NLRB denies faculty right to vote on union in final order


Rachel Looker, Editor-in-Chief

“That’s it. It’s over.”

That’s what Regional Advocacy Coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Paul Shemansky had to say after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) released a final order on May 5 dismissing Marywood faculty’s petition for a union vote after a nine-month deliberation.

The Marywood Faculty Association (MUFA) had petitioned for a union vote in April of 2016 after a series of actions taken by former Marywood President Sr. Anne Munley, IHM, Ph. D and the previous administration. These actions included cuts to faculty retirement plans, budget cuts and the non-renewal of 10 first-year faculty members’ contracts.

Marywood’s previous administration contested the MUFA petition, which resulted in an NLRB hearing to determine if Marywood’s faculty meets certain requirements to unionize. One of these requirements was to determine if faculty serve as managers in their roles at Marywood. The NLRB determined that faculty do serve as managers, which was a reason to not allow a vote. MUFA disagreed with this decision and petitioned the NLRB in August of 2016 through PSEA for a review.

The NLRB released a final order that denied the petition. According to the order, the decision upheld the previous finding that employees serve as managers.

“Employees are managerial employees and therefore excluded from employee status under the National Labor Relations Act,” stated the order.

Jeff Husisian, a PSEA northeastern region attorney, said that according to the decision, faculty have influence on the types of courses offered and on the curriculum through various faculty committees and organizations, which under the law concludes they serve as managers.

According to Husisian, in this recent order, the labor board determined that because of Marywood’s religious background, religious institutions have the right under the First Amendment of the Constitution to dismiss faculty who are not conforming to religious principles. The order also confirmed that faculty serve as managers.

Shemansky explained that this final decision prevents Marywood faculty from holding an election to see if the majority would vote to support the formation of a union.

“Even to have an election, it’s over,” said Shemansky.

MUFA could appeal this decision in the federal courts, but both Shemansky and Husisian said they don’t believe the decision would be overturned.

“We made the educated decision with the makeup of federal courts with the Trump administration that [another appeal] would not be fruitful,” said Husisian.

According to Shemansky, the federal courts would likely refer to the NLRB’s ruling and uphold the board’s decision.

“Right now, the courts would not be friendly courts to help us overturn our decision, and it would be hard to get it overturned,” said Shemansky. “It would probably be a losing case and going up the channels of federal courts on appeals, it’s very expensive.”

Dr. Brooke Cannon, psychology professor, testified at the NLRB union hearing in the spring of 2016. She said she finds the order disappointing and hoped faculty would be allowed to at least hold a vote as to whether to unionize.

Cannon said she feels the environment at Marywood has improved with the new administration under current Marywood President Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed. D.

“There is greater transparency and the tone is different with this administration being much more interactive with faculty in a positive manner,” said Cannon.

She said there are still financial challenges, and said she finds the lack of salary increase disappointing.

“Faculty may have expected that unionization would have helped with having greater leverage in negotiations of salary and benefits, but my impression is that everyone is committed to moving the institution forward, and we’re hopeful that the corner will be turned financially,” said Cannon.

Contact the writer: [email protected]
Twitter: @RLookerTWW