Labor Board seeks briefs in Pacific Lutheran University case

Staff writerFebruary 10, 2014 

A dispute between a union seeking to represent contingent faculty and Pacific Lutheran University is attracting wider interest.

The National Labor Relations Board Monday issued an invitation for interested parties as well as the union, the Service Employees International Union, and PLU to submit legal briefs in a case that raises issues about whether the board has a say in labor relations involving a religiously affiliated institution such as PLU.

The SEIU attempted to organize the university's non-tenured temporary faculty last year.  The labor board's regional director ordered an October election to determine if the union would represent those employees. That election was held, but the ballots were impounded before counting while the university appealed its case to the full labor board.

The board gave both the parties to the dispute and interested parties until March 28 to file briefs of up to 50 pages in the case. The parties may file briefs in response on or before April 11.

The case is of potential national importance because it could set a pattern for religiously-connected institutions status under labor law.  PLU said it is exempt from those labor rules and the NLRB's jurisdiction because of its Lutheran connections. 

The university has further claimed that some of the positions identified by the union for representation were in fact managerial jobs and thus exempt from the board's jurisdiction.

The union contends that the temporary faculty makes less money, has less job security and fewer benefits than the regular faculty in spite of performing some of the same jobs.  The university says it has been working diligently to improve the lot of its contingent faculty.

 

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