The National Labor Relations Board in Chicago on Monday upheld a ruling requiring St. Xavier University to count ballots cast four years ago in a union representation election by part-time adjunct professors.
Since the adjunct professors outside of the ministry institute are performing no religious work, they are entitled to collective bargaining, according to the ruling.
NLRB Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr ruled that St. Xavier University “has not met its burden of establishing that its faculty, including adjuncts, other than adjuncts while teaching coursework in the Pastoral Ministry Institute, serve a specific role in creating or maintaining the University’s religious educational environment.”
But the case isn’t over yet — the university has two weeks to seek a review of the decision by the Washington, D.C.-based National Labor Relations Board.
The NLRB regional office’s initial ruling on May 26, 2011, essentially said that St. Xavier wasn’t Catholic enough to be exempt from union-organizing efforts by its part-time adjunct professors seeking better pay and job stability.
Although St. Xavier is affiliated with the Sisters of Mercy, the ruling said, it provided a secular education. And an adjunct union would not infringe on the free exercise of religion, it found.
Since the university’s request for review of that decision to the national NLRB, the ballots have been impounded.
The national NLRB ruled on Dec. 16, 2014, in a similar case involving Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., that just because a college is religious doesn’t mean that its faculty members cannot organize a union. The NLRB included guidelines in the Pacific Lutheran decision that universities may use to determine whether their adjunct faculty members are performing religious work.
The NLRB then sent the case back to the regional NLRB in Chicago for further action.
The NLRB-Chicago order issued Monday defined those eligible to vote as “all part-time faculty employed by (St. Xavier) at its campuses presently located at 3700 West 103rd Street, Chicago, Illinois and 18230 Orland Parkway, Orland Park, Illinois, who teach at least three credit hours per semester; but, excluding all part-time faculty while teaching coursework in the Pastoral Ministry Institute and members in the School of Nursing, all music tutors, all student supervisors in the School of Education, independent contractors, confidential employees and managers, office clerical employees and guards, professional employees and supervisors.”
A St. Xavier University spokeswoman said Monday that school officials had not seen details of the ruling and had no immediate comment.
Charlie McBarron, a spokesman for the Illinois Education Association, said Monday that the ruling was good news because “IEA’s position is that the desires of the voters should be known; therefore, we wanted the ballots to be counted.”
But he said the IEA expects St. Xavier to again seek a review of the case before the NLRB in Washington, D.C.
Saint Xavier University is the oldest of the 16 Mercy colleges and universities in the world and the oldest chartered Roman Catholic educational institution in Chicago. It was founded in 1846 by Mother Francis Warde, RSM (Sisters of Mercy) at the request of William Quarter, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Chicago, and was chartered by the state on Feb. 27, 1847.