Thursday, May 24, 2012
The Right to Unionize at Private Colleges
Today's InsideHigherEd.com features an article about efforts to overturn the harsh limits on faculty unions at private colleges imposed by the Supreme Court in the Yeshiva case. There is one commonly-made error in this article: the assumption that managers are "ineligible for unionization." In reality, managers are only ineligible for enforcement of the right to unionize by the NLRB. Corporations (including colleges) are perfectly free to recognize the unions created by managers; they simply choose not to. In this sense, the right of faculty at private colleges to unionize is identical to their right to academic freedom: there is no government protection for it, but that's no reason why it shouldn't be recognized in campus policies and contracts, and colleges should be condemned for failing to protect these fundamental rights. While the Yeshiva decision was wrong, as a matter of principle and as a matter of fact (the faculty do not actually "manage" Yeshiva or any other college), we do not need to wait and hope that it might be overturned. Faculty at private colleges (and public colleges in states that outlaw the right to unionize) can support campus policies that defend the right of everyone on campus, including full-time faculty, to exercise their right to form a union and require administrators to recognize all democratically-elected unions.