University Appeals Recognition of Library Union to 7th Circuit

The University has chosen to challenge the NLRB’s final decision on the Student Library Employees Union (SLEU), which upheld their status as a recognized union.

By Spencer Dembner

In early December, the NLRB issued a final ruling in favor of the Student Library Employees Union (SLEU). On December 18, the University of Chicago asked the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to review that decision.

In its ruling, the NLRB had dismissed all remaining objections to the certification of SLEU, which is affiliated with the Teamsters Union and hopes to represent student workers in libraries on campus. This meant the University had exhausted its legal options within the NLRB review process.

In a statement, the University reiterated its legal objections to the NLRB’s recognition of SLEU.

“The University believes the proposed bargaining unit is inconsistent with longstanding principles of labor law, in part because it consists of individuals whose work at the Library is temporary and intermittent,” University spokesperson Marielle Sainvilus said.
“We are proceeding with the federal court of appeals process on this matter to ensure that these issues receive the proper review.”

SLEU condemned the appeal, arguing it was only a way to delay the inevitable start of bargaining.

 "We are disappointed but unsurprised that the University has decided to appeal the NLRB's decision,” SLEU representative third-year Sophia Lubarr said in a statement to The Maroon.  “The NLRB has been clear that the University is engaging in unlawful labor practices, and we believe that the appeal is a stalling tactic from an administration which hopes to outlast this fight. We will continue to push to bargain."

Most NLRB cases are not appealed to the courts, which makes it difficult to tell what the outcome of the process will be. According to William Herbert, a distinguished lecturer at Hunter College and an expert on labor law, the courts usually defer to the NLRB but can be persuaded otherwise.

“In many cases, federal courts will defer to the findings of the NLRB, while in other cases the courts might reverse or modify,” Herbert wrote in an e-mail. “It will depend on the arguments raised by the parties, and prior judicial precedent.”

Initial filings in the case are expected throughout March and April.