The National Labor Relations Board ordered USC this week to engage in collective bargaining with the adjunct professors from the Roski School of Art and Design.
These professors are not on a tenure track, and USC’s position is that these professors are not entitled to collective bargaining negotiations through a union or otherwise.
According to USC’s website, only 1,200 faculty members of 6,000 total are on a tenure track. Tenure-track professors enjoy higher pay and greater benefits.
The upcoming legal battle adds tension to the rocky relationship between Roski’s faculty and the university. In Nov. 2015, the non-adjunct professors filed paperwork and sent a petition to hold union elections. The NLRB approved and certified the Jan. 2016 elections against USC’s wishes. Roski’s adjunct professors then filed suit against USC in September 2016, alleging unfair labor practices and a delay in the union vote. The NLRB sided with the faculty in April 2016.
Despite the union elections, USC has refused to engage in collective bargaining with the faculty. The University cites the 1980 NLRB v. Yeshiva University Supreme Court case as precedent not to engage in collective talks.
In the Yeshiva case, the U.S. Supreme Court found that full-time, tenure-track faculty are managerial employees and are therefore not covered by the National Labor Relations Act.
However, a recent NLRB decision involving Pacific Lutheran University found that in order for faculty members to be excluded from collective bargaining, they must have an “actual” say in university affairs, rather than what the Board considered “paper authority.”
USC is appealing the case to the federal courts on the belief that the Supreme Court precedent is on their side. USC believes the NLRB is not following the Yeshiva precedent in recognizing faculty’s role in university management.
“We continue to defend the principle that at USC, non-tenure-track faculty are partners with tenured faculty in our robust shared governance system,” said provost Michael Quick in a statement.
The question a court will ultimately have to answer is whether adjunct professors can be found to be managerial under the Supreme Court’s 1980 Yeshiva precedent.