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'Simply Shameful' In Urging Faculty ‘Not To Unionize,’ Marquette Cites Catholic Identity

Published Thursday, April 25, 2019
by Emma Pettit/The Chronicle of Higher Education
'Simply Shameful' In Urging Faculty ‘Not To Unionize,’ Marquette Cites Catholic Identity

(MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN) - Marquette University's Administration is appealing to professors' religious identity in trying to keep them from Unionizing.

Kimo Ah Yun, Acting Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, told campus members in an e-mail that several representatives from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 had been approaching Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Members as they left their classrooms to get signatures on Authorization Cards.  The goal of the Union is to get signatures from 30% of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Members, Ah Yun wrote, so that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will be required to conduct an election.  And if more than half of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Members sign the cards, all Non-Tenure Track Faculty at Marquette will be Unionized without an election, he said.

The Union, which generally represents Public Service Employees, Health Care Workers and Janitorial and Service Workers.

As a Jesuit and Roman Catholic Institution, Marquette "affirms the Catholic belief, echoed by Pope Francis, that the dignity of each person includes the right to fulfilling and life-sustaining work," he wrote. He then added, in boldface type: "Our strong preference is to maintain a direct working relationship with our faculty - without a third party intermediary that may not understand our university, our mission, or our guiding values.  This direct working relationship - one built on a long history of mutual respect and direct dialogue - is one of the many reasons Marquette is such a unique and rewarding place to work."

Catholic social teaching is "quite clear" on this issue, said Meghan J. Clark, an Associate Professor of Moral Theology at St. John's University: Workers have the right to Unionize, if they want, is a "bedrock principle," she said.

It was affirmed in 1891 when Pope Leo XIII wrote the Rerum Novarum, which reflected on working conditions in the 19th century and also affirmed, without question, the right of Workers to choose to come together, Clark said.

Nearly a century later, in 1986, U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote a letter that, in part, criticized Union-Busting Tactics: "No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself."

"The Union question was there for the very beginning," Clark said. "And the answer was clear from the very beginning."

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