NLRB says Catholic university not religious enough to bar unions

Seattle University may say it is a Catholic Jesuit school, but that does not mean it really is a religious institution, says the National Labor Relations Board.

On Thursday, the federal labor law enforcement agency ruled that the school was not exempt from the NLRB's authority and its adjunct professors could therefore unionize.

The ruling clears a path for a vote by the adjuncts, who work at non-tenure-track positions that are also lower-paying than full professorships despite often involving heavy course loads. About half of the school's 700-member faculty are adjuncts. Service Employees International Union Local 925 has been seeking to represent them.

The university had sought a religious exemption from the National Labor Relations Act. It cited the Supreme Court's 1979 NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago ruling, which held that the board's authority doesn't extend to "schools operated by a church to teach both religious and secular subjects."

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