PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh regional office of the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision June 5 ordering that Duquesne University recognize the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers as the collective bargaining representative of part-time faculty at Duquesne’s McAnulty College of Liberal Arts. Part-time faculty at the College voted overwhelmingly to organize with the AFA-USW in 2012.
Although some of Duquesne’s employees are represented by several other unions, Duquesne claimed that recognizing the AFA-USW would infringe on its religious liberty. The Board’s Pittsburgh office held a hearing April 27-29 to determine whether the Board would require Duquesne to abide by the results of the 2012 election. Today, the Regional Director of the Pittsburgh office sided with the adjuncts in her decision and rejected Duquesne’s religious objection.
Strikingly, Duquesne presented no testimony at the hearing from part-time faculty, no testimony from anyone who hired or supervised part-time faculty, and no testimony from anybody who interacted with part-time faculty on a regular basis. Not one of Duquesne’s witnesses was even able to estimate the number of part-time faculty at the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts. Apparently, even at a hearing at which part-time faculty were the central issue, Duquesne prefers to treat part-time faculty as though they are invisible.
Duquesne pays its part-time faculty $4,000 per 3-credit course (as of Fall 2015), with a maximum of $16,000 per year. The federal poverty threshold for one person with one child is $16,317. By contrast, full-time faculty pay averages $13,295 per course to do the same work.
The Regional Director’s decision relied on the testimony of two part-time instructors who testified on behalf of AFA-USW, each of whom stated that they performed no religious functions in their teaching and that Duquesne never expressed any expectation that they perform any such functions.
The Director found that “there is no evidence” that adjunct faculty are told they have religious duties, or that religion is “a consideration in hiring, job performance, the course content of adjuncts, or the continued contractual renewal of any adjunct.”
The AFA-USW has repeatedly offered to bargain with Duquesne outside of the NLRB process in order to accommodate any genuine concerns about religious liberty and remains willing to do so. The Diocese of Pittsburgh does this with unions representing workers at local parochial schools. Duquesne has spurned these offers time and again. Daniel Kovalik, Associate General Counsel at the USW, observed, “This makes it look like real issue here is money and power, not Duquesne’s religious identity.”
Fr. Lou Vallone, a priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and himself a part-time faculty member in Duquesne’s School of Law, decried Duquesne’s position. “Religious liberty is indeed a fundamental Catholic value, but it gives people and institutions the freedom to do the right thing, not the wrong thing. Religious liberty is not religious license.”
“The Church teaches that all workers are entitled to the just fruits of their labor, not merely the lowest wage the market will bear. And the Church teaches that labor unions are ‘indispensable’ to a just society not least because they can help workers secure a just wage,” Fr. Vallone said.
Duquesne University President Charles Dougherty, by contrast, testified at the hearing that he was not aware that Pope Francis had recently spoke to a union of Catholic educators in Italy and said that underpaying teachers is “an injustice.” President Dougherty claimed that the Holy Father’s speech did not affect his position because he did not know what the word “union” means in Italy. Duquesne has operated a campus near Rome since 2001.
In addition to Duquesne, AFA-USW represents part-time instructors at Point Park University and Robert Morris University, where they are currently in negotiations.
The Adjunct Faculty Association is organizing faculty and graduate students in Pittsburgh and elsewhere to unify and empower the people who do the work of higher education. The AFA is affiliated with the United Steelworkers, whose 850,000 members include men and women working in many different industries, including metals, paper and forestry, rubber, manufacturing, energy, health care, pharmacies and pharmaceuticals, civil service, finance, law, transportation, and education.