Teachers in flap with archbishop over unionizing

Saturday, November 6, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Elementary school teachers in the Archdiocese of St. Louis presented Archbishop Raymond Burke's office thousands of letters of community support for their nine-year struggle to unionize.

The letters -- delivered Friday from parents, parishioners and labor sympathizers -- are in support of a lawsuit, of sorts, that the teachers filed against Burke on Aug. 30. That complaint, known as a canonical recourse, was filed with the Congregation for Catholic Education, an arm of the church at the Vatican.

The archbishop was not present, but a receptionist at his office accepted the letters.

The teachers sent originals of the letters Monday to the Vatican body, as well as copies to Pope John Paul II and Bishop Wilton Gregory of nearby Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The teachers want their help in resolving their flap with Burke over unionizing.

High school teachers in archdiocesan schools have had a union for 30 years. But the current archdiocesan stance is that the union model is outdated, said Stephanie Funaiole, who lost her teaching job when the archdiocese last year closed her school in Crestwood.

Burke told pastors and principals in June that neither the archdiocese nor any parish will recognize or bargain collectively with a group representing teachers.

An archdiocese spokesman said Friday that Burke had no comment.

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