Thursday, April 2, 2015

Beyond the NLRB Ruling in Favor of Adjunct Faculty

Inside Higher Ed
April 1st, 2015

Aside from the omnipresent issue of cost, two topics dominated the higher education discourse this past year: the first was sexual violence on campuses and the second was adjunct faculty compensation. With a National Adjunct Walkout Day planned for next month, in December 2014 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handed adjunct and tenure-track faculty a victory that is likely to make their path to unionization easier and help improve their labor conditions across colleges and universities. In a case brought forward by faculty from the Pacific Lutheran University, the NLRB ruled that adjuncts cannot be considered managers and thus ineligible for union membership. Furthermore, the Board set a precedent for religious institutions that may seek religious exemptions to keep adjunct faculty from unionizing by ruling that, unless the adjunct faculty play a religious function, they are also eligible for union membership. These are major victories for adjunct faculty. Until the ruling this past December, the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision in NRLB v Yeshiva University had made it difficult for adjuncts at private institutions to unionize as they were considered managerial staff. In its most recent ruling, the NLRB identified certain criteria for assessing whether adjunct faculty are managers.

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