1. “A Cautionary Tale: The Aronow Case”

    Posted: Apr 9th, 2018

    Connecticut Commission on Human Rights Rules Against UConn Health

    Sometimes, the wheels of justice turn slowly. On February 14, 2018, after a seven-year battle, the State of Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities ruled in favor of Dr. Michael Aronow in his whistleblower complaint against the http://uchc-aaup.org/chro-decision-aronow_ocr/  University of Connecticut Health Center (UCH).

    In September of 2011, Dr. Aronow filed a grievance with the Health Center Appeals Committee (HCAC). The state tribunal agreed that, subsequent to his filing of that appeal, Dr. Aronow was subjected to several retaliatory actions by UCH that resulted in damage to his career and his finances. Those actions also resulted in disruption to the care of patients. The final decision rendered by the tribunal can be found here. It documents instances in which UCH treated Dr. Aronow prejudicially, kept crucial information hidden from him, ignored the orders of the tribunal, and undermined the clear language of the by-laws and grievance process by, among other actions, conducting an extra-judicial investigation, arranging ex-parte meetings, and failing to provide a neutral liaison to Dr. Aronow throughout the proceedings.

    The state tribunal concluded that UCH “showed resentment, animosity, and contempt” for Dr. Aronow’s grievance while UCH “harbored impermissible retaliatory animus” toward him. This stemmed from what the tribunal characterized as, “an air of retaliatory animus that permeated the [Health Center’s] corridors.” Further, they found that the actions of UCH “were against their own (hence the taxpayers [sic]) financial interest, and against past practices and policies.”

    An understanding of what occurred provides an extremely powerful argument for the necessity of union representation. It demonstrates, unfortunately, that even when bylaws, policies, and procedures are in place and codified, adherence to them is not a foregone conclusion, much less guaranteed. The good news is that, as a faculty member, you need not “go it alone.”

    Our union contract provides for ‘just cause’ in discipline and a grievance and arbitration process. In cases involving discipline and contract violations, faculty can elect a route of due process rather than utilizing internal UCH processes (e.g., the Health Center Appeals Committee). The external grievance and arbitration process involves the assignment of a neutral third party to rule in cases of discipline or contract violations. Especially in light of the case discussed above, we urge members to consider seriously the contractual grievance and arbitration process vs internal UCH processes whenever a choice is possible. At minimum, we urge you to contact the union to discuss your options. Remember, the UCHC-AAUP is here to support you and your interests and to ensure that all faculty receive a fair shake. Do not hesitate to contact us for representation and assistance concerning UCH administrative matters.

    Here is a link to our union contract and another to the Aronow Decision.



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  2. Unions Rally For Collective Bargaining With Eye on Connecticut Legislature

    Posted: Feb 27th, 2018


    HARTFORD, CT — Union workers in Connecticut are worried about the impact a U.S. Supreme Court decision—that has yet to be made — may have on their ability to organize.

    They’re worried the U.S. Supreme Court will decide in favor of Mark Janus, the child-support specialist from Illinois who sued the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for taking $45 from his paycheck each month, even though he declined union membership.

    Unions are concerned that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Janus and limit their ability to collect dues that would be used for collective bargaining.

    Oral arguments lasted for an hour this morning in Washington DC while unions in Connecticut rallied in four locations across the state, including Hartford and New Haven.

    Court watchers expect Justice Neil Gorsuch will be the vote that breaks the tie in favor of Janus. A previous similar case split 4-4 in January 2016 before Gorsuch was seated on the court.

    The Janus decision, if it came down in favor of Janus, would have an impact on public employee unions across the nation. There are 24 states that allow at least some public employee unions to collect “agency fees,” according to AFSCME’s brief in the case.

    Connecticut labor unions rallied on the steps of the Connecticut Supreme Court building in Hartford Monday to show their support.

    House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, who works as an education coordinator for AFSCME Council 4, said collective bargaining is part of the fabric of Connecticut “and that’s not going to change any time soon.”

