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Unionized parish workers fired in Texas.

The June 18 firing of four parish workers who belong to what is thought to be one of the first unionized parish staffs in the U.S. Catholic Church sparked massive protests by parishioners in McAllen, Texas and caught the attention of labor activists throughout the nation. Father Ruben Delgado, who fired the four women--one of whom is pregnant--in his first day as pastor at Holy Spirit Parish, resigned the following week.

Bishop Raymundo Pena of the Diocese of Brownsville announced Delgado's resignation at a press conference, saying he was granting him a period of extended rest. Delgado had not been seen at the parish since his first day. Pena said Delgado will be assigned a different position within the diocese.

A local paper reported that Holy Spirit parishioners and several priests speculated that Delgado fired the union workers under the bishop's orders. Father Jerry Frank, who served at Holy Spirit from 1993 until mid-June, has publicly accused the bishop of lying and forcing Delgado to do his "dirty work for him" by firing the workers. Frank and other priests in the diocese have called for the bishop to resign.

When asked for reaction to calls for his resignation, Pena said he had nothing to do with the issue. "I haven't done anything," Pena said. "All I've done is try to bring peace to the situation. All I did is appoint a pastor."

Court proceedings underway may establish a national precedent that could provide Catholic parish employees job security they have never had. In an ironic twist, the women are being defended by the United Farm Workers union, which received significant support from the Catholic bishops when Cesar Chavez founded it in the 1960s.

The union filed a temporary restraining order and an Hidalgo County District Judge ordered that the workers be reinstated immediately. At press time, mediation was underway, and an interim parish administrator had been appointed, although one of the reinstated workers said the new priest will not speak to her, not even to say "hello."

Leading up to these events was an historic move in July 2002 whereby staff at four Texas parishes signed union contracts with the United Farm Workers after Pena terminated the employees' pension fund and workers at a nearby parish were summarily fired.
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Title Annotation:resignation of Father Ruben Delgado of Holy Spirit Parish; News: signs of the times
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:380
Previous Article:Verbatim.
Next Article:Saint watch.
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