Disgruntled Canadian Protestant ministers want to unionize

Posted: Friday, November 19, 2004

TORONTO (AP) Some stressed-out United Church of Canada ministers have launched an unprecedented campaign to seek union representation.

Canadian Auto Workers union President Buzz Hargrove agreed to represent the grass-roots clergy movement, centered in Ontario and western Canada. The union normally represents auto and airline workers and miners.

The 1.5 million-member United Church, the nation's largest Protestant body, said it affirms employees' right to unions as a matter of social justice, but church organizing is ''an extremely complex issue'' for ''theological, pastoral and legal'' reasons. For one thing, ministers sit on the governing boards that employ them.

Activists among the clergy complain of abuse from parishioners, low wages and lack of security as reasons to organize.

Minister's wife Karen Paton-Evans of Ingersoll, Ontario, said congregations ''are served by volunteers who are usually well-intentioned people, but they are not skilled in human resources or versed in labor law.''

She said clergy need help from labor specialists who ''can ensure they are protected.''


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