Obama has loaded the National Labor Relations Board with pro-union activists, just as he’s done with every other federal regulatory agency. The Board’s decisions have pushed the union agenda to the utmost and a recent decision clears the way for the unionization of faculty members at private colleges and universities.
In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, economics professor Charles Baird, who experienced unionization when he taught at Cal State Eastbay, discusses that decision (Pacific Lutheran) and explains why he regards it as bad law. It’s bad law because it overthrows court precedents that blocked faculty unionization, but also bad because faculty unionization is detrimental to the educational endeavor. “Unionization of the faculty undermines effort. The administration must adhere slavishly to the collective bargaining agreement, which treats all faculty members alike, whether excellent or indolent. Faculty unions turn higher education into something more like an industrial assembly line than an intellectual enterprise,” Baird writes.
He also points out that the way unionization occurs under the National Labor Relations Act, if a majority wants representation by a union, then all of the faculty members must accept that union as their exclusive representative in dealing with the school. Forced collectivization replaces individual action, and if the union uses dues money for purposes that one or more of those faculty members opposes, the only recourse is to endure a legal battle with the union to secure some reduction in dues — see Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association.
Finally, Baird argues that unionization can only hinder colleges and universities as they search for the optimal ways of delivering educational opportunities to students. It is clear that we’re entering a period of change and adjustment in higher education. (If you doubt that, read Kevin Carey’s new book The End of College, about which I’ll have more to say soon.) Change is inevitable and schools will have to be nimble if they are to survive. “Unions,” Baird writes, “have long opposed free trade in goods and services. Faculty unions are just as likely to oppose the free trade in ideas that is crucial for academic innovation. The apparatchiks in the NLRB may think that facilitating unionization in higher education is a good idea, but from personal experience, I say they are mistaken.”
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