    He said this November “collective bargaining will be on the ballot.”

    House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said last year they had to defend the right to collectively bargain last year when they approved $1.57 billion in labor savings last summer.

    “This is not something that’s happening just in Texas or Republican states,” Ritter said. “We almost had amendments passing that would have eliminated the right of workers to get together.”

    He said all collective bargaining does is lift people up and all taking it away would do it “tear people down.” He asked the crowd to stay active through the November election.

    Lori Pelletier, president of the AFL-CIO, said this fight “is about the soul of America. It’s about our soul as union members.”

    The fight is no longer a distant one for Connecticut labor, which until recently enjoyed large Democratic majorities in the General Assembly.

    Pelletier said there are people at the state Capitol across the street “who want to see you make less money. Be less safe on the job and not have a voice on the work floor. And that’s what we’re standing up against today.”

    Union membership may be declining, but in Connecticut there are still over 200,000 union members, according to Pelletier. And despite the declining membership, labor still has political clout when it comes to getting voters to the polls.

    Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden, who is also running for attorney general, was the one who defended the collectively bargained savings on the House floor  last July.

    D’Agostino told the crowd Monday that organized labor is the only check left on the concentration of wealth and power in this county. He said no one should be surprised that the wealthy want to “undermine the only check left on it.”

    Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie

    Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie

    House Majoiity Leader Matt Ritter

    D’Agostino told the crowd that Republicans introduced legislation last week that seeks to take away their collective bargaining rights.“This is nothing more than turning this state into Wisconsin,” D’Agostino said as he waved a copy of the bill.

    “They didn’t write this themselves. This is paid for and funded by and written by the same people paying Mark Janus’s legal bills,”  he added.

    He said he’s telling anyone who will listen that public employees and labor unions are not to blame for the unfunded pension liabilities because they paid in when the politicians did not.

    House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who helped draft the bill D’Agostino was waving around, said he’s “consumed by his blatant political ambitions as he is running for Attorney General who is supposed to be the voice of every Connecticut resident, not just genuflect to a partisan base.”

    She said they have proposed a “slew of cost saving measures to be enacted over time that would help us get out from under a mountain of debt in pension and healthcare obligations.”

    She pointed out that Connecticut is one of only four states that collectively bargains pensions for public employees “46 other states do it differently and we believe changes are necessary for the good of all.’’

    The legislation would require any new state employees after July 1, 2027 to calculate their pensions differently. It would also require employees to contribute seven percent of their salary and wouldn’t allow overtime to be calculated as part of pension payments.

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  3. Janus, Agency Fees, and the First Amendment

    Posted: Feb 15th, 2018


    Later this month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, in which anti-union “right to work” forces are challenging the right of public employee unions to collect agency fees from non-members that the unions represent. These fees have since 1977 been protected by the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The ostensible plaintiff, Mark Janus, backed by the National Right to Work Committee and other anti-union groups, claims that requiring non-members to pay for union representation at all is de facto government-compelled speech and hence a violation of the First Amendment.

    Last month the AAUP joined with the National Education Association to submit an amicus curiae brief in support of the respondents, which urged the Court to reject the challenge, arguing that “the government is fully justified in ordering its own workplace affairs through collective bargaining with an exclusive representative. And in order to secure that arrangement, the government is equally justified in authorizing and entering agency fee arrangements that ensure the financial stability of its collective bargaining partner. Such a result is fully consistent with the First Amendment, which grants the government the ‘widest latitude’ in conducting its own internal affairs.”

    The brief was but one of many filed on both sides, including several filed by unions and state and local governments on behalf of the respondents. Two interesting briefs from an unexpected source and an unusual partnership merit broader attention and comment. In what one account called “a surprising lifeline from an unlikely friend,” two conservative legal scholars, Eugene Volokh, professor of constitutional law at UCLA and regular blogger for the Washington Post, and William Baude, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago and rising star in libertarian conservative legal circles who has been cited in oral argument by Justice Neil Gorsuch, filed a brief in support of AFSCME. The two are by no means friends of unions, but their concern is with the case’s potential danger to the First Amendment.

