NLRB case could open the door to heavy-handed federal regulation over religious institutions of higher learner
Springfield, VA (March 31, 2014) – The National Right to Work Foundation, a charitable organization that provides free legal assistance to employees nationwide, has just filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in a case involving Pacific Lutheran University and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925. The Foundation’s brief supports Pacific Lutheran’s efforts to resist union encroachment on its religious prerogatives.
Under the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), SEIU Local 925 officials are attempting to organize adjunct professors at Pacific Lutheran University. According to Foundation staff attorneys, this violates longstanding Supreme Court precedent, which holds that the Board has no authority over religiously-affiliated schools.
Moreover, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from regulating the religious work of churches. Pacific Lutheran University was established by the Lutheran Evangelical Church in America and continues to operate under the church’s authority. As Foundation attorneys point out in their brief, the university’s educational mission is inextricably linked to the teachings of the Lutheran Church.
Foundation attorneys note that unionization could place the university in direct conflict with the Lutheran Church. If the NLRB recognizes Local 925 as the adjuncts’ exclusive bargaining agent, union officials will be empowered to negotiate over terms and conditions of employment with Pacific Lutheran University. Those negotiations could force university administrators to make concessions that contradict the school’s religious mission, such as expanding access to abortion under the university’s health care plan.
Foundation attorneys also argue that adjunct professors are considered managers under the National Labor Relations Act, rendering them statutorily ineligible for unionization.
“Aided and abetted by a pliant NLRB, Big Labor is taking aim at religiously-affiliated universities,” said Patrick Semmens, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Of course, the SEIU’s ultimate goal is to force more people to pay union dues, even if it means infringing on the liberty of religious institutions.”