In Buzz they trust

The CAW and United Church ministers? It's a weirder mix than Methodists and Presbyterians.

No doubt about it. Any working stiff forced into the office every Sunday has a real beef, especially if he or she also has to work holidays. The first day of the week is a much-needed time out for wage slaves, a day to rest, even worship, if that's your thing. Working Sunday should be voluntary. But not for everyone, says one religion expert (read: my mother-in-law), who thinks landing a gig at God Inc. “is a calling, not a job.”

In other words, if you believe you're doing the Lord's work, you're not like a line worker at GM. You're a self-proclaimed essential service. You can't strike, even if your wages suck or the flock treats you like crap.

Makes sense, right? Well, about three dozen United Church ministers disagree. Tired of shop-floor conditions, low pay and mistreatment from congregations, a group of disgruntled god workers invited union boss Buzz Hargrove to spread his gospel in early November.

“The No. 1 abuse is in terms of people taking advantage of the privacy that would normally be given an employee,” David Galston, a Hamilton-based minister, told the media. A full-blown union drive is now underway. But trying to figure out the logic is difficult (especially for non-believers who have no shot at retiring in the clouds). After all, a minister's job requires self-sacrifice. According to the contract, the reward comes later.

Understanding what motivates the Canadian Auto Workers, on the other hand, is easier. The folks on Union Drive can be just as competitive as any deal makers on Bay Street. And solidarity often takes a back seat to new members when labour is a shrinking industry. That's why the CAW found its American pal, the United Auto Workers, in Canada earlier this year trying to scare up business at a Japanese automaker.

Other unions are watching the CAW's new growth strategy, but they don't appear interested in the United Church. “I figure, why waste time on the small stuff,” says a United Steelworkers of America spokesperson. “Let's go for the Catholics.” Nevertheless, managers at the United Church don't see a link to the CAW as a match made in heaven. At press time, there was no word on whether the nation's largest Protestant denomination would follow Wal-Mart's example and look for an excuse to close down the first of its shops to unionize.