New Award to Honor Labor Leaders

Award Named in Memory of Labor Advocate Msgr. George Higgins

September 03, 2002

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, will present the first annual Monsignor George C. Higgins Labor Advocacy awards to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and to the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) during the Archdiocese of Washington’s 50th Annual Labor Day Mass:

Sunday, September 8, 2002
Noon Mass / awards presented at approx. 1:00 p.m.
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
400 Michigan Avenue, NE, Washington, DC

Cardinal McCarrick established the award to honor the legacy of Msgr. Higgins, who passed away May 1 after more than 50 years as a leading voice for justice for workers throughout the world. As the Cardinal put it, “In his efforts to secure a living wage and greater respect for the rights of workers, Msgr. Higgins built bridges among peoples and gave voice to Catholic social teaching, reminding us always of the link between faith and justice in the struggle for workers’ rights. It is fitting to commemorate the work of this extraordinary priest by presenting an award in his name to those who are carrying forward his legacy by sharing and acting on the Church’s teaching on the dignity of work and workers’ rights.”

Mr. Sweeney is being recognized for his life-long commitment to the American labor movement, his leadership in seeking justice for Americans and for his contributions to the Catholic Church’s efforts to advocate for the dignity of work and the rights of workers. CLINIC is being recognized for its commitment to protecting and advocating for the rights of at-risk immigrants, which include the right to a fair wage, a safe work environment and the right to join a union. CLINIC has advocated on behalf of day laborers, farm and service workers, those in the meatpacking industry and more. Executive Director Donald Kerwin will accept the award.

Msgr. Higgins’s labor advocacy dates to the 1940s. He served as staff to the U.S. Catholic bishops on social action issues from 1944-1980. For the next 20 years, he was a lecturer on labor and social ethics, and then professor emeritus, at The Catholic University of America. A prominent advocate of the rights of farm workers, Msgr. Higgins was instrumental in the early days of the United Farm Workers. In the early 1980’s, he was a liaison between the Polish labor union, Solidarity, and U.S. unions. From 1946-2000, he chaired the United Auto Workers’ Public Review Board.

Susan Gibbs
Office of Communications
[email protected]