NLRB’s “Micro-Unions” Would Make it Easier to Unionize

Written by Robert G. Brody on April 19, 2011

The National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) continues to overstep its authority as it attempts to alter the structure of union organizing around the country.  Currently, the Board is considering whether or not to allow the creation of “micro-unions.”  This means a union could organize a very small, job specific bargaining unit within a business.  Such a decision would overturn over 50 years of Board precedent.

Instead of the union trying to gain majority support of all production employees at a certain employer, micro-unions would allow unions to have an election with only 5 or 10 employees.  For example, instead of organizing all restaurant staff, there could be a one union representing servers, one for line cooks, and one for hostesses.  This would make it much easier for unions to unionize. 

Having multiple union contracts for one workforce would be extremely burdensome for employers.  While the employees represented by the different unions might have similar working conditions, their union contracts could be completely different.  This could mean different hourly pay, shifts, and grievance procedures within one business.  While this is common in a few select industries such as hospitals, for most employers, such conditions could make running their business dramatically more difficult and expensive.  Micro-unions would also greatly increase legal costs for employers.  Negotiating one union contract is extremely time consuming and expensive, let alone two or three.  Finally, while micro-unions may be small, if they are key to the business, one small strike could shut down an entire company. 

While the NLRA is intended to enhance labor peace, this development could create dramatic disruptions in the workplace.  This movement is driven by controversial Democratic Board member Craig Becker.  He started his micro-union campaign in a recent case, saying he believed a union should be allowed to organize just the poker dealers in a casino, as opposed to having to organize all game dealers.  He then moved his campaign to Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile and United Steelworkers, District 9, which deals with the appropriateness of a bargaining unit, but does not deal specifically with the issue of micro-unions.  Despite this fact, the Board wants to discuss micro-unions and has used Specialty Healthcare to solicit amicus briefs on the issue. 

We will keep you updated on this issue, as it could have serious impact on the way you approach employee relations and union organizing drives in your businesses.  Brody and Associates regularly advises its clients on union-related matters and provides union-free training.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.

About the Authors

Robert G. Brody is the founding member of Brody and Associates, LLC. He has been quoted and published in national publications and appears as a guest T.V. commentator on contemporary Labor and Employment issues. Learn More