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Another Attack on Faculty Unionism

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ohio-barn-24

The Ohio legislative decided to stick a measure in a funding bill that would redefine all faculty as supervisors since they play some role in university governance. This would make them ineligible to have a union. I’m not at all confident that John Kasich won’t sign this.

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  • efgoldman

    I’m not at all confident that John Kasich won’t sign this.

    Despite your confusing double negative (I know you don’t give a shit about grammar and sentence structure, but there’s clarity to consider) I think you’re probably right.

    • Thom

      I care about grammar, but I think this double negative is very useful, and clear.

    • I love double negatives.

      • Linnaeus

        They can serve a useful rhetorical function.

        • They can also serve to annoy my wife.

          • Ishmael

            That is never not useful…

        • Weed Atman

          They can’t not be useful

        • Stag Party Palin

          Yeah, right.

      • Lt. Fred

        They are quadruple negative ungood.

      • Ishmael

        We should all be happy our chosen language supports double negation. Other languages can be so boring.

      • Marek

        Well, you don’t not love them.

    • DrDick

      Hell, I cannot imagine any circumstance under which he would not sign it.

  • divadab

    Except for sessional academic staff, who are contractors and already ineligible to unionize.

    Sneaky servants of greed and unjust dominion, these Republicans.

  • Davis X. Machina

    Can they all be made adjuncts and supervisors at the same time?

    You could ride that horse into the statehouse forever

    • ThrottleJockey

      It seems this would mean the complete corporatization of Ohio’s universities. That’s pretty effin scary.

      • MAJeff

        Unless you’re something like Pearson.

        I can easliy see systemic attempts, with model legislation provided by ALEC, to use corporate curricula with adjunct “faculty” serving as little more than “graders,” who check meaningless boxes on standardizes “assessment” forms.

      • postmodulator

        The Ohio public universities with which I’m familiar are being rather openly looted by their upper management. I’m not sure things could get much worse on the corporatization front.

        • MAJeff

          That’s right, Gee was in Ohio.

        • Lee Rudolph

          The fact that E. Gordon Gee was hired back says far too much about the “upper management” and their backers.

          • postmodulator

            No. What really says it all is that Gee was actually better than the two presidents that served between his two terms.

            • Lee Rudolph

              That is a truly scary thought. But I’ll trust you on it.

              • postmodulator

                Brit Kirwan got a special dispensation from the state government to raise tuition 10% a year for four years, to fund various educational improvements, then took another job after the tuition hike passed but before implementing any of the improvements.

                Karen Holbrook did so badly as OSU president that she managed something unthinkable in today’s administrative class: she failed downwards. Today she’s president of the Correspondence College of Tampa or something.

  • nasser

    Since unions have elections, that means that union members help run their unions. So they’re all supervisors. And we all know what that means…

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    Since the law on unionization/supervisors is Federal, is it really true that a state-level declaration is going to make it impossible to unionize?

    Yeah, a bit more emphatic than just saying “But they’re SUPERVISORS!” to a judge, but not a slam dunk.

    Now, if they’re *promoted* to supervisors, with a doubling of salary, that would look like some real evidence.

    • Bruce Vail

      I think the proposed law only applies to instructors working for the Ohio college/university system, so comes under state collective bargaining law, not federal.

      • MAJeff

        These institutions accept federal funds, in a variety of ways. This invites federal oversight via a variety of mechanisms.

        • Marek

          Yes, but not federal labor law.

          • Manny Kant

            I assume the federal government *could* force state schools that accept federal money to provide labor protections, but it has not chosen to do so.

            Also worth noting that tenured and tenure-track professors at private universities, who are covered by federal labor law, are already considered to be supervisors and thus not subject to the protections of the National Labor Relations Act according to the terms of the Supreme Court case NLRB v. Yeshiva from 1980. We can thank Justice Stevens for being the swing vote on that one.

            • matt w

              Although see the Pacific Lutheran University case; the NLRB ruled that even under the Yeshiva framework faculty aren’t supervisors unless they have real actual management duty, which they don’t anymore at most universities. This is going to get appealed a lot.

      • Manny Kant

        Which is why the supervisor thing is really just adding insult to injury. If the Ohio legislature wants to, they can just say that faculty at public universities can’t unionize without giving any reason. Saying it’s because they’re supervisors is just there to infuriate people.

    • matt w

      The NLRB recently issued a ruling that faculty at private universities are generally not supervisors. (The university in question was trying to claim its adjuncts as supervisors, which hahahahaha.) I had seen somewhere a post from some law firm reacting to this, which basically said “The NLRB said that if faculty are to be considered supervisors they actually have to supervise things! Things like how the money is spent at the university! And having faculty make recommendations to the dean or provost, who can feel free to ignore them, doesn’t count! The nerve! Universities may have to consider more traditional methods of union-busting.”

