Notre Dame de Namur Recognizes Tenured Faculty Union

June 1, 2016

In a rare move among private institutions, Notre Dame de Namur University in California has agreed to recognize a faculty union that includes tenured and tenure-track professors. A majority of tenure-line faculty members voted last week to join an existing part-time faculty union affiliated with Service Employees International Union. In the midst of that organizing campaign, Judith Maxwell Greig, university president, recommended to Notre Dame de Namur’s Board of Trustees that the university no longer invest full-time faculty with managerial authority, so as to legally allow tenure-line professors to unionize if they chose to do so. 

According to the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning Yeshiva University, tenure-line professors are considered managers and not entitled to collective bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act. A more recent decision from the National Labor Relations Board concerning Pacific Lutheran University outlined a series of new tests for assessing faculty members’ managerial status, but several recent bids involving tenure-line faculty unions on other campuses have been rejected under the new standards. Notre Dame said in a statement that its decision was “considered,” and that “internal university governance processes will be changed to adapt” to the faculty’s choice. It has signed a voluntary election agreement with SEIU. 

Kim Tolley, president of education at Notre Dame de Namur and president of its Faculty Senate, in a separate statement called the development “historic” and “hard-won.” 

William Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, agreed that the decision was “significant." It's the first new private sector bargaining union since 2010, when the American Federation of Teachers was certified to represent a unit at the Longy School of Music, he said. Prior to that, in 2001, United Auto Workers Union was certified to represent faculty members at Goddard College. The American Association of University Professors was certified to represented tenured faculty at Delaware Valley College in 1994.

“The election at Notre Dame de Namur is another clear sign of the growth of unionizing efforts on private sector campuses,” Herbert said.

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