Understanding How Employees' Rights To Organize Under The Nlra Have Been Limited: The Case Of Brown University

Ellen Dannin Former Fannie Weiss Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law, Penn State Dickinson School of Law

August 18, 2008

ACS is pleased to distribute an Issue Brief by Ellen Dannin, the Fannie Weiss Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at Penn State Dickinson School of Law, entitled Understanding How Employees' Rights to Organize Under the National Labor Relations Act Have Been Limited: The Case of Brown University. In this Issue Brief, Professor Dannin focuses on the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB's) 2004 Brown University decision, which held that graduate student teaching and research assistants were not employees, and therefore, were not protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). As Professor Dannin explains, deciding whether individuals are employees as defined by the NLRA is critical to labor law, as it determines whether individuals have a protected right to engage in freedom of association, self-organization, collective bargaining, and acts of mutual aid or protection. Professor Dannin explains and critiques the decision as a departure both from precedent as well as from the central purposes of the NLRA. The author also examines how, in her view, Brown University "foreshadowed other cases in which the Board would ignore precedent and the policies underlying the NLRA." Professor Dannin advises readers about the importance of precision in criticizing such decisions, because "if that criticism is not targeted to the specific wrong, it can do damage." Professor Dannin cautions that while criticizing specific failures to enforce NLRA rights is essential, it is important to not wholly abandon the NLRA as a vehicle for protecting such rights, stating "We must insist that the promise of the NLRA to actively promote freedom of association in order to create equality of bargaining power between employers and employees . . . is kept."

Read the full Issue Brief here: Dannin_Issue_Brief

By Ellen Dannin