Georgetown response to grad students throws Just Employment Policy into crisis

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.

2 replies
  1. Jim Cusack
    Jim Cusack says:

    I am a retired member of the carpenters union. All of union apparel is union made in the USA. Georgetown sweatshirts as 35 or $40 apiece and caps and $15 or $20 could very well be a union made in the USA and they would still make a profit.

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  1. […] Last month we reported in this space how Georgetown’s response to research and teaching assistants seeking union representative had generated a crisis in campus labor relations. Georgetown’s much-admired Just Employment Policy provides for living wages for campus employees and defends all workers’ right to organize, as established in Catholic Social Teaching. But when the graduate student employees formed a union, the administration dismissed their right to a union and promised to fight their right to organize before the National Labor Relations Board. Happily, in the past month the two sides have taken steps toward a compromise solution: the union has proposed holding a certification election outside the auspices of the NLRB, and the university is considering the proposal. It’s a promising development: a number of K-12 Catholic Schools, such as those in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, bargain with employee unions outside the NLRB system. The Catholic Labor Network will keep you posted as negotiations continue. […]

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