The National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling last week that could clear the way for much more unionization of faculty members at private colleges and universities.
The ruling rejected the claims of Pacific Lutheran University that its full-time, non-tenure track faculty members are managerial employees and thus are not entitled to collective bargaining. In doing so, the NLRB offered a set of standards for evaluating whether faculty members are managerial as described by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1980 ruling in NLRB v. Yeshiva University, a decision that has largely made unionization impossible for tenure-track faculty members at private colleges and universities.
Last week’s NLRB ruling suggested tools for evaluating whether private college faculty members have enough power to be considered managerial, and the standards set appear likely to be used by unions to say that faculty members at many private colleges — even those on the tenure track — aren’t managerial, and are thus entitled to unionize.
Another part of the ruling said that just because a college is religious doesn’t mean that its faculty members can’t unionize. The NLRB said that a religious college would need to show that “it holds out the petitioned-for faculty members as performing a religious function. This requires a showing by the college or university that it holds out those faculty as performing a specific role in creating or maintaining the university’s religious educational environment.” The NLRB then cited facts about Pacific Lutheran that suggest its adjuncts (those who were seeking unionization there) aren’t performing religious work, and thus are entitled to unionization. That part of the ruling will now be applied to several other pending disputes over efforts to unionize adjuncts at religious colleges. And it may be difficult for those colleges to continue to block unionization…read more