Phi Beta Cons

For Once, I Agree with the NLRB

Many National Labor Relations Board officials are dedicated leftists who see their job as helping unions succeed — but not all of them. I was pleasantly surprised to read that the NLRB regional director in Seattle ruled against a petition for a unionization election filed by several faculty members at Carroll College in Montana. (Inside Higher Ed has the story here.)

The basis for the decision was that the professors have sufficient managerial power that they don’t qualify as “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act and thus are not eligible to unionize under that law. The NLRB director noted that the faculty has substantial independent authority over hiring and the curriculum.

This is a big disappointment to backers of faculty unionization, who thought the NLRB was greasing the rails for them. I see it as a victory for freedom of association, since a federally certified union becomes the exclusive bargaining representative of all the workers, including those who want nothing to do with it. It’s also a victory for freedom of contract. The Carroll administration had made it clear that it did not want to deal with a third-party in running the school, which it would have been forced to had the union in question (American Federation of Teachers) won the election.


George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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