WAUKESHA, WIS.— The D.C. Federal Circuit Court ruled today that Carroll University faculty do not have a right under federal law to form a union.
In a unanimous decision stated here, a three-judge panel of the court found in favor of Carroll University. The judges said that because Carroll is a religious institution, it is, by federal law, outside the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. For that reason, the judges ruled, the Carroll faculty's 2004 attempt to organize a union under the auspices of the United Auto Workers was improper.
Carroll University, founded 163 years ago as Carroll College, is the oldest four-year institution of higher education in Wisconsin. Shortly after it was chartered by the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature on Jan. 31, 1846, Carroll affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. That affiliation remains today.
In their unanimous decision, the judges wrote that Carroll "easily satisfies" a precedent-setting 2002 federal court case, University of Great Falls (Montana) vs. National Labor Relations Board, in which the court also ruled that the NLRB had no jurisdiction because of the religious nature of Great Falls University.
"I'm delighted, but not surprised, by the court's decision," said Dr. William G. Laatsch, a 1960 Carroll graduate and chairman of the university's Board of Trustees. "Carroll has a proud 163-year tradition and we are excited about continuing cooperative efforts with the entire Carroll family to move the university forward. The climate on the Carroll campus is far different than it was five years ago when the union vote was taken."
The Board of Trustees voted unanimously in 2004 to oppose the unionization effort.
Because the court decided the jurisdictional issue first, it did not, and will not, address Carroll's other grounds for opposing the faculty unionization effort. Carroll has maintained that because faculty are, in fact, managers, they are not eligible under federal law to form a union.
Dr. Douglas N. Hastad, who became Carroll's president July 1, 2006, said he also is pleased with the court's decision.
"Although the faculty union issue has been undecided for several years, the administration and the Board of Trustees have continued to work with faculty to further strengthen the Carroll experience for all our students. We have made great strides in the last few years and we are going to continue working together toward our common goal."