    “Compelled subsidies of others’ speech happen all the time, and are not generally viewed as burdening any First Amendment interest,” they write. “Just as non-union members may find many reasons to disagree with a public union’s speech, there are countless grounds to object to other speech supported by government funds. Many people undoubtedly disagree with a great deal of public and private speech funded by taxes or other compulsory payments. There is, however, no First Amendment interest in avoiding those subsidies.”

    While the entire brief is worth reading, here is its summary of argument:

    1. Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S.209 (1977), this Court has observed, is “something of an anomaly” when it comes to the First Amendment. Harris v. Quinn, 134 S. Ct. 2618, 2627 (2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). In fact, Abood is even more anomalous than previously acknowledged. For the first time, “Abood . . . recognized a First Amendment interest in not being compelled to contribute to an organization whose expressive activities conflict with one’s ‘freedom of belief.’” Glickman v. Wileman Bros.& Elliott, Inc., 521 U.S. 457, 471 (1997). Abood then concluded that some interference with this new First Amendment interest was “constitutionally justified by the legislative assessment of the important contribution of the union shop to the system of labor relations,” and the need to avoid free-riding on the public union’s collective bargaining efforts. Abood, 431 U.S. at 222.

    The Court has since questioned whether Abood balanced the competing interests correctly, noting, for example, that “free-rider arguments are generally insufficient to overcome First Amendment objections.” Harris, 134 S. Ct. at 2627 (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). Petitioner and his amici press similar arguments for reversing Abood here. See Pet. Br. at 36–37.

    Where Abood truly went wrong, however, was not in how it applied the new First Amendment objection it recognized. Rather, Abood erred by recognizing that objection in the first place. Compelled subsidies of others’ speech happen all the time, and are not generally viewed as burdening any First Amendment interest. The government collects and spends tax dollars, doles out grants and subsidies to private organizations that engage in speech, and even requires private parties to pay other private parties for speech-related services—like, for example, legal representation. To be certain, these compelled subsidies are subject to other constitutional restrictions. For example, the government cannot compel payments that violate the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses or the Equal Protection Clause. But a compelled subsidy does not itself burden a free-standing First Amendment interest in freedom of speech or association.

    So if Abood misapplied the First Amendment, it undercut a First Amendment interest that Abood itself miscreated. If anything in Abood should be revisited, it is the existence of the First Amendment interest itself. That is also sufficient reason to reject Petitioner’s request to expand Abood’s First Amendment holding by overturning it in the other direction.

    2. There is certainly no First Amendment violation when the government itself engages in taxpayer-funded speech that some find objectionable. The content of that speech is protected from First Amendment scrutiny by the government speech doctrine. No matter how much we disagree with the government’s message, we cannot withhold the portion of our taxes that support it. The First Amendment permits taxpayers who object to government speech to raise their own voices in opposition and to associate with others who share their views. And, of course, disgruntled voters can express their frustration at the ballot box. But those are their only remedies. They have no First Amendment interest to resist subsidizing government speech they happen to disapprove of.

    The First Amendment analysis is the same when the government gives tax revenues to private entities to provide services that include speech. As with government speech, the government’s choice of what services and what speech to subsidize does not implicate the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and association rights, outside of certain exceptions like public forums. See Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173, 200 (1991). Nor does the First Amendment constrain private grant recipients when they speak using government funds. Again, taxpayers who oppose these compelled expenditures have no right to withhold taxes and no recourse besides engaging in speech or association themselves or voting for different government officials.

    The only difference with the compelled subsidies challenged here (and in Abood) is that they involve payments made directly from one private party to another as a condition of public employment. But the government frequently conditions important activities on the purchase of speech-related services from private entities or individuals. Doctors and lawyers must enroll in continuing medical and legal education courses to remain in practice. States require entrants to a wide variety of occupations to purchase dozens or hundreds of hours of training and certifications. And a number of states require people buying real estate to be represented by an attorney at the closing. The government requires people to purchase non-speech services from private entities too, like car insurance and vaccinations, and the entities that receive these government-compelled funds are then free to spend them on objectionable speech.

