Which Side Are They On?

When a Catholic College Resists a Union

Manhattan College, founded by the De La Salle Christian Brothers in 1853, is proud of its Catholic tradition. The chairman of its board of trustees, corporate executive Thomas D. O’Malley, has noted that it has a crucifix in every classroom, three churches, daily Mass, and much religious art gracing its campus in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Two-thirds of the thirty-five hundred students are Catholic, he reports, and the graduation Mass is standing-room only. Every student must take a Catholic-studies course.

But of late the college administration is getting unwanted instruction from one of its religious-studies professors, Joseph Fahey, who says Manhattan College has violated Catholic social teaching by trying to deny its adjunct faculty the right to join a union. Fahey, who is chairman of the 250-member advocacy group Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice, has become a central figure in a union drive begun last October to organize the Manhattan College adjuncts.

As he told college President Brennan O’Donnell, authoritative Catholic teaching states clearly that workers have a right to organize. He elaborated on this when serving as chief witness for the New York State United Teachers union (NYSUT) in its dispute with the college before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). “Labor unions are an indispensable element of social life in Catholic teaching,” he testified, citing statements of the magisterium compiled in the ...

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About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).