On October 17 we four ministers of the United Church of Christ delivered a letter to President Troy VanAken concerning the current discussions among non-tenure track faculty at Elmhurst to determine if they want to form a union, allowing them to negotiate with a collective voice regarding their salary, benefits, and working conditions.
We were grateful for our gracious reception by President’s office staff and their promise to deliver the letter which was signed by over fifty of our United Church of Christ colleagues.
In the letter we reminded President VanAken of the historic and ongoing ties to the United Church of Christ and of the UCC’s commitment to the rights of workers to organize for the right to collective bargaining.
We cited the 1995 General Synod resolution stating that “commonly accepted standards of decency, compassion, and respect. . . should inform the labor relations policies of UCC organizations and related organizations.”
The letter went on to urge the College administration to remain neutral during this process so that these faculty can make their own informed and considered decision free of pressure from their employer.
Finally, our letter urged that, should the non-tenure track faculty vote to form a union, the College will immediately enter into good faith negotiations toward a contract that will further a healthy and respectful workplace environment on campus.
Elmhurst College has an impressive history of commitment to the rights and dignity of all persons, exemplified in recent years by its embrace of LGBTQ students, its support for students of many diverse religious traditions, and President VanAken’s outreach this fall to students imperiled by President Trump’s abandonment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
These actions reflect the justice commitments of the wider United Church of Christ and are to be commended. It is our hope and expectation that a similar commitment will be seen in the College’s response to its own employees.
Know that we will remain interested and attentive as this process moves forward. We urge all students, staff, and faculty to be supportive of these non-tenure track faculty who play such a critical role in the liberal arts education we all cherish.
The Rev. Jason Coulter
Ravenswood United Church of Christ
The Rev. Scott Oberle
First Congregational Church, UCC
Downers Grove, Illinois
The Rev. John H. Thomas
Former General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
Elmhurst, Doctor of Divinity, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Oscar Varnadoe, III
WideAwake United Church of Christ
Benton Harbor, Michigan
John H. Thomas
1642 E. 56th St., Apt. 1111
Chicago, IL 60637