    The First Amendment does not provide freedom from any of these mandatory payments for others’ speech. Practicing attorneys cannot refuse to pay for CLE programming because they disagree with the messages presented or because they choose not to associate with CLE providers. Home buyers cannot refuse representation by counsel in states that require it, even if they would prefer to spend their money on something else. These and other instances of private speech funded by government mandate need not be viewpoint-neutral, nor must they be justified by a compelling governmental interest. The First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association simply do not guarantee that one’s hard-earned dollars will never be spent on speech one disapproves of.

    3. Stripped of Abood’s unfounded First Amendment concerns, this is an easy case. The government has determined that collective bargaining is the best way to negotiate contracts and settle disputes with public employees. The government would undisputedly be free to establish a public collective bargaining agent, or to pay a private one directly from the public fisc. That it has chosen instead to pay its employees and then require them to hire the collective bargaining agent does not change the constitutional analysis.

    4. Under the doctrine of stare decisis, Abood should not be overturned unless it reached the wrong result. It is not enough to note that Abood was badly reasoned, or that parts of the opinion were flawed. The Court should overturn Abood only if, going back to first principles, it can establish that the Free Speech Clause does protect a right that is violated by agency fees. But the First Amendment provides no such right. The judgment below should be affirmed.

    This is a remarkable argument, going further than most others to argue that Abood’s own reasoning was flawed, but not in the way its challengers contend. (Volokh has also responded to critics who claim that while the Constitution provides for the taxing power, it does not authorize agency fee payments, a distinction that, he retorts, is “quite beside the point.”)

    A different approach is taken in a brief submitted by the seemingly unlikely pairing of Charles Fried, professor of law at Harvard University and a former Republican Solicitor General of the United States, and Robert Post, professor of constitutional law and former dean at Yale University Law School, who is a former general counsel to AAUP and current member of Committee A, represented by Seth Waxman, Solicitor General in the Clinton administration. The two intervened on behalf of neither the petitioner nor the respondent. But they also take head-on Janus’s First Amendment claim:

    In seeking a categorical prohibition on agency fees, petitioner claims that all union speech directed to the government is “political speech indistinguishable from lobbying the government.” That is manifestly incorrect. When a union discharges statutory duties, it engages in speech that “owes its existence” to the State’s chosen system for managing its workforce; funding such speech—which is directed to the government as an employer, not to the government as a sovereign—does not implicate “any liberties the employee might have enjoyed as a private citizen.” Garcetti, 547 U.S. at 422. Concluding otherwise would set in motion drastic changes in First Amendment doctrine that essentially threaten to constitutionalize every workplace dispute and, further, to unsettle other constitutional doctrines that distinguish between the government as employer (or proprietor) and as sovereign.

    Most striking here is the brief’s reliance on the Court’s 2006 decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, a decision that raised considerable concern among faculty and in the AAUP over its potential to restrict academic freedom. But it turns out that Garcetti is a two-edged sword. “Public-sector bargaining regimes involve the same state managerial prerogatives to which the Court has expressed deference in the Garcetti line of cases,” the brief states. “This Court has interpreted the First Amendment, consistent with Garcetti, to give ample room to state employers to structure public workplaces as they believed most effective, without undue First Amendment restrictions.” The brief continues:

    The essential insight of the Garcetti line of cases is that if public employees are accorded categorical First Amendment rights, public employers will be denied the broad discretion they need to manage their workplaces. States will be stripped of their capacity effectively to govern in accordance with local needs and values. It is inconsistent with Garcetti’s carefully drawn distinction between speaking as an employee and speaking as a citizen to hold that the compulsory payment of agency fees is categorically protected under the First Amendment. Any such holding would therefore threaten to transform every workplace dispute into a constitutional controversy. . . .

