How should we implement our Catholic faith in our employment practices? It’s a challenge faced by all of us – especially those administering Catholic institutions. In early 2017 Loyola University Chicago created a Just Employment Task Force to consider this question, evaluating Loyola’s personnel policies in light of Catholic social teaching and offering recommendations to bring them into alignment. The Task Force submitted its report to President Jo Ann Rooney in June, who published a response on Sept. 21.
On the positive side, the university will be exploring the task force’s proposal to adopt a living wage policy. From the time of Leo XIII’s Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum, Catholic Social Teaching has expressly enjoined employers to pay a wage sufficient “to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner,” even if the labor market permits them to get away with offering less – indeed, if they pay less they make the wage earner “the victim of force and injustice .” A few other Catholic Colleges and Universities, such as Georgetown, have done the hard work of trying to determine a “living wage” in their communities and have insisted that not only university departments but also university contractors (such as those providing cleaning and food services pay a living wage. A living wage policy at Loyola would be an impressive expression of Loyola’s Catholic identity.
Unfortunately, President Rooney dismissed the task force’s proposal to set up an advisory committee that would monitor university contractors and contracting practices – the very mechanism that makes the program work effectively at Georgetown. And the report’s language about employee unions and collective bargaining was vague at best during a time when Loyola is arguing that adjunct faculty who have voted to form a union don’t merit protection under the National Labor Relations Act. (The report was crystal clear about students who do paid work for the university, who have also voted for union representation – it said they are “not employees” and not to be afforded living wage protections.)
Georgetown University’s extensive Just Employment Policy did not appear at once in its entirety; it was the result of more than a decade of action and reflection by students, workers, faculty, and administrators. The Catholic Labor Network will keep you posted as this process moves forward at Loyola University Chicago as well.