The NLRB Decision on the Unionization of College Athletes at One Institution Signals, but Will Not Determine, the Changes That Are Coming

The Tacoma News Tribune very recently published a very thoughtful editorial by Bill Virgin titled “It’s Not So Far-Fetched to See the Future of Collegiate Sports as a Business Entity” [].

Virgin considers the following contrasts: the erosion of the concept of the amateur athlete and the rise of professional sports as a major entertainment industry, the rise in the profits generated by intercollegiate athletics and the low graduation rates among college athletes; and the tension between increased allocations to intercollegiate athletics ostensibly to market academic institutions and the rise in student debt and cuts to instructional budgets.

Virgin concludes that the end of amateur collegiate athletics is on the horizon—not because of the recent NLRB decision to allow the student athletes at Northwestern University to unionize but because that decision reflects a broader societal awareness of the hypocrisy of pretending that, at its top levels, this “big business” should be able to generate huge profits for everyone involved except for those most fundamentally involved, the athletes themselves.

Like Virgin, I don’t think that there is much point in mulling over the specifics of the NLRB decision on Northwestern. It seems more significant as a pivotal event than as a critical event: that is, it has created an awareness and a certain momentum that will extend beyond even its being overturned in the courts. Continue reading

Please Stand with the Educators and Academic Professionals at Portland State University!

By a 94%-6% margin, the AAUP chapter at Portland State University has voted to strike on April 16 if substantive progress has not been made in their contract negotiations with their administration.

They ask that you show your support for that vote by signing this petition:

They were initially hoping to get at least 1,000 signatures on the petition. They have already surpassed that goal.

The chapter leadership feels very strongly that Portland State University is headed in the wrong direction. The faculty and academic professionals are fighting for a contract that will refocus the university on academic priorities and, in the process, contribute to the broader defense quality public higher education. Continue reading

Three Years Ago, Senate Bill 5 Was Signed into Law in Ohio

This is a post by John McNay, President of the Ohio Conference of AAUP and the author of Collective Bargaining and The Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) [].

Three years ago, on March 31, 2011, the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 5 in the face of overwhelming public protests. That evening Gov. John Kasich had a celebratory signing ceremony covered by statewide television. Senate Bill 5, derived mainly from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, was designed to crush public unions across the state.

Championed by Gov. Kasich, SB 5 was the centerpiece of his legislative agenda­, and was defended as necessary to close a $6 billion budget gap. Proponents inaccurately blamed public workers for the deficit when, in fact, it was produced by years of irresponsible income tax cuts imposed on the state combined with the recessions. Since 2005, the income tax had been slashed by 31 percent. The crisis atmosphere was exploited by the Republican Party to try to impose extreme ideological positions on Ohio that in ordinary times Ohioans would not accept. Continue reading

Statement by US Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez on César Chávez Day

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez today issued the following statement in observance of César Chávez Day, which is Monday, March 31:

“Today, we celebrate one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century. César Chávez’s passion for social justice and his devotion to improving the lives of working people remain an inspiration 87 years after his birth.

“A heroic and iconic labor leader, a gifted practitioner of the politics of protest and boycott, a man of towering strength and indescribable courage, one of our history’s leading humanitarians and civil rights giants, César Chávez stirs a new generation of activists fighting for change today.

“As we move closer to fixing our broken immigration system, as we rise to the challenge of income inequality, as we protect the right to join a union, as we work to create opportunity for all, we draw strength from his vision and moral example.

“On César Chávez Day — and every day — we must continue to remind ourselves: ¡Sí Se Puede!


Major Attack on Academic Freedom in Michigan

In the Michigan Senate, the Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee included in its budget proposal a penalty against any public college or university that teaches a labor-related course or offers a labor-studies program.

Michigan State University has been considering an agreement to adopt a portion of programming from the National Labor College. A spokesperson for the university said in testimony before the subcommittee: “’We do also provide training for other groups, business groups, others on the other side of the aisle for how to work with unions on the management side. We also teach de-certification of unions as well.’”

Apparently the state senators found that testimony insufficiently reassuring, Continue reading

Full-Text of Today’s NLRB Decision Permitting Athletes at Northwestern University to Unionize

Northwestern University has already indicated that it plans to appeal this decision, and it may very well be overturned on appeal. But the arguments presented by the NLRB regional director who has communicated the decision are very thought-provoking.

I have removed the footnotes because I think that the decision is more than long enough without them. The full text of the decision, including the footnotes is available at: file:///C:/Users/Michael/Downloads/E-Mail/Decision%20and%20Direction%20of%20Election.pdf

I think that it is ironic that, of all of the Big Ten schools, Northwestern should be the institution at which student athletes should have sought to make this point, since the public perception would seem to be that it is probably the Big Ten university least associated with the its athletic history. But perhaps that–as well as its location in a state with a strong union tradition–make it the perfect place for such a petition to have been filed.