    Union representatives discharging their statutory duties therefore are speaking on behalf of employees qua employees, with funding from employees qua employees, within a statutory system created to manage the State’s relationship with its employees qua employees. Their speech “owes its existence” to the State’s chosen system of labor relations and does not implicate “any liberties the employee might have enjoyed as a private citizen.” Garcetti, 547 U.S. at 422.

    That this case involves employee funding of speech, rather than employee speech itself, does not distinguish Garcetti. There can be no First Amendment claim for restricting speech made in the context of a system “commissioned or created” by the government acting as employer. 547 U.S. at 422. This principle applies with equal force to a claim of compelled speech. See Riley v. National Fed’n of the Blind of N.C., Inc., 487 U.S. 781, 796 (1988) (the “difference between compelled speech and compelled silence … is without constitutional significance”). Indeed, public employees are routinely compelled to speak pursuant to their official duties, and courts have rejected First Amendment challenges to such compulsion under Garcetti. If the employee speech at issue here can be restricted or compelled without First Amendment challenge, so too can the funding of such speech. Because a claim of compelled funding of speech is more attenuated than a claim of compelled speech simpliciter, this conclusion follows a fortiori from Garcetti.

    The brief goes on to argue that a “categorical rule holding agency fees unconstitutional would also blur the limits the Court has been careful to place on what constitutes a ‘matter of public concern’ for constitutional purposes”:

    The record reveals that certain activities funded by the agency fees at issue in this case cover the very types of routine workplace matters that the Court has carefully refrained from constitutionalizing with First Amendment protections. . . .

    A ruling categorically prohibiting agency fees would necessarily elevate these types of pedestrian workplace matters into matters of public concern. . . . That is irreconcilable with this Court’s precedent. Indeed, the employee’s claim in Connick “failed the public concern test” precisely because the workplace questionnaire she distributed—addressing matters like the need for a grievance committee—“was ‘most accurately characterized as an employee grievance concerning internal office policy.’” Guarnieri, 564 U.S. at 392 (describing Connick); see also Connick, 461 U.S. at 149. If the Court in this case holds that employee grievances are a matter of public concern, it will have to accept the same result in countless other scenarios—including, for example, a public employee’s complaint of a superior’s “poor management and motivational skills,” Ezekwo v. New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 940 F.2d 775, 778 (2d Cir. 1991), a superior’s lack of leadership ability, Graziosi v. City of Greensville Mississippi, 775 F.3d 731, 738 (5th Cir.2015), and, more generally, employment conditions and personal dissatisfaction with personnel decisions, Brooks v. Arthur, 685 F.3d 367, 372 (4th Cir. 2012).

    A third argument made in the brief against Janus and his backers concerns the Court’s longstanding balancing test in public employee speech cases:

    A categorical prohibition on agency fees would also mark an abandonment of the balancing that is the final step in the Court’s public-employee speech cases. Once an employee has overcome the threshold requirements, i.e., speaking as a citizen on a matter of public concern, “[t]he question becomes whether the government entity ha[s] an adequate justification for treating the employee differently from any other member of the general public.” Garcetti, 547 U.S. at 418. . . .

    Nearly half the States have chosen to authorize agency fees for unionized public workplaces; they have decided that well-funded collective-bargaining arrangements are best-suited to serving their citizens effectively and efficiently. These discretionary state judgments deserve respect and must be weighed in the balance mandated by Pickering, Connick, and Garcetti. . . .

    The categorical approach sought by petitioner would ignore the balancing requirement and preclude States and localities from funding any workplace management activities through agency fees. States and localities could not even use agency fees to fund routine matters such as “[a]djusting grievances … and representing employees in proceedings under civil service laws and regulations.”

