A bunch of housekeepers at St. Xavier University—a Catholic school in Chicago—have wanted to unionize for a long time. Like good Christians, St. Xavier has tried desperately to stop them.
As Ecclesiastes 5:18 says, “it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot.” Quite naturally, the leadership of St. Xavier University interpreted this to mean that housekeepers should not be able to bargain collectively for fair workplace conditions and wages. They should be satisfied with the lot God has given them, just as the president of St. Xavier University, Christine Wiseman, who is paid a comfortable six digit salary, is satisfied with her lot. It’s all there in the Bible.
This, I surmise, is why the school has spent years fighting the right of its housekeepers to unionize. The school argued to the National Labor Relations Board in 2015 that “Religious educational institutions are exempt from jurisdiction under the [National Labor Relations Act], regardless of their employees’ duties”—essentially claiming that due to the religious freedoms of the First Amendment, they were legally allowed to squash the unionization attempts of the people who clean their campus. They argued, rather boldly, that their Christianity itself enabled them to screw their low-wage workers, just as Jesus would have wished. (They are far from the first Christian college to attempt such a thing.)
Thankfully, praises be to god, the NLRB ruled yesterday that the housekeepers were right and the stewards of Jesus were wrong: they found that the cleaning workers do enjoy the protections of the Labor Relations Act, because—let’s be honest here—they are cleaning the rooms, not doing anything religious. They can now unionize with the SEIU and try to marginally improve their lives, much to the chagrin of the leaders of this Christian university, who, again, used their belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ as a basis to try to prevent these hardworking but low-paid from improving their lot in life.
Jesus liked poor people, assholes.