The National Catholic Review

One of the most interesting stories of the year in labor relations at Catholic institutions has been the movement of adjunct faculty to organize in unions. Last month Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University adjunct faculty voted 50 to 9 in favor of forming a union affiliated with the United Steelworkers. Duquesne, like Manhattan College in New York and St. Xavier University in Chicago, has argued to the National Labor Relations Board that as a religious institution it is exempt from regulation under the Wagner Act, which grants the right to organize. Of course, Church social teaching also expressly defends the right to organize, and the adjuncts’ vote makes Duquesne’s position extremely awkward. The university must argue that it is religious enough to merit exemption from labor law but secular enough that it is not bound to honor “the repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum[60], for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights…” (Duquesne has not responded to requests for comment.)

Meanwhile, a fourth Catholic university – one you have probably heard of! - is witnessing an adjunct faculty organizing effort. Georgetown University adjuncts have established an organizing committee. The instructors are seeking to join SEIU Local 500, which represents adjunct faculty at nearby George Washington University and American University.

Comments

Vince Killoran | 10/22/2012 - 3:13pm
"Adjunct professor is not a profession. You can't earn a living teaching adults things they weren't able to learn in high school."

After many years of hard work unemployed Ph.D.s are left with few options. They are not, by & large, just teaching a class "for fun."  Higher education institutions of all sizes and status use-usually exploit-their labor.
JOHN SULLIVAN | 10/22/2012 - 11:50am
#3 Many schools rely on adjuncts to contain costs, just a convenient way to exploit staff who have no recourse because of their status. Adjunct faculty are indeed professionals who, in many instances, work in a profession, and choose to teach part time. ...".teaching adults things that they should have learned in high school" is not relevant to the discussion and frankly sounds very elitist!

Unionization is only "feasible" where there is a limited supply of labor ? Is this a Christian perspective on the rights of workers to collectively advocate for their wages and benefits?
Amy Ho-Ohn | 10/22/2012 - 9:58am
The effort to unionize adjunct professors is not likely to be successful. Unionization is feasible when labor is scarce and right now the market is flooded with Ph.D.'s in the fields that hire most adjuncts. This column is kind of a classic:

http://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-in-the/44846

Adjunct professor is not a profession. You can't earn a living teaching adults things they weren't able to learn in high school. If you have a real job and a lot of spare time, adjunct teaching is an OK way to supplement your income. But if you want to earn a living, tutoring rich people's children for college admissions exams is a lot more lucrative.

On the other hand, unlike universities, rich people usually put a lot of effor into hiring only genuinely capable people.
T BLACKBURN | 10/22/2012 - 7:21am
As Cardinal Dolan might say, we have to pray and work for the UNtenured.
David Smith | 10/21/2012 - 8:57pm
It's a shame adjunct faculty at Catholic universities are - apparently - treated as badly as elsewhere. The mote in your own eye, Clayton.