The Common Good

Catholic University vs. Catholic Social Teaching on Unions

Adjunct faculty in today's colleges and universities are often, to put it mildly, not treated well in terms of income and job security, so it's not surprising to me that the adjuncts at Pittsburgh's Duquesne University are considering unionizing. After first agreeing to a union election, the university filed a legal movement last Friday to kibosh the process by claiming labor law doesn't apply to Duquesne as a religious institution.

I don't know whether Duquesne's professors' job is religious enough to make this legal claim stick, in the same way  the "ministerial exception" means anti-discrimination law doesn't apply to religious employees (as Melissa Scott explained in "A Hire Law for Churches" in the April Sojourners). But I do know that it seems ironic that the professors may have a better grasp of Catholic teaching regarding labor unions than the university administration does:

From Inside Higher Ed:

"Joshua Zelesnick, an adjunct who teaches English composition at Duquesne, said he was taken aback that the university signed an agreement to follow all NLRB rules and regulations and was now trying to back out of it. ...

“'They have a history of bargaining with other unions on campus -- for instance: they're not too Catholic to bargain with the Teamsters, who represent the campus police; not too Catholic for other unions.  How are they all of a sudden too Catholic for the USW?' Zelesnick said, adding that if the university wanted to exhibit its Catholic identity, 'upholding the papal encyclicals would be a great place to start.'

"Robin Sowards, an adjunct who teaches composition and linguistics at Duquesne, pointed out that the Roman Catholic Church has said that unions are an 'indispensable element of social life.'”

The school's full name is Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit. Is this a case of  "Spirit" vs. the letter of church teaching?

Read more at the Inside Higher Ed website.