President Ken Gormley's Statement in Response to NLRB's Decision - February 28, 2018

For over five years the University has been defending its First Amendment religious rights in a jurisdictional case with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The University has just received notification that a three-member panel of the NLRB-ignoring decades of United States Supreme Court and Federal Court rulings that the NLRB has no jurisdiction over religious educational institutions like Duquesne-has ordered the University to bargain with an adjunct faculty group based on a technical violation of the National Labor Relations Act. This flawed decision was handed down despite the fact that the NLRB lacked a full complement of members. Confirmation proceedings are scheduled to take place in the U.S. Senate tomorrow (March 1) to approve a new Board member who has been nominated by the President.

Moreover, two of the three panel members who issued this decision, including the current Chairman, expressed "no opinion" on the merits of the Board's earlier decision in our proceedings or on whether the NLRB case upon which the prior Board panel relied (Pacific Lutheran University) was correctly decided. Significantly, just last week, the General Counsel of the NLRB expressed his opinion that the Board lacked jurisdiction over another Catholic university and that the test used therein-the same test used  in our case-violated the U.S. Constitution.

You may recall that in prior correspondence, the next steps in the process were outlined, including that the University would defend its rights in court if necessary. Regrettably, due to the NLRB's unconstitutional action, the University is filing a Petition for Review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The Supreme Court precedent established in NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, protecting religious educational institutions from unlawful NLRB intrusion and overreach of its jurisdiction under the National Labor Relations Act, has been consistently followed by the courts.  In cases brought before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where the NLRB had improperly asserted jurisdiction over religious institutions, the Court in University of Great Falls v. NLRB and again in Carroll Coll., Inc. v. NLRB struck down the Board's unconstitutional decisions, reaffirming that the NLRB cannot assert jurisdiction over a university that holds itself out as providing a religious educational environment, is organized as a nonprofit, and is affiliated with a recognized religious organization. Unquestionably, Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit meets these requirements. Therefore, we are confident that the court will uphold Duquesne's position.

The University's Catholic and Spiritan mission is what makes the University different than non-religious academic institutions and entities.  Unfortunately, the NLRB's decision, which has forced us to proceed to the courts, has undercut that mission and represents a misguided view of the Catholic identity of Duquesne, whose religious mission is embedded and pervasive throughout the University.

As I indicated in my message to campus last April, the issue is not about the University's support for unions.  Our decision to challenge NLRB jurisdiction will not affect any of our four existing unions, with which the University has maintained good working relationships for decades.

Our decision to proceed to the courts also does not lessen our commitment to our adjuncts, who are valuable members of the Duquesne community and are important contributors in achieving our mission of serving God by serving students. Once the jurisdictional question is settled through the courts and the NLRB's intrusion into our religious mission is no longer an issue, the University will be free to collaborate and find creative solutions to work cooperatively together to serve our students.

The University will keep the campus apprised of the matter as it moves through the court process.

Ken Gormley, President,
Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

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