Unionization supporters approach President Lovell at 175th Archdiocese celebration

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Unionization supporters approach President Lovell at 175th Archdiocese celebration

Union signs mix with those signs of parishes celebrating at the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese.

Union signs mix with those signs of parishes celebrating at the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese.

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Union signs mix with those signs of parishes celebrating at the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese.

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Union signs mix with those signs of parishes celebrating at the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese.

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A group of Marquette University faculty and graduate students held signs near the gazebo in Pere Marquette Park this morning, trying to get Marquette University President Michael Lovell’s attention at the 175th Archdiocese of Milwaukee Celebration.

This is the third rally for unionization efforts at Marquette this year. Previously, faculty, staff, students and community members gathered April 12 and May 1 around the Father Marquette Statue in Central Mall on campus. The rallies immediately went to Zilber Hall, where members of the crowd presented a statement to the administration.

The May 1 protest included a sit-in inside Zilber, where non-tenure-track faculty and students waited until either Acting Provost Kimo Ah Yun or President Lovell would come down to talk to them.

“We have had a very hard time meeting with President Lovell. We tried last week to set up a meeting for this week,” Tom Hansberger, a lecturer in the College of Arts & Sciences, said. He was in attendance today. “The Office of the President did not get back to us, they told us they could not make time for a 15-minute meeting.”

Hansberger said the group knew President Lovell was making a public appearance at today’s celebration and wanted to get his attention. The archbishop was also in attendance.

“We want to let people know who share Marquette’s Jesuit values that it’s not living those right now,” Hansberger said. “That’s why we want to share this information with them, so they can also let the university know about their values.”

Hansberger said the group did not want to upset Archbishop Jerome Listeki or anyone’s religious faith.

“We’re just using these signs to communicate our message,” Hansberger said.

Sam Harshner, an adjunct professor in the College of Arts & Sciences who attended the rally, said the crowd was there to respectfully insist that Lovell looks at their request of a fair and democratic election for a union.

“We aren’t going to make a ruckus, but we want him to notice us,” Harhsner said. “We really hope that the crowd (in attendance for the Archdiocese celebration) asks the president and asks Marquette to live its actual Jesuit and social values that are at the core of Catholic teaching and of Jesuit teaching.”

Yesterday the group planned to show up at the 175th Archdiocese celebration, Harhsner said.

“The point is that we are insisting the president considers our request to live his values. This is an opportunity to do the right thing and so we are going to be very persistent on that front,” Harshner said.

Lovell introduced the archbishop to the crowd. He did not acknowledge the unionization efforts or the faculty who were there.

Afterward, Hansberger said he approached Lovell, who told him it “was not the time or the place” to sign the statement requesting for a fair process to unionize.

“Many of us are feeling a little bit exasperated because we don’t know when the right time or the place would be,” Hansberger said.

Photo by Jordan Johnson
President Lovell introduces the Archbishop at Pere Marquette Park.

University spokesperson Lynn Sheka said Marquette has committed publicly to following federal labor laws that mandate a fair process for any union organization and election activities and despite these public commitments, some non-tenure-track faculty and graduate students working with the Service International Employee Union organizers continue to hold public protests demanding a fair process.

“Marquette is disappointed that the individuals working with the SEIU chose to co-opt the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s celebratory anniversary event as a publicity stunt for their own benefit,” Sheka said in an emailed statement.

Sheka said above all else, Marquette University is committed to doing what is best for students. Marquette hopes to continue direct and open dialogue with non-tenure-track faculty, whose contributions are greatly valued. Marquette’s non-tenure-track faculty will need to decide whether a third party intermediary is the best way to meet their needs and serve the Marquette community.

Laura Gellott, a Racine citizen who came to the celebration to represent her parish, is a Marquette alumna who graduated in 1976.

When she saw the protestors, she said she was very pleased they were there. She said she appreciated the signs that had some quotes from Pope Francis.

“I was a major in history and I went on to get my master’s degree in history at Marquette, and then went on to get my doctorate in history at Madison, where I had health insurance thanks to the fact they had the Teacher Assistant Association,” Gellott said. “I think it’s most unfortunate that Marquette does not provide those same protections for the teaching assistants and the research assistants it relies on.”

Gellot said she wished Lovell would have at least acknowledged the protestors and thanked them for the respectful tone they were taking.

“It’s probably a bit of a tough call, but I think on balance I would have liked him to acknowledge their presence and thank them for being a witness to Catholic values and Catholic social justice teachings,” Gellott said.

Harhsner said non-tenure-track faculty and graduate students also asked Jesuits at Marquette for support.

“The Jesuits are refusing to support us right now,” Harhsner said. “We are basically in line with their values and we thought that it would be a likely kind of support of our efforts.”

Though they said no, Harshner said, “We are continuing to ask them to live their values.”

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