      BUT I think it’s very likely that decisions that apply to private universities don’t apply to public universities, and vice versa.

      EDIT: Well, Bruce and Joseph already made this point.

      • wjts

        The argument was that “full-time, non-tenure track faculty members” were supervisors, not adjuncts. It’s still a ridiculous argument, though.

        • matt w

          Hmm, I’ve seen them (both at the link and elsewhere) described as “full-time adjuncts” but that may be a matter of definition. There are a lot of technicalities there–I was classified as an adjunct one year when I was in what was effectively a visiting assistant professor position (and everyone in the department that hired me, along with me, was pretty shocked to find out that I was officially an adjunct).

          • wjts

            Maybe it is a terminology question. I think of “adjuncts” as people like me who are hired on a semester-by-semester basis with no guarantee of future employment, get paid peanuts, and receive no benefits. The “full-time, non-tenure track faculty members” I know (sometimes called “lecturers”) have long-term contracts or a reasonable guarantee of continued employment (though they don’t have the protection of tenure), make a reasonable salary, and qualify for benefits.

            • Our lecturers are also part of our union.

              • matt w

                Our lecturers are part of the union too–in fact, anyone who teaches in three semesters in a three-year period in the union.

                wjts, that’s pretty much how I think of “adjuncts” typically, especially teachers who are paid per course. The terminology is very varied–I just looked it up and at my school anyone who’s getting paid to teach is a lecturer, while adjuncts are people with other jobs working for free. At my other job (in the Wisconsin system), as I remember it, the title “visiting assistant professor” was restricted to people who had a full-time appointment at other schools, so I wound up listed as an adjunct even though I was full-time for a year (no guarantee of employment afterwards) and had a middle-classish salary and benefits (as Manny Kant says below, that’s a big difference). Also I got classified as staff rather than faculty. The people in the department who hired me had no idea about any of that.

                In the PLU case it does sound like the adjuncts who were trying to hold an organizing vote included part-time and full-time faculty. This article includes a PLU spokesperson complaining about a contract that tries to cover “the full-time, full professor who teaches six classes and does research, with the person who teaches one course, and has no requirement to be engaged in research or additional service to the university,” which does sound like it includes the straight-up adjuncts. Also kind of seems like “We don’t want to cover these teachers who have no role in the governance of the university” sort of undercuts the “But they’re supervisors!” argument, doesn’t it?

                [Did you know you can add extra links in the edit window?]

              • DrDick

                Anyone who teaches at least half time here is part of the union.

            • efgoldman

              I think of “adjuncts” as people like me who are hired on a semester-by-semester basis with no guarantee of future employment, get paid peanuts, and receive no benefits.

              I suppose they could really, really try to stretch it by saying that everyone who teaches a class or grades papers “supervises” students.
              It’s really stupid, and no one with half a brain would ever consider it – but that leaves an awful lot of room for the typical RWNJ legislature.

              • matt w

                I really think “supervises” has got to mean supervising employees, not customers.

                • Manny Kant

                  The usual argument is that because ordinary professors participate in hiring and tenure decisions, they have hiring/firing power and are thus supervisors.

            • Manny Kant

              A friend of mine is a lecturer, and certainly has nothing resembling a long-term contract. He generally seems reasonably secure he won’t be fired, but not necessarily much more so than I am that I’ll be able to continue with my current adjuncting gig for as long as I want it. He doesn’t know for sure if he’s re-hired until a month or two before classes start each year. What his job has that mine doesn’t is an actual middle class salary and benefits.

  • efgoldman

    The TeaHadi RWNJs want everyone to be as ignorant as they are.
    Of course, theirs is a willful ignorance.

  • Joseph Slater

    SB-5 a la carte?

  • Joseph Slater

    Snarki: The law for *public* employees, including those at state universities, is state law, not federal.

  • NobodySpecial

    Imagine the shit that would go down if faculty held a unionization meeting the day before fall semester starts. What does the college do then? Arrest everyone? Fire everyone the day before classes putatively start? What kind of a mess would deans be dealing with THEN?

    • Murc

      No shit would, in fact, go down.

      When people talk about unions or union actions being “illegal” or certain people not being eligible for form a union, they don’t mean that it is an actual crime, or even a civil offense, to be a member of one. It just means that they’re unentitled to certain of the benefits unions are granted by law.

      Anybody can join any organization they like; that’s protected under the right of free association. The faculty can join an organization that calls itself a union and that attempts to negotiate on their behalf, but the state doesn’t have to recognize the legitimacy of said organization or their membership therein. So they’d have a meeting… and the university would shrug its shoulders and life would go on.

