Vatican and unions
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As a former adjunct instructor in the McAnulty College of Liberal Arts at Duquesne University, I was disheartened by the administration's recent decision to backtrack on its initial agreement to allow adjuncts to vote to unionize. I'm glad to hear that the National Labor Relations Board has upheld workers' rights and has ruled that adjuncts should indeed be allowed their vote, and were I still an employee at Duquesne, I'd gladly vote to join the United Steelworkers.
I'm also disturbed by the frankly bizarre arguments made by people like Patrick J. Reilly in his June 21 commentary "Defending Duquesne: The University Must Fend Off Another Assault on Religious Liberty." It comes as news to me that Catholic teachings are now anti-labor; to the contrary, I thought that traditional Catholic social teachings would argue for the dignity of work and the right of people to receive a basic living wage.
As it stands now, adjunct instructors at institutions of higher education, both religious and secular, constitute a large and severely underpaid segment of employees with few rights. I fail to see how the continued disenfranchisement of that category in any way reflects authentic Christian values. Duquesne's recent decision, and Mr. Reilly's defense of it, raises troubling questions about the almost Orwellian misuse of the term "religious liberty." For the current far right of the Catholic Church (who consistently seem to merely be proxies for political interests) that term simply means being allowed to do whatever you please, despite the rights of others.
The irony in all this is that the church has consistently affirmed workers' rights, in Pope Leo XIII's encyclical "Rerum Novarum" the right to unionize is explicitly affirmed. If that's good enough for the Vatican, why isn't it for Mr. Reilly? The question is, why does he hide behind the rhetoric of "religious liberty" to affirm the profoundly un-Catholic actions of Duquesne as regards labor rights?
First Published June 26, 2012 12:00 am