union affiliate, 50 legislators sent a letter to Richard A. Davey, secretary and chief executive officer of Massachusetts Department of Transportation, urging a stop to the cuts.

A Labor Day layoff of janitors would have cut one-third of the MBTA cleaning work force, but according to an Aug. 27 press release on Local 32BJ's website, months of pushback stopped the plan.

"The MBTA's decision to reconsider these drastic cuts is good news for workers and T riders," Roxana Rivera, director of 32BJ SEIU District 615, said in the press release. "We look forward to continuing to work with the MBTA and its cleaning contractors to find cost-saving alternatives that save taxpayer dollars while ensuring the quality service, safe jobs and standards of cleanliness that the T riders deserve."

Father Flavin said many of those who faced the layoffs are Catholics, new to the United States, who participate in their parishes and faith.

"When you come to this country, there is an automatic connection with their church, and there is a trust with the Church. That's why we get involved in it," he said.

Father Flavin said supporting the janitors reflects a long-standing tradition in the Church.

"The Catholic social teaching has always been very strong in upholding the dignity of workers," he said.

Allyson Every, executive director of the Labor Guild, said the Mass will also continue a tradition of holding a Mass to commemorate Labor Day.

"There's usually a Labor Day Mass each year and we're delighted that it's going to be at the Seaport Chapel," she said.

The averted cuts would have fallen on a national holiday dedicated to the celebration of the labor movement in the United States.

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