Loyola University Chicago has taken a major step towards implementing just employment on its campus. After years of tireless advocacy from many members of the campus community, Loyola’s President announced the formation of a Just Employment Task Force “to help identify opportunities for Loyola to demonstrate and deepen its commitment to a more fair, competitive, and socially just workplace.” The task force, which held its first meeting on February 7, will deliberate and produce a report with a set of recommendations by semester’s end.
The launch of the Just Employment Task Force occurs under the leadership of President Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD, who assumed the role of president at the start of this academic year. President Rooney linked the work of the task force to the university’s mission and strategic plan, which compel it “to seek actionable ways to live out the call to build a more just, humane, and sustainable world.” The calls for Loyola to adopt a just employment model have been echoing on campus for years. Students for Worker Justice (SWJ) have been the most vocal advocates, dedicating countless hours to forming relationships with campus workers and holding rallies to advance their struggle for a living wage and union rights. The Student Government of Loyola Chicago has also backed these efforts, with the two groups cohosting a stirring panel discussion on just employment last November. Staff and faculty members at Loyola played an incredibly valuable role by emphasizing the need to align labor practices with Catholic social teaching and Jesuit values. Most importantly, campus workers courageously shared their stories and organized alongside each other. Through collaboration and solidarity, the Loyola community improved conditions for dining staff through a new contract and approved a union for contingent faculty and graduate students.
Student, faculty, staff, and Jesuit representatives compose the task force, and vice president and CIO for Information Technology Services Susan Malisch serves as chair. Among the faculty sharing their insights is Dr. Kathleen Maas Weigert, who helped shape the just employment policy while serving as director of the Center of Social Justice at Georgetown University. The student representatives, Brock Johnson and Hannah Cook, contribute both enthusiasm and knowledge to the task force’s efforts. Johnson, a leader in the Students for Worker Justice group, gave an impassioned speech on the issue earlier this fall, while Cook participated in a panel discussion on the future of just employment in Washington, DC, last year.
Although plenty of work remains to be done, and community engagement continues to be vital, these developments suggest that Loyola Chicago is taking important steps in advancing economic justice.