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Notre Dame must protect the right to unionize

Letter to the Editor | Friday, October 10, 2008

As concerned Notre Dame students, we write on an issue that we believe warrants immediate and prudent attention from Fr. John Jenkins and his administration. We are inspired by the words of our University’s Mission statement, which asserts: “the University seeks to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many”.

We have recently found that our University is invested in a company who continuously disregards the principles that our University seeks to cultivate. HEI Hotels and Resorts has repeatedly undermined the dignity of their employees and denied their fundamental right to organize in an environment free from fear and intimidation. These practices directly contradict Catholic Social Teaching, as articulated by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. As they have stated in their writing on the Dignity of Work and Rights of Worker: “If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected – the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative”.

Motivated by the spirit of our University, our Board of Trustees has already established a clear and articulate policy on how our University would conduct its financial dealing. On May 6, 1988 they approved the Social Responsibility Investment Policy. In the document, the Board of Trustees wrote: “The University of Notre Dame commits itself to an investment policy which reflects both its identity as a Catholic University as well as its intention to promote the basic moral values of fairness, respect for human life, defense of human rights and social justice”. The Board then committed itself to “(1) excluding from the portfolios securities of firms whose polices are inimical to the values the University espouses; (2) investing in firms that demonstrate a high level of social concern; (3) influencing the social behavior of invested firms through the exercise of ownership rights”.

Based on the misconduct of HEI Hotels and Resorts, which transgresses the very principles of our Mission Statement, the guidelines set out by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, as well as our own Social Responsibility Investment Policy, we call on the University of Notre Dame to divest its financial assets from HEI. This divestment will demonstrate that the University of Notre Dame is a leader in socially conscious investing founded on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

If we are to “create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good” as our Mission statement reads, we must protect the rights of workers to organize, form, and join unions free from intimidation or threats from their employers. For both our own campus workers and for the workers at companies with which we do business, it must be clear that Notre Dame respects and supports the fundamental right to unionize.

Michael Angulo

Thanh Le

Tatiana Estrada


off campus

Oct. 8