Loyola appealed to the board that oversees labor conditions in the United States, challenging its right to unionize with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), after Loyola’s College of Arts and Sciences non-tenured faculty members voted in favor of SEIU representation on Jan. 27.
The university is arguing that as a religious institution, it has the right to govern within its religious beliefs. The regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which conducts elections, investigates charges of unfair labor practices and protects the rights of workers to act together, rejected the university’s appeal.
SEIU spokesperson Adam Rosen said the university’s appeal is a rare occurrence.
“This is the first appeal we’ve experienced like this,” Rosen said. “We do not have many private units that are covered under the NLRB directly, because most of our units are covered by the Illinois Labor Relations Board or the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.”
SEIU does not receive many appeals regarding religious identity because they mostly represent private institutions.
Loyola’s senior Vice President for Administrative Services Thomas Kelly said the rejection prompted the university to appeal with NLRB’s national office.
“This is a specific and limited appeal — which is focused on the NLRB’s narrow interpretation of religious identity which we believe contradicts or ignores Loyola University Chicago’s religious (Jesuit & Catholic) identity and mission,” Kelly stated in an email to The PHOENIX.
And it’s true, the NLRB does not recognize Loyola as a religious institution that has the right to govern in accordance with its religious beliefs.
“The NLRB test is also more limiting than other federal court decisions that protect religious identity and expression,” according to the SEIU faculty union petition website. “The NLRB decision is in direct contradiction to our sense of Loyola’s religious identity and mission and the role our faculty play in carrying out that mission.”
Kelly said that although the university is appealing the process, it began bargaining with SEIU and held an introductory meeting on March 7.
“The university is putting together its negotiating team and SEIU is doing the same — seeking out Loyola Arts and Sciences faculty who are interested in joining the bargaining team,” he said. “We look forward to continuing the conversation and the negotiations with SEIU in the coming year.”