Shame on Duquesne. The Pittsburgh university is using its Catholic affiliation – a faith rooted in a deep tradition of worker justice – to deny its adjunct faculty their right to form a union. The university is claiming a religious exemption from the National Labor Relations Act and recently appealed a decision by the NLRB regional office ordering the union election to proceed. That Duquesne would choose to follow the route of countless unscrupulous American employers to thwart its employees’ efforts to gain a voice on the job, rather than lead by strong example, is deeply disappointing.
Though it was exempt from the NLRA as a religious institution, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has collectively bargained with its lay Catholic school teachers (those teachers who are not a member of the clergy or religious orders) since voluntarily recognizing their union in 1968 (albeit with a struggle). For 30 years, my father was a member of that union. Though he earned considerably less than his public school counterparts, through his union he could teach within his faith community and also have job security and benefits to support our family. And the Archdiocese hasn’t been hindered in its mission to teach young Catholics by my dad’s union.
In a response to a global economy rife with poverty and inequality, Pope Benedict XVI’s third encyclical called for renewed respect for workers’ rights to form unions: “The repeated calls . . . for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past.” Duquesne University and other leading Catholic institutions should heed this call and set a moral example for other American employers to follow.