AAUP Amicus Brief Supports Collective Bargaining Rights

By Nancy Long

In June, the AAUP submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the National Labor Relations Board on the question of whether faculty members at private colleges and universities who are seeking to be represented by a union are employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or excluded managers. In the case Point Park University v. Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and Communications Workers of America, 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.

In its amicus brief, the AAUP stressed the extent to which the erosion of faculty power, cited by union advocates at Point Park, 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.

Referring to the 1980 US Supreme Court ruling that faculty members at Yeshiva University, a private institution in New York City, were managers and therefore not entitled under the NLRA to bargain collectively, the brief continued,

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 decisionmaking 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.

The full amicus brief can be downloaded at http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/amicus.

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