A Changing Landscape for Unionization at Private Institutions?



In her article in the November-December Academe,Improving the Legal Landscape for Unionization at Private Colleges and Universities,” AAUP general counsel Risa L. Lieberwitz considers the legacy of the US Supreme Court’s 1980 decision in NLRB v. Yeshiva University. Because it held that faculty members’ autonomy and involvement in decision-making puts them in the category of “managerial employees,” the court’s ruling in Yeshiva has in effect deprived faculty at private institutions of the right to unionize. Lieberwitz discusses how a 2014 decision by the National Labor Relations Board in Pacific Lutheran University, which revisited Yeshiva’s definition of managerial employees, may open the door to future unionization efforts. She explains further that the burden is now on institutions to prove that “collective faculty authority is genuine, independently exercised, and controlling” if they claim faculty cannot unionize due to managerial status.

Lieberwitz’s article also discusses the NLRB’s 2004 Brown University decision, which reversed a 2000 ruling and determined that graduate teaching assistants in private institutions could not be considered employees and were therefore not entitled to collective bargaining rights. After her article went to press, the NRLB agreed in October to revisit this issue by accepting a case between the New School and the UAW. The AAUP intends to submit an amicus brief in that case.

Articles from the current and past issues of Academe are available online. AAUP members receive a subscription to the magazine, available both by mail and as a downloadable PDF, as a benefit of membership.

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