NLRB Rejects Full-Time Faculty Union Bid at Marywood U

May 13, 2016

A regional National Labor Relations Board judge this week dismissed a petition from full-time faculty members at Marywood University to form a union. Using a framework for assessing the merit of such bids laid out in a 2013 decision regarding Pacific Lutheran University, the board officer found that the Marywood professors did not perform specific religious roles that would exempt them from NLRB oversight, as the Roman Catholic university had argued. But the judge did find that the instructors’ jobs were sufficiently managerial in nature to preclude them.

“At most, the documents and testimony introduced by the employer suggest that faculty members are generally expected to support the university’s mission and core values, much of which is expressed largely in nonreligious terms, including respect, empowerment, service and excellence,” Harold A. Maier, a Philadelphia-based NLRB officer, wrote in his decision regarding the religious exemption question. “More critically, [Marywood] did not produce evidence suggesting that faculty have a specific role in promoting its religious mission and values.”

Yet Marywood’s full-time faculty “exercises effective control” over some aspects of university operations, Maier wrote. “The faculty has extensive control over academic programs and a lesser, but still meaningful role in enrollment management and personnel policy and decisions.” And the NLRB has “never required that total faculty control is a prerequisite to finding managerial status.”

Maier’s conclusions are similar to those reached by a separate NLRB office regarding a union bid by full-time faculty members at Carroll College, in January. The two decisions taken together suggest a continued trend against full-time faculty unions at private institutions, even though some onlookers said the Pacific Lutheran decision may have opened doors to them.

Juneann Greco, Marywood spokeswoman, said via email that the decision “provides positive guidance going forward, encouraging our faculty, administration and staff to continue to work together, guided by our Marywood values, in the best interest of our students.” A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which is part of the National Education Association and with which the proposed union is affiliated, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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