Monday, July 9, 2012

Human Resources, Divine Imperatives?

The remarkable fact that some Catholic officials are criticizing attempts to unionize exploited adjunct/contingent higher education faculty, on “religious” grounds, invites ridicule, or worse. One recent Catholic poster even called it “sleazy.”

Why? Because the anti-unionization push is coming from a church that, in its own Catholic social teachings, has been on record for decades as being on the side of the worker and in favor of workers’ rights to organize.

And so, today, I want to look at some recent posts on Human Resources and Mission: Discussion Blog for Catholic Colleges and Universities, in order to see how the “Catholic Social Teaching” deck might get shuffled and dealt in the real world.

But please don’t miss my “heart”-felt gratitude to St. Anselm College, for their celebration of the importance of faculty—I’m not just looking to criticize religiously affiliated schools. I mean, credit where credit is due.

Now, I’ve chosen three posts, two obviously connected to adjunct/contingent faculty problems, and one not. I am thinking about “religious exemptions,” and when or whether or not they are claimed. And also about  church-approved-and-administered policies, and whether or not these seem to be in line with established teaching.

From a most interesting site, this picture. It'll tell you all about various "Doctors of the Church."

I’ll consider one post each day—today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. Here’s the first. It’s from 2010, but it concerns both adcons and healthcare, and many of us have been thinking about the connection, so it seems pretty fresh baked.

That’s the title of the post, authored by Gary L. Miller, of the Office of Human Resources at DePaul University, who is one of the two people who administer the hr-forum-ccu.blogspot site.

Mr. Miller begins with a quote from Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, who wrote in Summer of 2009—wow, really thinking ahead!—that:

Catholic employers in particular should support a reformed [healthcare] system not only because of the economic consequences but because of the social justice implications.

And also:

[But, does the new act] fully resolve the health insurance access issues for part-time staff and adjunct faculty or must more be done? More must be done.

Time out for some history: Sister Carol is one powerful sister, and she’s not always just totally thinking like some of her brothers over at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. On health care specifically, there’s some good and fairly recent reporting in the National Catholic Register.

Back to Miller’s post—read it all for the details, but, essentially, one reads about several proposals to cover part-timers, and the burdens thereof, on employees and institutions, and one particular solution is found such that “the university would have a plan for those part-timers who need it.”

And why should the university do so? Again, have a look at the whole post to see the details, but basically the idea—Miller’s— is that the university has a moral obligation to do so:

…. the new healthcare law envisions the federal government, state governments, insurers and large employers (those with more than 50 employees) all working together to achieve the important goal of near-universal medical coverage, a goal that serves the common good of the entire country. Because we know the government isn’t going to be helping these part-timers who fall in this gap, their access to health insurance becomes the responsibility of employers.

So, there you have it: 1) no reference to a religious exemption, 2) a clear connection made to a moral imperative flowing from a specific body of religious teachings, and 3) a plan to achieve goals in line with #2.

There also seems to be an equivalence between a secular drive for “the common good” and a religious drive for the same thing, so that there is no secular/religious clash at all.

Wouldn’t this be a simpler world if we saw that sort of thing more often? But don’t get all excited. At least one of the commenters saw what I saw, and didn’t like it much:

Catholic Social Teaching would take a more nuanced view of the common good….The subsequent debate in Congress after the passage of the 2010 health care provisions would suggest that the goal of universal coverage does not comport with all parties understanding of the common good. How will Catholic institutions respond?

But that’s not really the question. The real question, in many of these areas, certainly including the current and apparently accelerating campaign by adjuncts to improve their working conditions at Catholic schools, is this;

How will the various factions of politically and socially active Catholics respond, and which bunch will prevail?

Tomorrow? “Organization Justice” in Catholic colleges and universities. How does that work, or does it?

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