Georgetown, Unlike Other Roman Catholic Universities, Allows Adjunct Union

This article is from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Many Roman Catholic Universities, such as Duquesne University, Saint Xavier University and Manhattan College, are claiming a religious exemption based on an unusual interpretation of the First Amendment, from US labour law and the right of the National Labor Relations Board to assert jurisdiction over part-time faculty organising efforts. It is refreshing to see an elite, distinguished Roman Catholic University avoid the hypocritical use of faith to prevent the most vulnerable of its faculty from seeking a quasi-subsistence wage and the right to decent work conditions. The NLRB is one of the nation’s most significant and ethical agencies and universities should embrace its mission of seeking worker justice through group solidarity and not use a religious exemption to prevent and frustrate its scope of reference. Roman Catholic universities do not reject Pell Grants, student loans, federal grants, state MAP (monetary assistance) programmes for students. Why do so when the most vulnerable faculty seek justice? What is religion and faith if it is a concept used vicariously to advance an agenda? Just because a union exists, does not guarantee it will succeed in negotiating a contract as is well known when one party refuses or presents a “final take it or leave if offer.” Unions do have the power of work stoppages as a drastic last resort to pressure the “providers” to provide justice!

Georgetown U. Adjuncts Vote to Unionize

By Peter Schmidt May 3, 2013

Washington

Georgetown University’s part-time faculty members have overwhelmingly voted to form a union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, marking a major victory for the SEIU’s effort to organize adjunct instructors throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Just under half of the 650 adjunct instructors eligible to vote on unionizing at Georgetown did so, and more than 70 percent of voters opted to form a collective-bargaining unit. With that vote, counted on Friday, Georgetown is set to join American University and George Washington University in having adjunct faculty unions affiliated with SEIU Local 500, which now represents more than three-fourths of the adjunct work force at colleges in the District of Columbia.

“This victory will help improve conditions at Georgetown, but because we are joining adjuncts at other institutions across the region, the implications go far beyond Georgetown,” Kurt Brandhorst, an adjunct instructor in the Georgetown philosophy department, said in an SEIU news release announcing the results of the vote. The union election did not cover adjuncts at the Georgetown University Law Center or the Georgetown University Medical Center.

The goal of the SEIU’s regional organizing campaign is to bring adjuncts at enough area colleges into the union to put all colleges here under market pressures to improve adjuncts’ pay, benefits, and working conditions. The SEIU also has unionized adjuncts at Montgomery College, a public institution with campuses in three of Washington’s Maryland suburbs, and is considering campaigns at other colleges in the area. Last month it began a similar regional organizing campaign in Boston, and it said it is considering another one in Los Angeles.

The effort to organize adjuncts at Georgetown was made easier by the Roman Catholic university’s decision not to oppose the campaign. “They were not just neutral but very cooperative throughout the entire process,” Christopher Honey, a Local 500 spokesman, said on Friday in an interview. “They really upheld their social values.”

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