In recent years, Georgetown University has earned considerable respect from both labor unions and Catholic social ministry activists for its remarkable Just Employment Policy. The policy, developed over more than a decade of dialogue between students, faculty, administrators and workers, helps ensure that university personnel practices demonstrate Catholic Social Teaching. But a confrontation with graduate student employees seeking to form a union has thrown the Policy into crisis, leading to mass resignations from the advisory committee of clergy, staff, faculty and students that observes its implementation.
Guided by the Just Employment Policy, the university has investigated labor practices at overseas firms producing Georgetown gear – and implemented a living wage requirement in its own service contracts, ensuring that food service and custodial workers are paid a fair wage event when they aren’t direct university employees. When adjunct faculty sought to form a union, Georgetown didn’t follow Manhattan or Duquesne University by fighting them and invoking their religious identity to claim legal impunity. Georgetown exhibited fidelity to Catholic Social Teaching on the rights of workers by saying that if the adjuncts wanted to bargain collectively, the university would honor their wishes. The adjuncts now belong to SEIU 500 and have a union contract.
Last year graduate students employed by the university as research or teaching assistants sought the same treatment. They formed a union, the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees (GAGE, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers) and requested recognition and bargaining rights.