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Social teaching and "Right-to-work" laws: As state legislatures across the nation have opened for their 2015 sessions, some (such as Wisconsin and West Virginia) are debating so-called "right-to-work" laws. These laws do not, of course, give anyone a right to a job. Rather, they create a special "right" for workers to refuse union membership even after a majority of their co-workers have voted to form a union. Laws protecting labor rights vary widely among the nations of the world; Catholic social teaching does not take an express position on "right to work" laws. What a century of papal social encyclicals DO expressly favor, however, is the growth and increase of unions and workers' associations.
     Unless they are prepared to offer an alternative method to achieve these ends, it is hard to see how Catholics who respect the message of "Rerum Novarum" and "Caritas in Veritate" can support these right-to-work initiatives.
Adapted from Clayton Sinvai, “In All Things,” Mar 2, 2015 America The National Catholic Review

Electric cars and emissions: The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report regarding electric vehicle operating costs and regional power grid emissions intended to enable consumers to more accurately analyze cost-benefit and pollution. The comprehensive report focused on such vehicles as the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi i and others, and graded regions by how much greenhouse gas on average is emitted.
     The main findings are in line with what EV advocates already know: greenhouse gas emissions are effectively reduced by switching to electric propulsion power. Further, the study estimated average fuel savings per year between $750-1,200.
     The Union of Concerned Scientists focused its study on greenhouse gas emissions which it says are responsible for climate change. It said the expectancy is overall, EVs should become effectively cleaner to operate in years to come as more renewable power sources come online. Also, it encouraged consumers to shop for the best available power plan for them, be it one focusing on green energy supplementation, or merely a less expensive alternative rate plan. In California, for instance, consumers can elect a time of use plan that could save an estimated $500-1000 per year, the study says.

Catholic media unite in call for ending the death penalty: Four leading U.S. Catholic publications cast aside sectarian differences Thursday, publishing a joint editorial that calls for ending the death penalty. "We, the editors of four Catholic journals -- America, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter and Our Sunday Visitor -- urge the readers of our diverse publications and the whole U.S. Catholic community and all people of faith to stand with us and say, 'Capital punishment must end,'" the editorial reads. Read more at http://nws.mx/1CIfKNJ
     According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 55 percent of all U.S. adults said they favor the death penalty for convicted murderers. That figure was 59 percent for white Catholics and 37 percent for Hispanic Catholics. The editorial comes as the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments in an Oklahoma killer's appeal. “The court will likely issue a ruling by June,” the publications write. “Our hope is that it will hasten the end of the death penalty in the United States.”
                                                                                              Posted: 03/05/2015

Modern slavery: Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. Although slavery is commonly thought to be a thing of the past, human trafficking still exists today throughout the United States and globally when traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control other people for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex or forcing them to provide labor services against their will.
Key statistics
• The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, including 5.5 million children. 55% are women and girls.
• In 2013, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, operated by Polaris, received multiple reports of human trafficking cases in all 50 states and D.C.
• The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
• There is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. With 100,000 children estimated to be in the sex trade in the United States each year, it is clear that the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are aggregated. Learn more about human trafficking at www.traffickingresourcecenter.org.
Keep track of Congressional action on human trafficking

Do safety nets work? A major study, led by Christopher Wimer and Liana Fox, researchers at the Columbia Population Research Center, was released in December 2013. It presents clear evidence that the government “safety net,” which includes food stamps (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and unemployment insurance, has made significant progress in easing the plight of those who are poor in the 50 years since the launch of the War on Poverty in 1964. According to the new research, the safety net helped reduce the percentage of Americans in poverty from 26% in 1967 to 16% in 2012. The results were especially striking during the recent economic downturn, when the poverty rate increased only 0.8% despite a massive increase in unemployment.
     Unfortunately, large racial disparities persist. The child poverty rate among African-Americans (29%) and Latinos (30%) was about 20 percentage points higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white children in 2012. To follow the story in just one jurisdiction, Washington DC has witnessed the rise in poverty among nearly all African Americans and Latinos, while the rise of affluence has occurred only among whites and some African Americans. A 2012 U.S. Census report shows that the District’s poverty rate for school-aged children jumped from 24.8% in 2007 to 30.9% in 2012. Nationally, in 2012, 27.6% of African-American households lived in poverty, nearly triple the 9.8% white rate, according to another Census Bureau report.
                                                  Network, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

SJB Friars Commit to Eco-Friendly Practices: At their Chapter in May 2014, the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province passed the following proposal:

“We commit to increasing our personal and communal efforts regarding environmentally-friendly practices so as to promote, in concrete ways, more sustainable lifestyles. Each friary will choose and commit to at least two practices, either from the provided list or another source, and share these with the JPIC Office by October 2014. The JPIC Office will monitor this initiative and annually report its findings to the Province at large.”

SJB Friars Commit to Refugees, Migrants and Victims of Human Trafficking: The Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province based in Cincinnati, Ohio, held their 2008 Chapter at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana May 19-23. Of the many proposals passed, the Chapter delegates affirmed a resolution to learn more about the issues of migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking in order to better be able to respond to their needs. The resolution says:
 “We, the Franciscans of St. John the Baptist Province, commit ourselves to increase our awareness of issues surrounding refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking in order to develop more proactive Franciscan responses on the provincial, friary and personal level.”
SJB Friars Commit to Non-violence: The Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province based in Cincinnati, Ohio, held their 2005 Chapter at the University of Dayton, May 23-27. Among the many proposals that were passed, the Chapter delegates affirmed a resolution introduced by their JPIC Office in which they committed themselves to “continued conversion to a life of Franciscan non-violence in support of a consistent ethic of life.” The complete resolution follows.
“As Franciscans, we affirm the sacredness of all human life and the inherent value of all creation. In a world where violence is rampant, we wish to be a sign of hope, actively promoting the preservation of life, peace among people and nations, justice for all and reconciliation. We commit ourselves to continued conversion to a life of Franciscan non-violence in support of a consistent ethic of life.”