Chicago Scavenger Hunt

Catholics, with respect to United States history, are usually identified by historians as having been the “other.” It seems, however, that Catholics may have been more tuned into American lifestyle than many historians had thought. According to James P. McCartin, Catholics played one of the deciding factors in how American democracy and society was formed. From the freedoms of the 1st amendment, to anti-institutionalism and democratic reform. In Chicago, this can be seen in the many historic sites around the city. Catholics have been treated like full citizens in a sense because, like McCartin states, they contributed so much to the democracy of the United States, and also community welfare.


Union Park

Union Park: Union Park, located in Chicago’s west side was created in 1853 and named after the Federal Union. The park itself was “one of the city’s most fashionable places” according to the City of Chicago website. Throughout it’s history, Union Park hosted picnics, musical & outdoor events. When I visited the park, it seemed it had stayed true to its roots. There was a large barbecue going on, with live music, and lots of people from the community. Since the founding of this park much has changed, I don’t think it is seen as the most fashionable place in Chicago, nor are there any art installations as there previously had been. There is a field house that is home to children’s sports teams and summer camps, as well as baseball fields.



Plumber’s Union

UA Plumbers Union Hall: The Plumber’s Union (Local 130) has over 6,000 members and is one of the largest Plumber’s Unions in the country. The plumber’s union was officially founded on October 11, 1889. Since then, it has grown astronomically – this of course can be traced back in part to Catholic support of Unions generally. The name of the Union has been changed many times throughout it’s history, currently it is known as “The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada.” In Chicago, the plumber’s union is known for dying the river the famous emerald green for St. Patrick’s Day – a longstanding Chicago tradition honoring the Irish – who are famously Catholic. It is a very modern looking building, also located in the West Side of Chicago.


Haymarket Memorial

 The Haymarket Memorial: This memorial honors the event’s of May 4, 1886. The Haymarket district was an industrial food-processing area. An event had been coordinated to protest working conditions of those in the produce industry, and resulted in a tragic bombing that killed many. The bombing later would stand for a pillar of the need for Unions – ensuring working conditions were never infringed upon. Today, the memorial stands at 175 N. Desplaines St. Chicago, IL 60661. The sculpture was created by Mary Brogger, and has plaques all over the base, sharing the history and the influence of the Haymarket Bombing.



Pullman, Illinois

Pullman: George Pullman created the town of Pullman in the 1880’s. It was a factory town which housed the worker’s who worked at the Pullman factory. In 1894, Eugene Debs organized a protest against Pullman, and became a turning point for U.S. Labor Law. The strike basically shut down the entire railway network of the United States, and created vast complications for businesses everywhere. It was a symbol of the power the American worker has, and why the worker should be valued. Today, the town of Pullman is no longer a company town, however the town relishes in it’s history and has kept almost all of the buildings, and monuments in amazing condition. There is also a Pullman museum, that explains thoroughly the history of the town as well as the protest, and its significance.

Pullman Mural (Behind the Pullman Museum)













Labor Unions, Labor Days

Photo via the Athenaeum

What mainly struck me about Catholic concerns in their work life from the past was the formation of unions, and protecting the workers, the ones with no voice, from being exploited and working under dangerous conditions. This also included the formation of child labor laws. Today, there is an issue of whether Catholics should back public-sector unions. Public unions back planned parenthood and abortion which causes dissonance for Catholics who support the Union. There is also the question if the amount of Union dues being taken from the worker’s pay is reasonable or even acceptable given what they are receiving in return “Mandatory fees require dissenting nonmembers to support beliefs they reject.” Janus v. AFSCME, a case which embodies many Catholic’s issues with Unions, had a supreme court ruling decision on June 27, 2018. This case is important for many reasons, the case was primarily concerned with whether or not it was in the power of labor unions to collect dues and fees from non-union members. The ruling by the Supreme Court was as follows: “No public sector employee, having refused membership in a trade union, may be compelled to pay union dues to said union because of the benefits he may receive from their collective bargaining. “Fair share” agreements, when applied to public sector workers, violate the First Amendment protections of free association and freedom of speech.”

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Courtroom Sketch via Bill Hennessey

This ruling overturned the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision that allowed the fees that were in question. I am not an expert on Union dues, or even the economy really so hopefully this ruling will help other Union members such as Janus, however it is interesting to see a Supreme Court case rule on two opposite ends of the spectrum in such a short period of time. (If you’d like to read more about the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme court case, you can find that here.) 

Catholic’s original concerns regarding protecting the worker and those without a voice is something I share as well. I believe the creation of the Union was a good thing, and led to many valuable constructs such as the 8-hour workday, overtime, contract negotiation, and of course most importantly child-labor laws. Unions provided a structure for the workday that would become a necessity in American society. Since then, unions have evolved, we now have a large distinction between public and private sector unions and lots of controversy, but I think everyone can agree on the fact that the creation of unions was a positive thing for the United States and it’s workers.

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Cartoon via Kotecki

Now a small tangent: The first labor day was held in New York City in 1882, before it became a national holiday in 1894. The first ever labor day consisted of picnics, and conversations of how to better the working conditions of New Yorkers. The event paralleled what many Union meetings would soon look like. Today, it seems many have forgotten the purpose of Labor Day – as it has gone from a holiday to celebrate our workers to a commercialized day to drink Miller Lite outdoors. It seems many people’s knowledge of Labor Day stops at the well-known “fashion police” law that you can’t wear white after Labor Day (though most don’t know why – see No white after Labor Day“) so usually there is a “white out” party that will be thrown – completely ignoring the momentous meaning the day actually holds for the history of our country. Regardless, it is a day for the workers of the country to relax, so to each his own.




Catholicism in Politics
 Gerald Farinas

My interest in history stems from my love of connecting trends and making sense of patterns throughout time. Being able to pinpoint a certain event, and see the snowball effect it had leading to another event. My favorite quote, by George Santayana, sheds light on my love for history. He states, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to condemn it.” I truly believe that if we do not make it a point to remember history and to analyze the effects of events and changes, we will infinitely continue to make the same mistakes. This is especially relevant regarding this seminar. I would love to analyze the Catholic influence on American politics, especially because not too long ago politics had been primarily run by protestant men. Catholics are such a huge, and diverse group of people. Stemming from all types of backgrounds, it can be difficult to pinpoint what a catholic would vote on in terms of policies like immigration.


Pro-life movements

There are many other policies that have always been apart of Catholic political agenda, like child labor, and the creation of unions. However, when it comes to policies on abortion and pro-life, it seems that catholics are more united on that front. In the past, I think Catholics have been pro-immigration because they themselves were persecuted upon arrival to the States, but with the changing political climate it is difficult to say whether catholics would vote on their religious beliefs or on a more nationalistic measure. Regarding birth control, abortion, and the likes I believe a majority of Catholics have always voted in opposition of policies and movements that encourage the use of contraceptives/preventative methods.