The plight of contingent faculty has been getting a lot of attention in the past couple years, and not just in academic journals with a focus on higher education issues. Mainstream media are catching on and publishing stories about the increased proportion of adjunct positions to total faculty numbers, the pitiful wages paid to part-time faculty, their lack of benefits, the instability of their working lives, the impacts of an adjunct-majority faculty on student outcomes and institutional identity, the national push by labor organizations to help those faculty form unions… you name the angle, and you can bet there’s a handful of articles addressing that facet of the adjunctification crisis.
At the same time, there has been an upheaval in the status quo regarding labor rights within institutions with religious affiliation. This is a moral and increasingly a legal conundrum in need of redress. Claiming religious exemption, a Catholic university, for example, has had the law on its side when it blocked its faculty from electing to organize unions. That is common despite the stance made apparent by scholars of the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, that the rights of laborers to form associations among themselves is basic and undeniable. Beginning in 2014, though, the National Labor Relations Board and its regional offices started overturning that exemption, opening the way for laborers at impacted schools to decide for themselves whether or not to form unions.
In the weeks leading up to his visit to the United States, we are asking Pope Francis to address the moral component of this problem. What we ask of him we also ask of you: We ask you to make clear your stance—a stance made clear by faith and by teachings of the Church—regarding the dignity of all laborers of all colleges and universities, Catholic and otherwise, and their right to decide for themselves whether or not to form unions. Please sign the petition and share widely!