Adjuncts Face Unionization Roadblocks

By Victor Ordonez

Students and faculty delivered a petition to President McShane to support adjunct unionization. (Victor Ordonez/The Fordham Ram)

Fordham administration released plans to legally deter Fordham’s adjunct faculty attempt to unionize on Friday, March 31. Fordham’s administration responded by hiring “union busting” lawyers and opposing the adjunct faculty unionization effort, according to an email from Fordham Faculty United (FFU) members Chris Brandt, Hannah Jopling, Alessandro King, Kathryn Krasinski and Alan Trevithick.

In reaction to the administration’s attempt to prevent unionization, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said:

“I believe deeply in workers’ right to self-determination – to choose freely whether or not to unionize. I value the contributions Fordham University makes to our city as an institution of higher learning and an economic engine. The non-tenure track faculty makes up more than half of the teaching staff at Fordham and help ensure that the university continues to be a dynamic and innovative institution. I encourage Fordham’s administration to agree to a fair process in a timely manner that allows for the non-tenure track faculty to vote on whether or not to join a union, and be given the same opportunity for unionization as many other employees and faculty at Fordham.”

After a previously established stance of neutrality from president of the University Rev. Joseph M. McShane, Fordham adjuncts filed for a union election in conjunction with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

After McShane’s neutral response to FFU, Fordham administration released legal plans that work to delay any vote to unionize.

FFU has called on Father McShane and Fordham to “adhere to Catholic social teachings and allow faculty to move forward with their election either through the National Labor Relations Board or alternative means” in an email response to Fordham’s legal plans.

Specifically, Fordham administration claimed that the faculty cannot unionize under the National Labor Relations Act because Fordham is a religiously-affiliated university.
Bob Howe, assistant vice president for communications and special adviser to the president, said that the attempt to unionize additionally infringes on the university’s freedom of speech.

“As a Catholic, Jesuit University, Fordham absolutely supports the right of employees to organize and join unions,” said Howe. “The administration and the Board of Trustees are deeply concerned, however, that religious institutions’ First Amendment freedoms not be abridged by the decisions of the National Labor Relations Board. Both the courts and other Catholic universities–including Manhattan College, Loyola Chicago, Saint Xavier, Seattle, DePaul, and Duquesne–have challenged the NLRB’s jurisdiction over their teachers or faculty.”

Howe also said that the 1979 ruling of NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago by the Supreme Court is the underlying precedent behind the university’s position. In NLRB v. Catholic Bishop, the Supreme Court determined that the NLRB did not have the authority to assert jurisdiction over labor–management relations and practices in Church-operated institutions.

The adjunct faculty have responded by constructing two petition. The first petition is for anyone affected by faculty working conditions, including students, parents and any addition faculty eager to participate. The second petition for any Fordham University alumni.

Several Fordham faculty members have found the recent legal actions to directly challenges the university’s jesuit values.

“The administration’s response contravenes the social justice values embodied in the Jesuit tradition,” the FFU email said. “We are appalled that Father McShane and the Fordham administration would so flagrantly disregard Jesuit values of economic justice and equality and block contingent faculty in their efforts to attain a basic standard of living.”

Kathryn Krasinski, a Fordham anthropology professor and member of FFU, said that did not expect Fordham to use religion as a suitable deterrent.

“Just because Fordham is a Jesuit school, it should not preclude any group of workers on campus from forming a union,” said Krasinski. “Our school advertises a strong mission of social justice. It makes no sense that the administration would hide behind religion to stonewall us contingent faculty.”

FFU member and adjunct professor Chris Brandt said that he was surprised Fordham had decided not to follow the lead of such other Jesuit institutions as Georgetown and Saint Louis Universities, who have allowed for adjunct unionization.

Brandt said that FFU is asking for the administration to “simply follow the Jesuit Just Employment Policy.”

The Fordham administration had hired the same lawyers involved in a similar adjunct case at LIU Post, which resulted in a lockout did when that university carried out its ill-advised lockout of its faculty last fall, according to FFU.

There are 4 comments

  1. Show Me The Money!

    Fordham is a con game, it is all about being Jesuit and their suspect opaque values. Tuition is beyond ridiculously expensive and keeping the university afloat are these exploited adjuncts who make up 50% of the faculty. Georgetown had slaves Fordham has adjuncts, Jesuit values are about presenting one story but delivering another. Fordham cannot pay a decent wage yet it’s administrators with second tier degrees at best are paid $350k to 500k, Stephen Freedman’s name jumps out.

  2. James

    Adjuncts and the poverty wages they work for keep Fordham afloat financially, but I always found this harsh reality completely antithetical to the school’s so called “Jesuit values.”

  3. Sam Wyne

    Hey it’s Fordham what else would you expect !! The hard reality is that Fordham robs Peter to pay Paul, it cannot afford to pay adjuncts a decent wage and simply exploits the heck out of them. Fordham operates as a 95% net tuition revenue based university (more like a college really), on top of that there is a greater $ outlay among the sports programs (football and basketball). The x and y axis have crossed and it is brutally clear Fordham cannot financially sustain it’s optically deceptive practices. At the Law and Graduate Business level Fordham has been brutally skimming their programs. One is struggling just to maintain it’s perceived status and the other pretty much has been wiped out, now simply relying on selling STEM visas to Chinese students. McShane has cleaned out close to 150 million dollars in net tuition money out of GBA/GSB during his tenure.

  4. Hannah Jopling

    RESPONSE TO HOWE

    Assistant Vice President for Communications and Special Adviser to the President Howe’s comments are the first we have had from the administration aside from the egregious and insulting response their hard ball union busting lawyer submitted last week to the National Labor Relations Board.

    However Howe failed to mention that Fordham has chosen to ignore two recent NLRB decisions that permit faculty at Catholic Colleges — with the exception of professors of theology — to form a union.

    I am sure the readers of the RAM would like to know why is the administration not following these precedents?

    I am sure the readers would also like to know why is Fordham not following the exempliary path of Georgetown University which let its contingent faculty form a union? Is Fordham in such dire straights that it has to take the low road?

    Also if Fordham is as pro union as Howe claims. Why don’t they agree to a free and fair process outside of the NLRB, through a neutral third party, to give Fordham’s contingent faculty a process to win a union!
    Hannah Jopling
    Founding member Fordham Faculty United

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