CATHOLIC SCHOLARS FOR WORKER JUSTICE
THE LABOR GUILD, 85 COMMERCIAL STREET,
WEYMOUTH, MASSACHUSETTS 02118 USA
Phone +1 (781) 340.7887 Fax +1 (781) 340.5885
Adjunct Unions at Catholic Affiliated Colleges and Universities: A Background Paper
Joseph J. Fahey
Chair, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice
Professor of Religious Studies, Manhattan College
October 12, 2013
Catholic Social Teaching has long championed the right of workers to form and join labor unions. Beginning in the Medieval period with the Church’s support for craft guilds through Pope Leo XXIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, Catholic teaching has encouraged workers to join together to bargain collectively for just wages and benefits. In the past half century. Catholic support for just wages and labor unions increased dramatically with Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes; the Catholic Catechism; the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church; the teaching of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis; the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church; and the U.S. Bishops pastoral letter Economic Justice for All.
Support for labor unions in Catholic teaching is based on the natural right to free association and the moral imperative of a living wage that will enable a worker to support her or his family. In addition, Catholic teaching holds that unions benefit the universal common good when they stand up for justice and for the poorest and weakest among us. Indeed, Catholic Social Teaching holds that labor unions are “indispensable” to a just social order. In addition to the official Church documents listed above, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice has produced its own three documents that are designed to assist people in forming their consciences on workers’ rights: 1) “The Core of Roman Catholic Teaching on Workers’ Rights,” 2) “Union Busting is a Mortal Sin,” and 3) “Catholic Social Doctrine and Worker Justice: A Call to the Common Good.” These documents are available at our website: www.catholicscholarsforworkerjustice.org
Where Do We Go from Here?
A decision by the NLRB in Washington, D.C. on adjunct organizing at Manhattan, Duquesne, and Saint Xavier is expected shortly. Will the Trustees at these schools continue on the path of legal opposition to adjunct unions or will they follow the moral imperative of Catholic Social Teaching that strongly supports a worker’s right to form and join unions?
Let us hope the Trustees will follow the example of St. Francis and Georgetown that supports the natural moral right of the adjunct professors to join a labor union of their choice. St. Francis and 5 Georgetown, in their decision to follow Catholic teaching on unions, are living testimony the highest standards of Catholic teaching on workers’ rights. A heavy burden rests on the Trustees at Manhattan, Duquesne, and Saint Xavier. Let us pray that each member of the Trustees will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as she or he reaches a decision that will affect not only their workers but the very reputation of these fine schools as well. Let us also act. Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice will shortly host a sign-on petition on our website so that scholars from around the country can urge the Trustees at Manhattan, Duquesne, and Saint Xavier to live up to the high ideals found in Catholic Social Teaching on workers’ rights.
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