Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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NLRB Says Jesuit Univ. ‘Lacks Substantial Religious Character’ Needed to Deny Unionization

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that Seattle University cannot stop adjunct faculty unionization because the Jesuit University “lacks substantial religious character,” according to the Seattle Times.

In the ruling, Ronald Hooks, regional director of the NLRB in Seattle, reportedly said that Seattle University faculty may not raise religious objections to the unionization because only a minority of students at the University are Catholic and that faculty are not subject to any religious requirements.

The NLRB is expected to schedule a vote next month, but the University is expected to appeal the decision.

The adjuncts filed a petition with the NLRB earlier this year with the intent of forming a union with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925.

Provost Isiaah Crawford at the time cited the Catholic institution’s mission as a reason to oppose unionization in a letter posted on the University’s website. “One of the defining attributes of Seattle University is the value we place on our mission,” he wrote. “It unites us in a common purpose to provide students a distinctive and transformative education and serves as a powerful foundation for the sense of community we enjoy.”

Crawford added that he feared unionization “could infringe on our Jesuit tradition and Catholic identity.”

An earlier Supreme Court case ruled against the NLRB infringing on a school’s First Amendment rights. The Cardinal Newman Society issued a report on “The NLRB’s Assault on Religious Freedom,” which detailed the NLRB’s history of attempts to declare jurisdiction over Catholic schools and colleges despite the Supreme Court ruling.

Last month, the Newman Society, joined by several faithful Catholic colleges, made a strong plea to the NLRB urging it to abide by the U.S. Constitution and stop interfering with religious education.

Late last year, Duquesne University reaffirmed its opposition to a union of adjunct professors, citing concerns for the institution’s religious freedom after a regional director of the NLRB ordered Duquesne to hold union elections for its adjunct faculty. Manhattan College and Saint Xavier University in Chicago also appealed NLRB rulings which argued that they are insufficiently religious to qualify for exemption from the Board’s oversight.

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