Northeastern Faculty Members Withdraw Union Petition

A Northeastern University campus building.
Northeastern University. (David Fox/Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism/Flickr)

Full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members at Northeastern University have withdrawn a petition to form a union.

The withdrawal came after Northeastern told the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that full-time, non-tenure-track faculty are managers, and therefore cannot form a union.

Vaso Lykourinou, an associate teaching professor of chemistry and chemical biology, expressed concern that the current NLRB would not be favorable to faculty.

"Going into the [NLRB] and having a hearing with the current climate in that board, we wouldn't want that to become non-tenured faculty are managers, so therefore, that creates a precedent that they cannot unionize," said Lykourino.

“Over the last several years, Northeastern has worked diligently to build an inclusive One Faculty model, ensuring that full-time faculty play a vital role in shared university governance," Northeastern spokeswoman Renata Nyul said in a statement. "The union’s decision to exclude clinical faculty from the proposed bargaining unit would splinter Northeastern faculty, and its desire to represent full-time faculty and adjuncts simultaneously presents an inherent conflict of interest. We are pleased that the union has agreed to withdraw its petition."

"I just don't understand that argument at all," said Peter MacKinnon, president of SEIU Local 509, which withdrew its union petition. "We represent full-time [faculty] and adjuncts at other campuses around Boston, including Boston University, and Lesley, and Brandeis, where it's working fine."

In the past, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that it won't take it at face value when universities claim their faculty are managers.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that full-time faculty can be considered managers. But in 2014, the NLRB ruled that only faculty who exercise control over academic programs, recruitment of students, finances, academic policies and decisions about whom gets hired can be considered management.

This article was originally published on November 14, 2018.


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Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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