In May 2012, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) invited briefs from interested parties on the question of whether university faculty members seeking to be represented by a union are employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act or are excluded managers. Point Park University faculty members petitioned for an election and voted in favor of representation by the Communications Workers of America, Local 38061. However, the university challenged the decision to hold the election, claiming that the faculty members were managers and therefore ineligible for union representation.
AAUP submitted an amicus brief in July 2012, urging the NLRB to develop a legal definition of employee status “in a manner that accurately reflects employment relationships in universities and colleges and that respects the rights of college and university employees to exercise their rights to organize and engage in collective bargaining."1 AAUP’s brief stressed the extent to which the erosion of faculty power that union advocates at Point Park have cited reflects broad trends. “The application of a corporate model of management has resulted in significant changes in university institutional structure and distribution of authority. There has been a major expansion of the administrative hierarchy, which exercises greater unilateral authority over academic affairs,” the brief states. AAUP also points out that, “This organizational structure stands in stark contrast to the Yeshiva majority’s description of the university as a collegial institution primarily driven by the internal decision-making authority of its faculty. Further, university administrators increasingly are making decisions in response to external market concerns, rather than consulting with, relying on, or following faculty recommendations. Thus, university decision-making is increasingly made unilaterally by high-level administrators who are driven by external market factors in setting and implementing policy on such issues as program development or discontinuance, student admissions, tuition hikes, and university-industry relationships. As a result, the faculty have experienced a continually shrinking scope of influence over academic matters.”
In addition to AAUP’s brief, amicus briefs were filed by Matthew Finkin, Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, and Thomas A. Kochan (as impartial employment and labor relations scholars); Dr. Michael Hoerger, PhD, social scientist; Higher Education Council of the Employment Law Alliance; National Education Association; Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, CWA, AFL-CIO, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations; American Council on Education, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Council of Independent Colleges, Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, and Association of American Universities; The Center for the Analysis of Small Business Labor Policy, Inc.; Louis Benedict, MBA, J.D., Ph.D. (Higher Education Administrator); and National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, Inc.2
2 Point Park University v. Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh/ Communication Workers of America Local 38061, AFL-CIO, CLC, NLRB Case No.: 06-RC-012276 http://www.nlrb.gov/case/06-RC-012276 (last accessed 7/23/2012)