Bianca Abbate | Editor
Last Wednesday, Oct. 6, the La Salle Young Democratic Socialists hosted a discussion in the Holroyd Atrium on faculty unionization. Three members of the organization, David LaMantia, John Green and Yosibeth Torres, were the respective speakers at the event. Approximately 30 people were in attendance, and of the attendees, less than 10 were members of the University’s faculty or administration.
LaMantia started the conversation by speaking on the history of labor unions and examining the inverse relationship between union membership and income inequality. Green continued the talk with a look at the ongoing teacher strikes, noting that teachers generally have popular support even in traditionally red states, pointing to the partisan aspect of unionization. He stated that these strikes serve as a way “for workers to bring their complaints to the attention of people who can fix them.” However, some attendees pointed out some of the complexities of this method. Chair of the department of chemistry and biochemistry, William Price, spoke on the comparable experience of his wife as a teacher: “They worked to the contract, which wasn’t going on strike…you will not leave the school with anything in your hand, you won’t write letters of recommendation…it was very unsettling to the students.”
Torres, noting that there has been an increase in organization of workers on college campuses, then related the conversation to organizing unions on a college campus and, specifically, at La Salle. She posed the question, “What do schools owe their workers?” To that point, one student remarked, “At the end of the day, everyone has their needs, their necessities…so everyone deserves that, whether they’re a custodian or a professor.”
Attendees were encouraged to work through these problems in groups and interact with the speakers. Following the discussion, the floor was opened for questions and comments by the students and faculty. Br. Ernest Miller commented on the complex relationship between the Catholic Church and unions, saying, “Despite the strengths and depths of Catholic commitment to labor rights, for some reason, there is a lot of tension when there are labor unions…we should wrestle with that complexity.” Some showed concern about the potential financial burden of faculty unionization on the University’s students. Green explained, “I can’t speak specifically to La Salle’s financial situation. The financial situation comes after the [moral aspect of unionizing on campus].”
“The Role of Unions on Campus” is one in a series of discussions about the increasingly popular topic, having been between a talk on shared governance a few weeks ago and another talk on shared governance that is scheduled for November, but with a Catholic perspective. The Young Democratic Socialists found the event to be ultimately successful. “I think the event highlighted many issues no one wants to talk about on campus,” said Torres. The group wants to promote further discussion on the issue and encourages students with questions to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.