    I find less persuasive the Fried-Post brief’s lengthy argument against upholding Abood’s test for determining which union fees are chargeable and which are not and its advocacy of moving to the “statutory duties” test proposed in a previous case by Justices Scalia, O’Connor, Souter, and Kennedy. While this may well be aimed at opening a door for a compromise resolution that might attract Justice Kennedy’s vote, I wonder if it will make much difference in reality, since there was not agreement among the four justices originally proposing that test about how to define its parameters. That said, through its shrewd turning of Garcetti, which limited public employee speech, against the claims of those phony “free speech” advocates behind Janus is a powerful argument that complements the one submitted by Volokh and Baude.

    Nonetheless, it is questionable, if not doubtful, whether these arguments will prove effective. To be sure, both briefs speak to potential swing justices. Volokh and Baude’s arguments may be aimed at Justice Gorsuch, the one justice who has yet to indicate a stance on this issue. (Last term’s Friedrichs case raised the question, but absent Justice Scalia the Court deadlocked 4-4 and no opinions were issued. It is clear, however, that the four liberal justices — Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor — opposed overturning Abood.) But Baude has said he does not think the brief would appeal to one justice in particular, or even a subset of justices, because its argument is based on first principles and logic. “I think all the justices are pretty committed to free speech,” he said. “They just have a lot of hard cases between what’s speech and what’s not, and this is an example of one of those boundary cases.”

    Fried and Post clearly hope to sway Justice Kennedy. Justice Samuel Alito has been the main advocate on the court for the position taken by Janus. “The position Charles Fried and I took was that the Alito position is inconsistent with the First Amendment analysis of employee speech that Kennedy had set forth in Garcetti,” Post explained in an interview. “Garcetti was a case about whether public employees have First Amendment rights, and Kennedy, speaking for the court, said it depends on whether they’re speaking as employees or as citizens.”

    “Kennedy was trying to make regulation of employee speech not a constitutional question every time it happened, but the Alito position completely undermines this,” Post said. “It has to be contextual, and you have to be much more nuanced about the sort of speech you’re talking about subsidizing.”

    Still, the Court has not always been known for its logical consistency, especially in today’s highly politicized environment. Absent a powerful mass movement in support of unions, it is difficult to imagine how legal arguments alone will carry the day. But such arguments are not without import and worth understanding. If nothing else, their rejection will educate us about the nature of law and power in contemporary America. Sadly, it remains unlikely at best that public employee unions, including the AAUP, will once again dodge the bullet of a declaration that agency fees are unconstitutional. We must remain prepared.

  4. Educators File Amicus Brief with Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME

    Posted: Jan 23rd, 2018


    January 19, 2018

    NEA, AAUP compellingly argue how strong unions benefit communities

    WASHINGTON — The National Education Association and the American Association of University Professors submitted an amicus brief today with the Supreme Court in the case of Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31. The National Right to Work Committee, which is behind the case, is asking the Court to read into the First Amendment a right to work law for the entire public sector. As the brief explains, the First Amendment has never been so interpreted and doing so would conflict with the Court’s long-established deference to state decisions about their public workforces. At issue in Janus is whether non-union members, who share in the wages, benefits and protections that have been negotiated into a collectively bargained contract, may be required to pay their fair share for the cost of those negotiations.

    “Strong unions help to create strong schools for students and even stronger communities that benefit all of us,” said Lily Eskelsen García, a sixth grade teacher from Salt Lake City, Utah who was elected to serve as the president of the National Education Association. “For generations, unions have been the best path to the middle class for working people, especially people of color and women. But in this rigged economy, unions are under attack, and those attacks are coming not just from the White House and Capitol Hill. They’re happening at the ballot box and at the Supreme Court with cases like Janus v. AFSCME.”

    A comprehensive report issued last year by the Economic Policy Institute detailed how collective bargaining plays an essential role in the labor market, by raising working people’s wages and supporting a fair and prosperous economy as well as a vibrant democracy. Unions and their ability to bargain collectively are an important force in reducing inequality and ensuring that low- and middle-wage workers receive a fair return on their work. Another recent report titled, “Strong Unions, Stronger Communities,” reviewed numerous case studies where members of labor unions have used their freedom to join strong unions and collective voice to fight for improvements that benefit all working families in communities throughout America.

