I am disappointed in the university’s response to unionization efforts by PLU contingent faculty. Given PLU 2020’s emphasis on an intensified university commitment to diversity, justice and sustainability, the administration’s recent efforts to block a union vote seem especially ironic.

The right to unionize is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a United Nations document adopted in 1948 and ratified by nearly every country on earth, including the United States. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration establishes forming and joining unions as a basic human right for everyone.

A basic human right. Yet, our leadership has chosen to hire expensive, union-busting lawyers to prevent contingent faculty from exercising this right. Is this the justice we are supposed to be teaching and modeling? Is this how the administration wants PLU to be known?

Opinions differ on whether a union is the right solution for the plight of our contingent faculty. And that is just as it should be. A university ought to be a place where different opinions engage each other, and where multiple perspectives are heard. So if the administration wants to present its case against unionization to the contingent faculty, and explain why they think the contingents should vote against collective bargaining, they are welcome to do so.

But arguing that PLU, as a religious institution, is not legally bound to allow its employees to exercise their basic human right to make that decision is not only misguided, it is cynical. It is cynical because, to the degree that this university is a religious institution, it is so by virtue of its affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America — a church that, on its web pages, proudly proclaims its support of the right of workers to unionize.

Does the administration honestly believe that because of our affiliation with the pro-unions ELCA this university is entitled to prevent its most vulnerable faculty from exercising their right to choose whether or not to unionize for themselves? I’d like to think we’re better than that.

Troy Storfjell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Norwegian and Scandinavian Studies ◼︎

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