Faculty Collective Bargaining Rights

Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, Case No. 2-RC-22358 (Feb. 11, 2002 ); Brown University, Case No. 1-RC-21368 (Nov. 16, 2001)

In these two cases, also known as the “teaching assistants” cases, Columbia University and Brown University administrations contended that unionization by graduate assistants violated the academic freedom of institutions.

Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, Case No. 4-RC-20353 (Nov. 21, 2002)

The University of Pennsylvania administration contended that the unionization of graduate students who are employees violates institutional academic freedom.

Point Park Univ. v. NLRB, 457 F.3d 42 (D.C. Cir. 2006)

Point Park University challenged an election by faculty members to be represented by the Communications Workers of America. The university incorrectly claimed that full-time faculty members were managerial employees and therefore ineligible for union representation.

Point Park University v. Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh/Communication Workers of America Local 38061, AFL-CIO, CLC, N.L.R.B. Case No.: 06-RC-012276 (Private Institute Faculty Organizing).

In May 2012, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) invited briefs from interested parties on the question of whether university faculty members seeking to be represented by a union are employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act or are excluded managers. The AAUP is of the position that faculty are not managers, and submitted an amicus brief urging the NLRB to develop a legal definition of employee status “in a manner that accurately reflects employment relationships in universities and colleges and that respects the rights of college and university employees to exercise their rights to organize and engage in collective bargaining."

New York University v. GSOC/UAW, N.L.R.B. Case No.: 02-RC-023481; Polytechnic Institute of New York University v. International Union, United Automobile Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), N.L.R.B. Case No.: 29-RC-012054 (2012)

These cases addressed whether graduate student assistants are employees who have collective bargaining rights under the National Labor Relations Act. AAUP co-signed an amicus brief and argued that the Board should overrule Brown University and return to its prior determination that graduate student assistants are statutory employees. While the case was pending, the union and NYU resolved their disputes and NYU agreed to hold a union election (which the union overwhelmingly won). Therefore, the union withdrew the election petition and the Board declined to rule on the case. The question of whether graduate students are employees is an issue in other cases in which AAUP has submitted amicus briefs.

Pacific Lutheran Univ. & SEIU, Local 925, 361 N.L.R.B. No. 157 (N.L.R.B. Dec. 16, 2014)

In this case the National Labor Relations Board published a significant decision expanding the organizing rights of private-sector faculty members. The Board modified the standards used to determine two important issues affecting the ability of faculty members at private-sector higher education institutions to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act: first, whether certain institutions and their faculty members are exempted from coverage of the Act due to their religious activities; and second, whether certain faculty members are managers, who are excluded from protection of the Act. In addressing this second issue, the Board specifically highlighted, as AAUP had in its amicus brief submitted in the case, the increasing corporatization of the university.

Northwestern University and College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), Case No. 13-RC-121359 (August 17, 2015)

In a highly publicized case in which the AAUP filed an amicus brief, the National Labor Relations Board declined to assert jurisdiction over the Northwestern University football players’ petition seeking union representation rendering the players unable to unionize under the auspices of the NLRB. The Board, however, explicitly limited its decision to the unusual circumstances of the case, avoiding broader questions involving the unionization of graduate student assistants and others. 

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, No. 14-915 (2015)

On November 13, 2015, the AAUP filed with the American Federation of Teachers an amicus brief before the US Supreme Court arguing that the payment of agency fees by non-members in collective bargaining unions to support union representation is constitutional. The case started when the plaintiffs, sponsored by organizations seeking to weaken unions, sued the California Teachers Association and a local California school district seeking to invalidate agency fee provisions in the collective bargaining agreement, arguing that agency fee clauses in the public sector violate the First Amendment. On June 29, 2015, the Supreme Court granted certiorari, and thereby agreed to hear the appeal. The AAUP amicus brief argues that collective bargaining, supported by the agency fee system, significantly benefits the educational system, and that removal of the ability to charge agency fees would upset the balance set by the states and burden the rights of union members. 

Subscribe to Faculty Collective Bargaining Rights