      As I understand things, at least.

      • postmodulator

        Continuing on with that train of thought…

        The tool that a union has to negotiate is the threat of labor stoppage. Strikes by non-recognized unions don’t get the protections that the NLRB would give legal strikes, right?

        But the NLRB protections are totally toothless and ineffective anyway. So maybe nothing of value has been lost here.

        • Murc

          The tool that a union has to negotiate is the threat of labor stoppage.

          My understanding is that, no fooling, unions can actually be held financially liable for participating in “illegal” strikes. Which is a neat trick.

          • postmodulator

            So the union that they don’t recognize to do collective bargaining they’ll recognize long enough to go after for money?

            Reminds me of the kid who took pictures of his junk and was charged with producing child pornography because he was underage…and charged as an adult due to the seriousness of the crime.

            “That’s some catch!” “It’s the best there is!”

        • Marek

          You can strike without a recognized union, but the striking employees have to be eligible for unionization. So, not supervisors.

          • Manny Kant

            Anyone can strike. In many states, for instance, public employees are not legally allowed to strike, but teachers’ strikes and similar have nonetheless occurred.

            And note that in spite of Yeshiva, which ruled that tenured professors at private universities are supervisors, there are still recognized faculty unions at some private universities – mostly grandfathered in from before Yeshiva, I believe.

            • Marek

              OK, fair enough. Anyone can strike, but not with legal protection. (And, it can be effective if you’re well organized!) I was talking about strikes with legal protection.

          • postmodulator

            What I was trying to get at is, what are they going to do about it? Not protect the unrecognized union? They don’t protect the recognized unions either, in any real way. But Murc seems to think they could do worse than that.

        • matt w

          The tool that a union has to negotiate is the threat of labor stoppage.

          This is not necessarily true. My union is forbidden to strike; but if we can’t reach a contract with the university, the two sides (or one side?) can declare negotiations at an impasse, whereupon a bunch of other stuff happens (starting with a fact-finder or someone sitting at the table and saying “C’mon guys”), and if there’s absolutely no agreement then eventually it winds up at a state labor board. So our tool for negotiating is approximately “You never know, the labor board might side with us” and maybe a soupçon of “Do you really want to deal with this mess?”

          The full-time faculty’s last contract got declared an impasse and then an agreement was reached a couple of months later. I think things would’ve had to get really messed up for it to get to the Labor Relations Board.

          • Joseph Slater

            Matt W describes a process common in the public sector. In Ohio, most public employees — including university professors — have the right to strike, but they have to go through mediation and fact-finding first, and in large part because of that, strikes are pretty rare.

        • Joseph Slater

          The NLRA/NLRB is irrelevant here, since it’s Ohio’s public-sector law. And whatever one thinks of remedies under the NLRA or the Ohio law, the right to bargain collectively is still significant. In short, something of value to the professors and their unions would be lost.

  • Ishmael

    I strongly feel managers should be able to form unions. Although that could lead to companies looking to develop a professional administrative class like what was brought into university administration to break faculty control of the university system… rather than developing management from within.

    Could lead to interesting problems as people that are completely incompetent in a field become managers in that field and destroy those businesses at the altar of anti-unionism… :D

  • busker type

    this is probably a stupid question, but what is the purpose of the rule that says managers can’t form unions? Would that lead to some specific problem?

    • matt w

      It looks like it was part of the Taft-Hartley Act, so the purpose of the rule was to screw unions. (I am not a labor historian; perhaps the professionals will want to weigh in here.)

    • Marek

      It’s not a stupid question. The idea is that including managers in a union with people they manage would lead to conflicts of interest (or a lack of “community of interest,” a term of art in labor law). In Massachusetts public sector labor law, certain supervisors are included in unions but the very highest (Director of Nursing at a state hospital, for example) are excluded.

      • Manny Kant

        It totally makes sense to exclude genuine upper level management from a union. It is completely absurd to say that because tenured faculty jointly make hiring and firing decisions, they therefore can’t form a union because they are supervisors.

        • Marek

          I do not disagree.

      • busker type

        thanks!

    • Joseph Slater

      Pretty much every U.S. labor law (private and public sector) excludes *managers* (although interestingly, some European labor laws don’t). Supervisors are a different issue, though. While private-sector labor law excludes supervisors, some public-sector labor laws don’t exclude supervisors at all. Also,some public-sector laws do exclude supervisors” but have much narrower definitions of “supervisor” — that means fewer types of employees are excluded as supervisors. Ohio is in that latter model: the Ohio public-sector does exclude supervisors, but it also says specifically that most faculty in state universities are not supervisors.

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