“The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must be honoured today even more than in the past,” observed Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate. Administrators at St. Martin’s University in Washington state aren’t so sure. Contingent faculty there voted 63-34 to seek representation from SEIU 925, but the school refuses to deal with the union and is invoking religious freedom as a legal defense. Indeed, administrators say they don’t understand why anyone would want a union there. The Seattle Times cited the Chancellor’s bemused response to the organizing campaign:
“I guess the first thing I thought is, ‘That’s peculiar; I wonder why they think they need a union to be heard?’” said Abbot Neal Roth, who is on Saint Martin’s board of trustees and also serves as the university’s chancellor. “We’re such a small school, and it’s not hard to talk to anybody who is an administrator.”
Oh, Abbot Roth. I admire your innocence, and your question sounds like an excellent aid to discernment. If St. Martin’s were to take the money currently being paid to expensive union-busting lawyers, and instead use it for an administration retreat reflecting on why St. Martin’s instructors voted 2-1 to form a union, it would be much more productive.
Imagine, for example, sitting in a room with Pope Benedict and explaining to him why Caritas in Veritate didn’t apply to St. Martin’s. I’m sure you are sincere in your belief that a union isn’t good for your school, but would you really feel comfortable arguing your point with the pope?