Bates College has received a boost from the National Labor Relations Board in its quest to split a proposed union into two groups.
In a 2-1 vote among board members hearing the appeal, the federal agency agreed Friday to consider Bates’ argument that staff and faculty members who are neither tenured nor tenured should be in separate unions, if they want to be in a union at all.
The full five-member board did not decide the issue. The members considering Bates’ appeal simply reversed an area manager’s decision that went against Bates so that the full panel could consider the legal issues involved.
Dissenting member Lauren McFerran, who chairs the panel, backed a regional manager’s decision to allow the more than 600 affected employees to belong to the same union.
McFerran is a Democrat while the two members who supported Bates’ position were appointed by President Donald Trump. The two remaining board members are both Democrats appointed by President Joe Biden.
More than 30% of Bates workers filed paperwork in October to pave the way for a secret ballot among eligible employees to decide whether they want to be represented by the Maine Service Employees Association, part of the Service Employees International Union.
Union votes cast in January have been forfeited and will be counted after the agency rules on the issues it is examining. It’s unclear how long that might take.
Jeff Young, a lawyer for the union, said that despite this month’s setback, the union remains confident the entire board will agree with its position.
He said he agrees the combination of faculty and staff is “a new issue” for the NLRB, but he’s not sure why it’s worth exploring given how rare it is.
“That’s a question that doesn’t need to be answered,” Young said.
In an email to Bates employees after the decision, college president Clayton Spencer said, “We have always maintained that the regional director’s decision to include faculty and staff in the same bargaining unit was both unprecedented by the NLRB’s own legal standards and impractical. as a framework for collective bargaining.
She said the two groups involved have “strong differences in the nature of their work” and that each group operates under “separate terms and conditions”.
The labor board said in its March 18 decision that the college’s request “raises substantial issues warranting consideration” by all panel members in Washington.
The ruling said members would consider the college’s argument that in higher education there should be an exception to the “long-held principle that a petitioned wall-to-wall unit is presumed appropriate”.
Young said if the presumption is rebutted in this case, the union believes it will win anyway because the facts at Bates show faculty and staff share “a community of interest” that meets the standard definition. of who can be in a union together .
In a separate victory for the union, the board rejected a request by Bates to overturn an area manager’s decision that he could not present more evidence because he missed a fall filing deadline. last.
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