NLRB rules against Duquesne, orders university to bargain with adjunct union

Raymond Arke | News Editor

Duquesne suffered a major loss on Tuesday in the university’s ongoing battle against allowing an adjunct union, according to a faculty-wide email from President Ken Gormley.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in a unanimous decision ordering Duquesne to bargain with an adjunct faculty union group.

The case has been going on for six years and stems from the university’s refusal to recognize a group of unionized adjunct faculty in the McAnulty College of Liberal Arts. The case had first been brought before the Region 6 NLRB office in 2012 and the office had rejected Duquesne’s claim of a religious exemption. The university had appealed the decision to the NLRB national office in Washington D.C. in 2017.

The national NLRB office affirmed the Region 6 finding on Feb. 28 and rejected Duquesne’s claim of a religious exemption.

“Unfortunately, the NLRB’s decision, which has forced us to proceed to the courts, has undercut [Catholic and Spiritan] mission and represents a misguided view of the Catholic identity of Duquesne, whose religious mission is embedded and pervasive throughout the University,” Gormley said in the faculty-wide email Wednesday.

Gormley announced that the university will be appealing the decision in federal court.

“Regrettably, due to the NLRB’s unconstitutional action, the University is filing a Petition for Review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia,” he said in the email.

Clint Benjamin, adjunct professor in Duquesne’s English department, disputed Gormley’s claims.

“I’ve been with the organizing effort since day one and it’s consistently disappointing to see Duquesne’s administration take this tact,” he said.

Benjamin said he is skeptical of the university’s support of its adjuncts.

“The administration makes the claim that they care about adjunct faculty, who are the most vulnerable nationwide,” he said. “But this casual disregard for our bargaining efforts doesn’t seem particularly Catholic to me. I’d like to see them bargain.”

Benjamin also said that the adjuncts have offered to negotiate outside the NLRB, as well.

Robin Sowards, a United Steelworkers organizer, said they support the NLRB’s decision.

“We’re gratified, but not surprised, that the NLRB has yet again vindicated the union that the adjunct faculty voted overwhelmingly to form, and found that Duquesne’s administration has violated the law by refusing to negotiate with the union,” he said.

Sowards said Duquesne should stop the appeals.

“It’s unfortunate that Duquesne’s administration has yet again chosen to spend tuition dollars pursuing an expensive appeal that treats with contempt the laws of the United States and the teachings of the Catholic Church,” he said.

In the email, Gormley reiterated his support of adjunct faculty.

“Our decision to proceed to the courts also does not lessen our commitment to our adjuncts, who are valuable members of the Duquesne community and are important contributors in achieving our mission of serving God by serving students,” he said.

Citing previous Supreme Court and U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cases, Gormley said “we are confident that the [United States Court of Appeals] will uphold Duquesne’s position.”