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NLRB Orders USC to Negotiate With Adjunct Union

June 9, 2017
 
 

In a unanimous decision, the National Labor Relations Board this week ordered the University of Southern California to recognize and engage in collective bargaining with the non-tenure-track faculty union at its Roski School of Art and Design. The union election was certified in early 2016, but the university has continuously argued that adjuncts there are managers based on their participation in committees and shared governance, and therefore not entitled to collective bargaining.

That's based on a long-standing legal precedent against tenure-track faculty unions at private institutions established in a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving Yeshiva University. In that case, the court found that tenure-track faculty members are managers and therefore not covered by the National Labor Relations Act. A more recent NLRB decision involving an adjunct faculty union bid at Pacific Lutheran University opened the door to potential exceptions to that notion, finding that faculty members have to have "actual" say in university affairs to be excluded from collective bargaining, rather than mere "paper authority."

USC said it has appealed the decision to a federal court. “We believe the NLRB is not following the Supreme Court’s Yeshiva decision recognizing faculty’s role in university management,” Michael Quick, provost, said in a statement. “We continue to defend the principle that at USC, non-tenure-track faculty are partners with tenured faculty in our robust shared governance system.” The bargaining unit is affiliated with Service Employees International Union.

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, said the university's appeal could eventually set the stage for a court to determine whether adjuncts can be found to be managerial under Yeshiva.

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