    “This case is part of a broader effort to weaken the freedom and power of working people, undermine public services, and to erode the common good. The Supreme Court should consider the benefits of robust collective bargaining and unionization for public employers, employees and the general public, including improved government services, better educational outcomes and higher economic mobility,” said AAUP General Counsel Risa Lieberwitz. “The court also should not ignore the fact that many of the groups who filed briefs in support of Janus only want to manipulate and weaponize the court’s decision to attack unions and deprive state and local governments of broad societal benefits that accompany collective bargaining.”

    The Janus case presents a real test for the court. If facts, merit and law are considered, then the justices must rule in favor of upholding 40 years of precedent that support the authority of state and local governments to choose to have strong public sector systems of collective bargaining.

    “The politically-motivated backers behind Janus know this case is nothing more than a smokescreen for what they’re really trying to do,” added Eskelsen García. “Point blank, this case is an assault on the freedoms of working people to earn a better life for themselves and their families. The case’s backers are attempting to write the rules further in favor of their own special corporate interests and other billionaires. The justices on the Supreme Court cannot allow themselves to be fooled.”

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  5. Reject Betsy DeVos’s Nomination

    Posted: Feb 7th, 2017

    The AAUP urges the United States Senate to reject Betsy DeVos’s nomination as education secretary.

    Given her documented lack of qualifications and hostility to public education, DeVos is manifestly unqualified for the position. In both ideology and practice she has violated the principles of quality education that the AAUP has defended for over a century. Far from seeing our public schools as a valuable asset, DeVos understands them instead as a source of revenue to fill the pockets of corporate school entrepreneurs. Her privatization schemes have done much damage in several states, especially Michigan. They treat students as widgets in a machine to produce a profit for well-heeled investors. In Ohio, DeVos broke the law by knowingly making illegal campaign contributions through her school choice PAC, resulting in a fine of over $5 million that has yet to be repaid eight years later. This brings her personal ethics and responsibility into question

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  6. Faculty Strike at 14 Campuses

    Posted: Oct 19th, 2016

    The faculty union for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education announced a strike, starting this morning. The banner at right is from the union’s website.

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  7. Union Victory for Student Employees

    Posted: Aug 25th, 2016

    Dear Colleague,

    In a victory for student employees and unions who represent them, the National Labor Relations Board found today in the case Columbia University that student assistants working at private colleges and universities are statutory employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act. The 3–1 decision overrules a 2004 decision in Brown University, which had found that graduate assistants were not employees and therefore did not have statutory rights to unionize.

    The case was brought by the Graduate Workers of Columbia-GWC, which in 2014 had filed an election petition seeking to represent both graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, along with graduate and departmental research assistants at the university.

    The AAUP filed an amicus brief with the National Labor Relations Board arguing that graduate assistants at private sector institutions should be considered employees with collective bargaining rights, and that collective bargaining promotes academic freedom. The brief further argued that rather than harming faculty-student mentoring relationships, graduate employee unionization can bring clarity to the employer-employee relationship.

    In reversing Brown, the majority said that the earlier decision “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the Act without a convincing justification.” The board also agreed that granting collective bargaining rights to student employees would not infringe on First Amendment academic freedom, nor would it harm the student faculty relationship.

    The National Labor Relations Board exercises jurisdiction over private sector employers, including private, nonprofit universities such as Columbia, and federal courts have made clear that the authority to define the term “employee” rests primarily with the board absent an exception enumerated within the National Labor Relations Act. Since the act does not specifically exclude student assistants from its coverage, the majority found no compelling reason to exclude student assistants from the protections of the Act.

    The AAUP has long been committed to organizing graduate employees and currently represents graduate employees at a number of public sector institutions, where the graduate employees represented by the AAUP have seen significant gains as a result of bargaining.  This decision will allow student employees in the private sector to organize and seek similar improvements.

    –Aaron Nisenson
    AAUP Senior Counsel