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Information on Duquesne University's First Amendment Rights and Adjunct Unionization

Update on NLRB Proceedings - April 26, 2017

The University has been defending its First Amendment-protected rights to be free from federal government intrusion into our religious mission and identity related to NLRB oversight of some of our adjunct faculty. Recently, the Steelworkers union officially requested to bargain with the University. Under the federal labor law, the only way that the University can test the validity of the NLRB's assertion of jurisdiction over Duquesne in the courts is to decline to bargain with the Steelworkers and we have done so. As expected, this has triggered an accusation of unfair labor practices against Duquesne. In a letter to campus on April 10, President Gormley explained that this outcome was likely on the horizon, and that the University intends to take the steps necessary to defend its rights and seek court review if necessary.

It is striking that the NLRB rushed to decide this case, with only three of its five members in place, knowing that the President of the United States is in the process of filling two vacancies on the Board. Only two members, less than a majority of the full Board, voted for this result which contradicts decades of Supreme Court precedent. Acting NLRB Chairman Miscimarra wrote a strong dissent disagreeing with these two members, finding that the Board did not have jurisdiction over Duquesne. Particularly given Acting Chairman Miscimarra's compelling dissent, it is unfortunate that the two Members chose to issue a decision before the full Board had an opportunity to convene. The University is confident that had the full five-member Board had an opportunity to review the case and vote, Duquesne would have prevailed. We are eager to allow the process to move forward properly in order to reach an appropriate conclusion to this matter.

Additional information will be shared with the campus community as the issue progresses through to court review.

President Ken Gormley's Statement in Response to NLRB's Decision - April 10, 2017

Today, Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit learned that a panel of the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. ruled 2 – 1 to assert jurisdiction over Duquesne University in its jurisdictional dispute arising from a union vote involving certain adjunct faculty members. Duquesne is disappointed that the Board chose to rule on this issue with less than its full contingent of five members appointed by the President of the United States, and that the Board has sought to assert jurisdiction when not even a majority of the full five-member Board voted for that outcome. Read more »

Duquesne to Appeal NLRB Decision - Statement from President Dougherty - June 5, 2015

Recently, the University participated in a hearing before the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding the attempt by the United Steelworkers to unionize part-time faculty in our liberal arts college. The University has opposed this effort and has asserted its First Amendment right to be free from an unconstitutional intrusion of government control over it as a religious institution. Read more »

Duquesne to Defend Religious Freedom at NLRB Hearing - Statement from President Dougherty - April 27, 2015

On Monday, April 27, Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit will be participating in a hearing before the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Pittsburgh regarding the attempt by the Steelworkers to unionize part-time faculty in our liberal arts college. Read more »

Statement Regarding NLRB Board Order of Sept. 14, 2012

While the Board's Order denied Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit's request to file a special appeal over the NLRB's assertion of jurisdiction in this matter, the Board stated that its denial was "without prejudice." The Order specifically stated that "if the Union did receive a majority of the votes cast, the Employer may renew its jurisdictional contention before the Board." In such circumstances, Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit will appeal and reassert its position that based on the Supreme Court's ruling in NLRB v. Catholic Bishop, the NLRB lacks statutory jurisdiction over this religious institution.

President Dougherty Outlines University's Position Protecting its First Amendment Rights - June 22, 2012

I write to provide a context for the University's assertion of its First Amendment right to religious exemption from the authority of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to impose a union of our adjunct faculty on the University. I appreciate your patience for a long communication on a difficult situation.

The University was not aware of any general discontent among part-time faculty until an intention to unionize with the United Steelworkers was made public in the media. We literally found out about it in the newspapers. No group of adjuncts had approached the University to ask for dialogue.

It is important to point out that the University as such has no policies on adjuncts, only a definition. There are no University pay scales; these vary by College and Schools. They also vary by the role adjuncts play. In the professional schools, they often serve to add clinical experience. In the College, they tend to teach introductory level courses. There are no benefits or long term securities associated with these positions due to their ad hoc and transitory nature. Only in the last several years have the numbers of adjuncts in the College increased significantly.  At the same time, there appear to be a growing number of part-time faculty who seek to make a full-time living by taking on multiple part-time assignments, often spread among several universities. Read more »

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