The National Catholic Review

Georgetown adjunct faculty recently made news, voting to join SEIU Local 500, the labor union that already represents adjunct faculty at George Washington University and American University.

Colleges and universities across the nation are reducing personnel costs by assigning more and more of their teaching work to adjunct instructors. Adjuncts are cheaper than tenured faculty and generally enjoy few if any of the fringe benefits the latter receive. Predictably, adjunct faculty, including those at Catholic colleges and universities, are exploring unionization.

Over the past couple of years, at least four Catholic higher education institutions have seen their adjuncts seek union representation. Manhattan College in New York, St. Xavier’s in Chicago, and Duquesne in Pittsburgh rejected their adjuncts’ request out of hand. And in a move that’s hard to interpret charitably, they have invoked their status as religious institutions to evade any legal obligation to bargain. After all, Catholic social teaching on the right of workers to form unions is clear, consistent and explicit. Other Catholic institutions call for a religious exemption so they can adhere to Catholic teaching on contraception; these colleges are calling for a religious exemption so they can contradict Catholic teaching on the rights of workers.

Georgetown, however, has a “just employment policy” rooted in Catholic social teaching that defends the right to organize and the right to a living wage. The school has insisted in the past that its food and custodial service contractors adhere to these policies. Admirably, when its own adjunct faculty employees started to discuss organizing, the administration concluded that its principles applied equally to itself. The university announced that the adjuncts had the right to decide if they wanted union representation or not, and agreed to respect whatever decision they reached.

Here’s to Georgetown, for using its role as an employer to evangelize the world with Catholic social principles.

Comments

Anna Harrison | 11/9/2013 - 5:28pm

I am confident that Loyola Marymount University, who adjunct faculty are in the process of organizing, will follow Georgetown's lead. We at LMU are very committed to our mission. My hopes are high.

EDWARD HOLLAND | 5/17/2013 - 2:26pm

Congratulations to America for running this article, and congratulations to Georgetown for following Catholic Social Doctrine in support of employees forming unions. For over 100 years, a long series of papal encyclicals -- Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (1891), Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno (1931), John XXIII's Mater et Magistra (1961), John Paul II's Laborem Exercens (1981) and Centessimus Annus (1991), and Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate (2009) -- have made abundantly clear the Church's Doctrine in support of workers human right to form a union. How sad, however, that the trustees and executive officers of Manhattan, St. Xavier's, and Duquesne have paradoxically claimed that their Catholic identity allows them to use secular law to reject Catholic Social Doctrine. Let us pray for these good people that they may be converted to the Church's wise and inspired social teaching. - Joe Holland

Vince Killoran | 5/17/2013 - 1:10pm

Hurrah!

p.s. I agree about Georgetown's handling of this (they may have learned a lesson with their less-than-stellar response to the living wage campaign a few years back).

ed gleason | 11/11/2013 - 4:41pm

The whole country is going with part-time workers with no benefits. It's time to pick the weakest corporation with this part-time policy and boycott them into bankrupcy.. and then dance on the empty building.. That's how the good old American free enterprise should work. Kill a corp.. for peace/justice. ...