The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Silencing Workers Under the Guise of Religious Freedom

Mar 2, 2020

The majority of the 88 part-time teachers at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh voted in 2012 to join the Steelworkers Union. Part-timers called adjuncts, who teach nearly half the university’s classes, have low pay and benefits and unpredictable schedules, and that’s why many voted for the union.

But Duquesne wouldn’t recognize their union and laid off many of the organizers. Duquesne said since it is a religious employer, federal labor relations law doesn’t apply to it because that would violate its freedom of religion.

No matter that most of the part-timers teach secular classes like English, math, or science. In January 2020 a federal appeals court ruled against the part-timers. So freedom of religion means workers don’t have the freedom to unionize!

Thousands of workers are exploited at religious hospitals, day cares, stores, and cemeteries, as well as schools and universities. When some of these workers fight to improve their conditions, they might be next to face judges who use the pretext of freedom of religion to side with the bosses.

To win, workers will need to rely on making a fight in the workplaces and streets, beyond the courtroom.