It’s been a busy summer for the National Labor Relations Board. After issuing important decisions expanding the reach of the National Labor Relations Act to allow university graduate assistants and temporary workers to seek to join unions, as well as decisions expanding back pay awards and limiting employers’ ability to replace striking staff, on August 25, the Board issued two decisions relating to charter schools.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, the Board possesses jurisdiction over employers that are sufficiently engaged in interstate commerce (which almost all employers are under the Board’s liberal test), but specifically excluded from its jurisdiction is any state or political subdivision, which typically includes public schools and school districts. Consistent with its recent run of decisions seeking to extend the reach of the Act through expansive interpretations of the statute and prior precedent, the Board’s Democrat-appointed majority recently held that it has jurisdiction over charter schools in New York and Pennsylvania because they are not political subdivisions of their respective states and therefore are not exempt from the coverage of the Act. The Board’s decision came despite opposition from the union representing the New York school’s teachers, the Pennsylvania charter school, and the lone Republican Board Member, Philip Miscimarra, all of whom argued the Board’s exercise of jurisdiction over charter school employees creates a lack of uniformity among charter schools whose employees may seek to organize under either the National Labor Relations Act or alternatively under state law in the context of states’ public employment relations boards.
Like university graduate assistants and temporary workers, the Board’s decisions in these cases helps pave the way for charter school employees to attempt union organizing under the National Labor Relations Act utilizing the Board’s recently-adopted “ambush election” rules.