A delegation including clergy, regional labor leaders, and faith and community-based organizations, gathered on the Boston College campus on the morning of December 7th to deliver a petition to President Father Leahy urging that bargaining being initiated with organized BC graduate student workers. The delegation included. MA State Senator Jamie Eldridge – a BC Law graduate, Allyson Every of the Labor Guild, leaders from prominent labor organizations including the Greater Boston Labor Council’s Rich Rogers and the MA AFL-CIO’s John Drinkwater, Massachusetts Interfaith Workers’s Sarah Kelley and Sr. Tess Browne, SCN; MA Jobs with Justice’s Lilly Huang, and Dr. John Trumpbour of the international Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice. Each representative expressed their strong support for the BC graduate student workers’ issues and right to bargain.
Fr, Leary’s assistant refused to even invite community leaders out of the cold to discuss their concerns about the treatment of graduate student workers. The group was there to deliver petitions signed by 700 graduate students and 3,000 community members. The assistant then snatched the petitions from Sen. Eldridge. When the petitioners offered to air their concerns outside, the administrator insisted it was “too cold,” and closed the door with a shout of “Merry Christmas!”
The delegation then gathered on the sidewalk and engaged in a dialogue with the BC graduate student workers who are represented by the UAW to express their solidarity.
When a group of the leaders walked over to deliver the duplicate petitions to the Boston College Trustees, BC university police intercepted the group, and immediately ordered the petitioners to leave the property. Although the university administrators could not find time to meet with community, faith, and labor leaders, the police presence demonstrated that they had planned well for the event.
The petition was critical of the administration’s disciplinary actions against individual graduate student union activists, and the university’s ongoing refusal to negotiate with the democratically recognized union. The graduate students voted to recognize the United Auto Workers in September of 2017, but the university has still refused to bargain with the union for almost 15 months.. Some union activists are facing academic probation for voicing their valid concerns during a parents’ weekend event this Fall.
Law and Justice
.News quotes Dean of Students as justifying the disciplinary action:
“Students cannot engage in conduct that disrupts the normal operation of an event and infringes upon individuals’ right to listen to remarks,” said Mogan. “Such behavior is in violation of the student code of conduct that pertains to all BC students.”
The contradiction between Boston College’s Catholic and Jesuit community values and its business-minded administration was evident to all the petitioners. Yet Boston College also has a history of collective bargaining with several on-campus employee bargaining units, along with excellent labor construction policies.
Sister Tess Browne, of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth order, and longtime labor nun commented that
“All along, they are teaching students about Catholic Social Teaching and gospel values, but acting by another example. Catholic Social Teaching supports the rights of students and workers to organize, and we should support the students in their fight for better conditions and just pay for their work.
As a Jesuit institution, Boston College should be following in the footsteps of Father Pedro Arrupe, who focused on standing with the marginalized and working for social justice.”
Considering the Catholic church has recognized the value of trade unions Pope Leo XIII’s 1893 encyclical Rerum Novarum, is Boston College being selective when it comes to social justice? Since the NLRB upheld the right of private university graduate students to form sanctioned labor unions, universities including NYU, Columbia, Tufts, American, and Brandeis have agreed to negotiate with duly elected graduate student union representatives; Boston College must do the same. Sending blessings and warm Christmas wishes to President Leary and his administration!