Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Faculty Union Blues

By Bryan O'Keefe

Inside Higher Ed has an excellent story this morning about a Federal Appeals Court ruling on faculty unionization. Basically, faculty members at Point Park University (in my hometown of Pittsburgh) attempted to organize a union through the Communication Workers of America. The critical issue with faculty unions at private colleges is whether the faculty members are considered “managerial.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on this issue in 1980 with its Yeshiva decision – the Court found that faculty members were managerial in nature and thus excluded from collective bargaining. Since the Yeshiva ruling, few faculty unions have been organized on private universities.

The Appeals Court decision was a whitewash of sorts --- the judges sent the decision back to the National Labor Relations Board, which initially had ruled in favor of the union. There will be more litigation on this issue to come.

This is one area however where the higher education establishment is dead-on right – the American Council on Education and other groups all weighed in against the faculty union in the case, not so much because they cared about the plight of the Point Park faculty, but rather because they feared an erosion of the Yeshiva decision. It’s wise that they have taken this course.

CCAP will be doing a considerable amount of work on faculty unionization. We will show why these increasingly prevalent unions are a bad idea and are a huge impediment to necessary reforms on colleges and universities. In fact, I wrote next month’s issue of the newsletter Labor Watch, which will be devoted to the topic of unionization in higher education. We will post a link to that when it becomes available.

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