Thursday, May 26, 2016

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Catholic Education Daily


Duquesne, the NRLB, and the Heart of the Matter

There’s a new development in Duquesne University’s fight to preserve its religious liberty against unconstitutional violations by the National Labor Relations Board. Although the NRLB does not have the right to exercise jurisdiction at religiously-operated colleges and universities, a regional director of the NRLB earlier this month ordered Duquesne to hold union elections for its adjunct faculty. Duquesne has now formally requested permission to appeal the decision of the regional board before the NRLB in Washington, D.C. A Congregation of the Holy Spirit university, Duquesne is one of three Catholic institutions of higher learning engaged in a similar struggle with the NRLB. Duquesne had originally agreed to allow the union election but then the university withdrew its agreement. The regional director ordered that the election proceed. However, in its request to appeal that decision the university argues that the regional director “essentially ignored Supreme Court precedent [regarding religious exemptions] and relied on Duquesne’s failure to challenge jurisdiction before the Board on prior occasions.” The request cites Catholic Bishop v. NLRB, a case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment gives religious schools and colleges an exemption from NRLB jurisdiction. Dr. Charles J. Dougherty, president of Duquesne, invokes the same case in an open letter about the NRLB dispute on the university’s website. Lest anyone get the idea that this is an arcane matter of labor law, Dougherty’s letter provides a good summary of what is at stake for Duquesne:
At the heart of this matter lies our ability to protect our mission. Duquesne has been faithful to our mission since its founding. We respect the unionized men and women at Duquesne and the contributions they have made and continue to make. Each member of our community is valued by the University, but some, including our faculty, stand at the core of our identity as a Catholic and Spiritan university.

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