Manhattan College Adjunct Faculty Union (MCAFU)

Sad Day at Manhattan College

To All Members of the Manhattan College Community,

For those of you who don't recognize our email address we are the union organizers from the Teachers Union who have been working with adjunct faculty at Manhattan College for the past several months. Last week we were excited to announce the good news that because of strong support from Manhattan College adjunct faculty we were able to file the necessary paperwork at the National Labor Relations Board (the government agency that oversees unions and employees in the private sector) asking them to conduct a union election for adjunct faculty at Manhattan College. We told you that the Labor Board scheduled a meeting for us where we hoped to iron out the parameters of the election (date, eligibility criteria for voting, method of voting).

Today we are sorry to have to report to you that at this meeting that took place Wednesday we did not iron out the parameters of the election. Quite the opposite. Instead representatives from the College (Barbara Fabe, the College's Vice President for Human Resources, and Shelley Sanders Kehl, the attorney whom the College has retained) informed us that the College intends to argue at the Labor Board that there should be no election scheduled at all, that adjunct faculty, indeed that all employees of Manhattan College are not entitled to even vote on the question of union representation.

The College's position is that its employees are exempt from the National Labor Relations Act (the federal law that guarantees most employees in the private sector the right to organize and join unions) because of its identity as a Catholic college. Legally-speaking, the College is invoking the precedent of the "Carroll College decision," a 2007 case where the DC Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a Labor Board decision in Wisconsin. It's too complicated to explain the entire case here  -- though we're happy to go through the details with any of you who are interested in learning more or you can check out this link for a good layperson synopsis

We are not at all clear that the Carroll College decision would apply to Manhattan College and we intend to argue it if we need to at a hearing. But even if the Labor Board or an Appeals Court ultimately rules in favor of the College's position, that wouldn't make the decision right. We can all point to numerous legal precedents, interpretations, decisions and even laws that were simply wrong, some maliciously and tragically wrong like slavery or the Jim Crow laws of the last century, some not as life-altering but still just "bad" case law, like the "Yeshiva decision" of 1980 (which found that fulltime faculty members at Yeshiva University were part of the management of the institution and, as such, were not entitled to union representation). We believe that the Carroll College decision (and any subsequent decisions that rely on Carroll College for legal precedents) falls into this latter category of bad case law.

And that's perhaps what makes Manhattan College's decision to invest money for high-priced lawyers to pursue this legal delay especially disappointing. Last Wednesday, the College's representatives insisted that the decision to "raise Carroll" is not one based on "union animus" or the College's desire to stop its employees from forming a union, but is based on the College's concern that their employees having a union would threaten the College's Catholic identity and its mission. We looked at the College's mission -- -- but can't find anything in it that looks like it might be remotely jeopardized by its employees having a union. Countless colleges and other educational institutions (Catholic K-12 schools, Fordham University, and St. Francis College in Brooklyn to name just a few nearby examples) have unionized employees yet successfully maintain missions similar to that of Manhattan College. We believe, in fact, that respecting their employees' right to form a union would enhance, not threaten, Manhattan College's Catholic identity.

What do you think? Should the College respect its adjunct faculty's right to decide the question of unionization in a democratic election?

Write and let us know. We will certainly keep you updated on future developments.

Questions? Concerns? Suggestions? Interested in volunteering to help us win the right for Manhattan adjunct faculty to participate in a union election?

Call us at 212-989-3470

In Solidarity,
Daniel Esakoff, Julie Berman, Sam Rasiotis, Christina Hilo
New York State United Teachers/American Federation of Teachers

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Manhattan College Adjunct Faculty Union / NYSUT / AFT / NEA / AFL-CIO
339 Lafayette Street, Room 202, New York, NY 10012
phone: 212-989-3470; fax: 212-989-8154