Academic Collective Bargaining Under Siege

From the Editors

In each issue of JCBA we try to elucidate the issues confronting those of us who practice and/or study collective bargaining in the academy. This installment is no different as its various pieces speak to issues of great size and importance: whether the very right to collectively bargain, or contingency, or the role of a faculty senate, or the use of power in labor negotiations, JCBA is providing insight into the issues affecting the academy.

Probably the most significant issue in collective bargaining today is the potential disappearance of the right of collective bargaining and the piece by Mary Ellen and Louis Benedict on Ohio’s SB5 looks at one approach to eliminating faculty collective bargaining—the one applied in the 1980 Supreme Court decision called Yeshiva—and discusses whether attempting to classify faculty as managers ends collective bargaining.

Another major issue confronting us all in the academy is how to “manage” contingent faculty and Gary Rhoades’s piece provides ideas on how to incorporate the group of faculty that is fast becoming the majority of faculty in collective bargaining.

Neil Bucklew, Jeffrey Houghton, and Christopher Ellison do an analysis on how the European concept of works councils compares to the U.S. academy’s use of faculty senates. Given SB5’s attempt to use the Yeshiva decision’s definition of faculty as managers to undermine collective bargaining, their piece may prove informative to those who wonder what the landscape might look like with faculty senates—or works councils—taking the place of collective bargaining (Wisconsin may be listening here).

Associate co-editor James Castagnera’s editorial on how power is the true motivator in management-labor relations may be insightful to those in Michigan, Wisconsin, or other states where collective bargaining rights may be circumscribed in the near future. Or it may be the NLRB that circumscribes in its presumed forthcoming opinions on Point Park and/or Duquesne. As Daniel Julius pointed out in our last issue, collective bargaining has actually grown in the private sector since the Yeshiva decision, and Castagnera’s piece reminds us that it’s not due to the benevolence of managers.

Daniel Julius and Nicholas DiGiovanni Jr. bring their perspective to where faculty collective bargaining has come from since the 1960s and what we have learned from those experiences across states, sectors, and governance structures of higher education. From their experiences and those of other practitioners and researchers, they forecast the likely future of academic collective bargaining.

As we begin to think about our next issue, which we hope will center on a retrospective from outgoing National Center (our sponsoring organization) Executive Director Richard Boris’ contributions to collective bargaining in higher education, there is little time for retrospection as the political landscape unfolds before us. President Obama has, somewhat surprisingly, won a second term, bringing with it at least a tolerance for collective bargaining and a more pro-labor view on the NLRB than we would have expected from a Romney Administration. This notion of the NLRB’s leanings was revealed in the announcement in December of rulings on various cases that seem to have strengthened worker organizing and assembly rights. That perspective is important as we in the academy await the Board’s determination on two cases out of Pennsylvania about organizing and collective bargaining in the academy. With Point Park, the Board has indicated they are reviewing Yeshiva (which 30 years ago changed the landscape of collective bargaining for private university faculty) and many groups filed briefs supporting one side or another in the case.

Then, late in January, the U.S. District Court in Noel Canning v. NLRB overturned President Obama’s recess appointments to the NLRB in January of 2012, leaving all the Board’s 2012 decisions in limbo until either appeals or further court reviews are in order. With that kind of background, future discussions of collective bargaining in the academy will be fulsome. We look to Volume 5 of JCBA to include some analysis of any such decision.

All of this is to say, JCBA is pleased to be publishing in times that are full of fruitful and insightful items of discussion in our field. It is a dynamic field of study, which provides us many opportunities for writers to submit meaty articles to us in our three areas of focus: editorials, practitioner notes, or research articles. We look forward to continuing the tradition of bringing those to our readers.



It's All About the Power
James Castagnera


Practitioner Perspective