When the College Theology Society gathered for its annual convention at Minnesota’s St. Catherine University, the role of adjunct and contingent faculty was on the agenda. A plenary session on “The Crisis of Contingent Faculty in U.S. Higher Education” looked at how universities have increasingly shifted teaching responsibilities away from career employees to “adjuncts” who earn low wages, have few or no employment benefits, and lack job security. Villanova theologian Gerry Beyer thought that this trend poses a special challenge for Catholic Colleges because the Catholic Social Teaching we are trying to share with our students is so emphatic on workers’ rights. “Many of our institutions are good at promoting justice outside our walls, but not inside our walls,” Beyer said. But a growing number of Catholic Colleges and Universities now have unions of adjunct faculty who are working with administrators toward the common good. In mid-June, Fordham University reached a tentative agreement with SEIU Local 200, representing the adjunct faculty; now the contract goes to the members for a ratification vote.
Meanwhile, in Catholic healthcare, 200 health care techs at Providence Milwaukie Hospital in Portland, OR voted to join SEIU Local 49. Nurses at the Hospital are represented by the Oregon Nurses’ Association.