"Bishop Sheil Appeals For Labor's Rights"


John L. Lewis, head of the CIO

Courtesy of the Library of Congress



Bishop Bernard J. Sheil's appearance on June 16, 1939, at a Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee (PWOC) meeting attended by 16,000, marked a sharp break with past policy. "Usually," as the Chicago Tribune remarked, "the bishops have avoided active participation in controversial political and economic movements." It was not just Sheil's invocation, though, that indicated the Church's support for industrial unionism. After the bishop, surrounded by union guards because of threats, climbed the speaker's platform, a group of priests "walked to the front of the hall and took special reserved seats." They received an ovation - just as Sheil had - "lasting several minutes" that "shook" the building. George Cardinal Mundelein had put the Church on the side of the CIO and industrial unionism in a particularly complex situation: first, the PWOC's National Policy Meeting had just authorized a strike against Armour if it continued to refuse to negotiate; second, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters, an American Federation of Labor affiliate, was contesting the CIO's legitimacy in the stockyards; third, the Communist Party, embodied in Herb March, who also received great acclamation when he arrived in the hall, was an extremely important force in the PWOC.






Bishop Sheil Appeals for Labor's Rights


As you read this document, reflect on the following questions:

1. Are there any clues in this speech as to why Mundelein chose to support industrial unionism?

2. Upon what authority does Sheil base his claim?