US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Et tu, Brute? Unions take two more hits--this time from Catholic institutions

By Catherine O'Connell-Cahill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

What a shame to see unions being attacked by Catholic institutions, supposed champions of the rights of workers to organize.

Inside Higher Education reports that Pittsburgh's Duquesne University filed a last-minute motion with the National Labor Relations Board to stop an election scheduled this week to decide whether the university's approximately 100 adjunct faculty members would unionize.

The university had previously agreed to the election.  At the 11th hour, they asked the NLRB to stop the election because Duquesne is a "church-operated school," claiming that thus the NLRB has no jurisdiction over it.  Inside Higher Ed quotes a university spokeswoman: “Our Catholic identity is at the core of who we are and everything we do as an institution.”

Unsurprisingly, the adjunct faculty do not agree. Adjunct Joshua Zelesnick said that if Duquesne wanted to showcase its Catholic identity, “upholding the papal encyclicals would be a great place to start.”

Meanwhile in the Twin Cities, the Star Tribune reports that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has dissolved the union representing the employees of its diocesan paper, the Catholic Spirit (one of the best diocesan papers in the country for many years now).  Three to four of its staffers will lose their union jobs, and those remaining will be combined with the archdiocesan communications office.  (Having your news staff get gobbled up by the communications division makes it much more difficult to publish a real newspaper; nevertheless this plan is becoming more popular in dioceses across the country.  Do you think readers can tell a real newspaper from a diocesan communique?)

The archdiocesan spokesman could not tell the Star Tribune why the union had to be killed in order to make this move.  He said those laid off would get severance packages reflecting "the Catholic Church's commitment to justice and fairness," and that those newly non-union workers would be "covered by a 'Justice in Employment' agreement that 'fully reflects the Catholic Church's longstanding advocacy for the dignity of work and workers' rights.'  

Again, if our own Catholic institutions fight to prevent and dissolve unions at Catholic institutions, how can we as a church possibly speak with any measure of credibility about this topic?