Re: “PLU fights effort to form contingent faculty union” (TNT, 4-30).
Pacific Lutheran University claims that, as a religiously affiliated institution, it has the right to block the efforts of contingent faculty to form a union to address pay and benefits inequities. This is not a matter of government or religious jurisdiction; it is a matter of human dignity and justice.
PLU relies on a large group of highly trained contingent faculty who make up almost half the total faculty. The lecturers, senior lecturers, instructors, clinical faculty, visiting faculty and resident faculty are all “contingent,” meaning their employment relies on the changing needs of the university and is tenuous.
Contingent faculty members at PLU earn only a fraction of what tenured professors make teaching the same course load over a year. To improve conditions, PLU contingent faculty are trying to form a union and collectively bargain.
Religious affiliation did not stop Georgetown University, a Catholic institution, from allowing its adjunct professors to democratically vote in favor of unionizing earlier this month. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Social Statement on Economic Life, “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All,” honors the right of employees to organize for better working conditions.
Workers should have the right to choose to form a union when they are unable to engage their employers as individuals to achieve equitable pay and benefits.
(Lansing, a PLU alumnus, is a former administrator of the Region 1 Office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Ng is a lecturer at PLU.)