Case 13-RC-121359

  Continue reading

NLRB Recognizes Northwestern Athletes as Eligible for a Union

In a big victory for labor rights (and student rights), the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Northwestern athletes are eligible to form a union and called for a secret ballot election. Northwestern University spokesperson Alan K. Cubbage said the university would appeal the decision and declared: “Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes.” Appropriate or not, workers should get to decide if they unionize, not their bosses. And the notion that students can’t be employees will shock the millions of students who work in order to pay for college.

I’m a little surprised that the NLRB ruled in favor of the students, considering that the NLRB still doesn’t recognize graduate student teachers as employees. But I hope Northwestern will recognize a union of student athletes regardless of the legal obligations, just as the university recognizes the rights of academic freedom and free speech for faculty and students despite having no legal requirement to do so.

Continue reading

Response of the PSC-CUNY Leadership to Today’s Judicial Decision on CUNY’s Pathways Resolution

Earlier today the PSC received the decision by Judge Anil Singh on CUNY’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit contesting the original Pathways resolution passed by the Board of Trustees in 2011. Judge Singh decided in favor of CUNY’s motion to dismiss.

We are disappointed in the decision, but we are fully prepared to appeal. We maintain that the initial Pathways resolution was passed in violation of the law and feel confident that our position will eventually be upheld.

Nothing in the legal decision changes the terrible impact Pathways is having on our students or the importance of our collective fight for a curriculum that offers a meaningful college education. The sustained commitment to academic quality by the faculty and staff has already forced the CUNY administration to implement significant changes in the Pathways structure, as announced in CUNY’s February 3 memo. And the New York City Council has signaled its interest in oversight on Pathways by convening a hearing on the subject, to be held tomorrow, February 25, at 10:00 at City Hall. The shift in terrain on Pathways is the result of faculty and staff organizing. Continue reading

PA State Senators Crafting Legislation to Allow Universities to Secede from State System of Higher Ed

Author’s Note: A version of this post was publish on Raging Chicken Press under the title, “Slow Train to Destruction of Public Higher Ed in PA?: Defund then Divide-and-Conquer,” on Saturday, Feb. 22. 

PASSHE Freedom to Secede SQUAREIf the fall 2013 semester saw the term “retrenchment” – the elimination of faculty, programs, and jobs – become part of daily conversations on campuses of Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities (PASSHE), during the next several months we may witness the birth of the next phase in the slow destruction of public higher education in the Commonwealth. This past fall, PA Senator Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson (R – 6th District) and Senator Andy Dinniman (D – 19th District) began working in earnest on legislation that would allow individual PASSHE universities to secede from the state system and become a state-related university – or even completely privatize. On Thursday, PASSHE’s new Chancellor, Frank Brogan, seemed to be laying similar groundwork during his testimony before the PA House Appropriations Committee. And, after three years of austerity policies stemming from Gov. Corbett’s slashing PASSHE’s funding and the System’s “shock doctrine” accounting schemes, there just might be the appetite in the legislature to begin the process of dismantling the 14 university PA State System of Higher Education.

The Tomlinson/Dinniman Alliance: 

Senator Tomlinson is by all accounts taking the initiative in drafting this legislation, but according to sources at WCU, Tomlinson said publicly that Senator Dinniman is so interested in the legislation that he will introduce it if Tomlinson does not. To understand why Senator Tomlinson, a Republican, and Senator Dinniman, a Democrat, would join forces in supporting legislation that would allow individual PASSHE universities to secede, you need only understand that both Senators have strong ties with West Chester University and that West Chester University is growing and thriving. Tomlinson serves on West Chester University’s Council of Trustees and is a WCU alumnus. Dinniman spent well over three decades as a professor at West Chester. Both Senators represent districts in which the university has a strong presence. West Chester University is the second largest PASSHE university, right behind Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is on pace to become the largest in the system in the near future. Continue reading

The AFL-CIO Executive Council’s Statement on Accessibility in Higher Education

February 18, 2014

At the 2013 convention in Los Angeles, the AFL-CIO reaffirmed its historical commitment to increasing access to post-secondary education and alleviating the financial burden that now too often is part of that education. Accordingly, we call on federal and state policymakers to make post-secondary training and education more accessible by ending the trend of disinvestment and increasing funding for public higher education, especially community and technical colleges.

State funding for higher education is now at lower levels in the last quarter century.  To make up for lost state funds, schools have raised the price of tuition fees by more than 1,000% since 1980.  States have cut crucial student services such as tutoring and job placement, and has led to radical changes in the academic workforce.  Colleges are increasingly relying on contingent faculty to do the bulk of teaching.  Contingent faulty– who now comprise more than 70% of the instructional corps–are every bit as committed to the education of their students and the mission of their institutions as their tenure-track colleagues, yet they receive a fraction of the compensation, few of the employee benefits, and entirely too little respect for doing the same work.  This is particularly true at those colleges that serve the students with the greatest needs.  Disinvestment and a lack of commitment to instruction has left a majority of college educators without the professional supports they need to provide the highest-quality education to their students.  In short, students are paying more, whether out of pocket or through student loans, and receiving less. Continue reading