NLRB backs Duquesne adjuncts’ decision to unionize

Finally we have a positive story to add to our list of those about adjuncts. A June 5, 2015 decision issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered Duquesne University to recognize the Adjunct Faculty Association, which is a subsidiary of the United Steelworkers, as the legitimate collective bargaining representative of all part-time faculty at Duquesne’s McAnulty College of Liberal Arts. McAnulty’s adjunct faculty voted by a wide margin to join the AFA in 2012.

 

Duquesne, which is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, again tried to argue against the AFA on the grounds of religious liberty, claiming that as a religious institution it was outside the purview of the government. This argument harkens back to January’s ruling in Pacific Lutheran University, in which lawyers representing the university tried to argue against allowing adjunct faculty to unionize by claiming that collective bargaining could potentially infringe on the religious freedom of the university via inquiries into the specific duties required of faculty. The NLRB rejected Pacific Lutheran’s claims, as the affected faculty primarily do not teach theology courses and are not required to participate in religious life on campus.

 

Duquesne adjuncts are primarily concerned with issues relating to pay, benefits, and other non-religious concerns. Among them is Fr. Lou Vallone, a part-time faculty member at Duquesne’s School of Law and a priest with the Diocese of Pittsburgh, who said that “the Church teaches that all workers are entitled to the just fruits of their labor, not merely the lowest wage the market will bear.” He also notes that the Catholic Church “teaches that labor unions are ‘indispensable.’” Pope Francis appears to agree: in a recent speech at a union of Catholic Educators in Italy, the Pope called underpaying teachers “an injustice.”

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