Faculty unions at Ohio’s public universities have a lot at stake on November 8, since Senate Bill 5, the collective bargaining law on the ballot as Issue 2, would re-define most full-time faculty as management. That would prevent faculty members from participating in collective bargaining.
Faculty unions are vehemently opposing Issue 2.
But supporters of Issue 2 say the new collective bargaining law would just extend a 1980 federal ruling – NRLB v. Yeshiva University – which determined that faculty at private universities should be considered “management.”
“Federal law that applies to private universities all across the country is that faculty are members of management on university campuses so it’s relatively common sense that you would apply that same standard in Ohio,” said Bruce Johnson, president of the InterUniversity Council, a coalition of Ohio’s 14 public universities.
The InterUniversity Council supports Senate Bill 5, and wrote some of the language around the reclassification of higher education faculty as management.
The way Johnson sees it, the duties of faculty at private and public universities are essentially the same so they should have the same designation: management.
Technically, the Yeshiva ruling never made a decision about the right of faculty at Yeshiva University to unionize. The question put before the court was whether or not faculty count as management. The university argued that since professors participate in determining curricula, grading systems and admissions standards, as well as hiring and recommending faculty for tenure, faculty were participating in the management of the university. The court agreed with the university, leading to the end of the faculty union at Yeshiva University and private universities across the county.Supporters of Issue 2 say private universities and many public universities that do not have unions do just fine. In Ohio, The Ohio State University and Miami University (full disclosure, that’s my alma mater) do not have unions. The faculty at Bowling Green State University recently formed a union, an effort that was opposed by the administration there and even a student group.
Higher education faculty unions aren’t particularly widespread among American universities. According to the American Association of University Professors, 21 percent of all universities have faculty unions. Among public universities, 35 percent of universities have unions.
If Ohioans vote to approve Issue 2 on November 8th, Ohio will join Wisconsin in effectively banning all higher education faculty unions. But, polls consistently show voters plan on rejecting Issue 2, so the debate around higher education unions is likely to continue.
Note: A previous version of this story had the headline “Why Private Universities Don’t Have Unions.” “Faculty” was later added, since Issue 2 and the language inspired by the Yeshiva ruling would only affect faculty unions, and many private universities do have other, non-faculty unions. Also, this story noted that OU and CWRU do not have faculty unions, when in fact both do.