Assistant Professor Erin Ortiz has received a Top Paper Award in the National Communication Association annual conference’s “Peace and Conflict Studies” division. The conference will be Nov. 14-18 in Orlando, Fla.

 Titled “Discursive linkages and disjunctures between human rights and labor rights: A case of the unionization of parish workers within the U.S. Roman Catholic Church,” the paper was written as part of Ortiz’s doctoral dissertation research.

 “The paper analyzes the way that individuals within a labor conflict use various forms of human and labor rights discourses in order to achieve justice in the workplace,” Ortiz said. “My research focused on one in-depth case study that took place in southern Texas between 2002 and 2005. I visited and interviewed the participants in 2010.”

 Although the two sides of the labor conflict sought to achieve different goals, both sides used similar discursive strategies, or communication tactics, to reach their goals, according to Ortiz.

 “One group tried to separate labor rights from human rights, in order to claim that labor rights did not have a legitimate space within the Catholic institution because the church was a unique institution with different types of employer-employee relationships,” she said. “This group claimed that work relationships, for example, were bound by a covenant, or solemn agreement, rather than a legal contract.”

 “The other group tried to connect human rights and labor rights together, in order to ensure that labor laws were considered a part of the fundamental human rights of all employees. This group claimed that the Catholic Church was like any other type of organization, for example, like General Motors or Disney.”

 Ortiz teaches in the Organizational Communication and Leadership Program of the College of Communication. She will integrate some of her research into lectures and class discussions for spring 2013 semester courses “Organizational Communication” and “Communication Ethics.”