Senate bill targets NLRB creation of “micro” unions

posted at 3:05 pm on November 16, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

I joined in on a conference call this morning with Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) where he discussed his new bill, the Representation Fairness Restoration Act. (S. 1843) This piece of legislation appears to be a companion bill matching the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (H.R. 3094) in the House. Without getting too far down in the weeds on this, the bill seeks to stop yet another curious decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which would overturn more than seventy years of established precedent in terms of the number of workers you need in order to enter into a collective bargaining unit.

Sen. Isakson wrote about this in a recent op-ed.

On August 26, 2011, the NLRB decided to recklessly abandon this longstanding precedent. In its Specialty Healthcare decision, the NLRB decided that unions can now target a small group of employees doing the same job in the same location for organization purposes. For example, in one grocery store, the cashiers could form one “mini union,” the baggers could form another, the produce stockers could form yet another, and so on. This could potentially create several different unions within the same store location, making it easier for unions to gain access to employees and nearly impossible for employers to manage such fragmentation of the workforce.

Union forces are already up in arms over these proposals, as it would cut the legs out from under a scheme where as few as two or three cashiers in a single grocery store could wind up creating their own “micro-union” even if the store employed hundreds of cashiers across many locations.

It’s worth pointing out that it is certainly not unheard for more than one union to exist in a large workplace. One example which comes to mind is naval re-fitters working in and around the many shipyards in the nation. In those types of shops you’ll find the IBEW representing all of the electricians while the structural and plumbing guys might be in the pipefitters. But in each of these cases you’re talking about a majority of all of the workers engaged in the same type of work joining up.

The challenges which employers would face should be obvious if any three people in any occupation decided to declare themselves a union one day and demand negotiations. Assuming this comes to a vote in both chambers, it will be interesting to see how successful Congress can be in taming the power of the NLRB and other executive branch agencies. So far S. 1843 is heading into committee while H.R. 3094 has cleared the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, but has not yet been presented for a vote on the floor.

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Why do these jokers still have a budget? That is something congress can do, right?

Shtetl G on November 16, 2011 at 3:10 PM

“A plumbing we will go,
A plumbing we will go…
Nyuk nyuk nyuk…”

Akzed on November 16, 2011 at 3:10 PM

I’ve heard the old “when two or more are gathered in my name, I am there,”

But this takes it too far.

singlemalt 18 on November 16, 2011 at 3:11 PM

3-4 clerks trying to organize a micro-union in any store this way would be called the United Unemployed Workers union.

michaelo on November 16, 2011 at 3:11 PM

Just who makes up these wacko names for these bills?…

PatriotRider on November 16, 2011 at 3:12 PM

I really doubt this will get to a vote. If, in the slim chance it did pass, bho would veto it. Gotta make sure his union thugs are happy now doesn’t he?
L

letget on November 16, 2011 at 3:13 PM

You know, I’m the only one at my workplace who does my particular job. I could collectively bargain also.

John Deaux on November 16, 2011 at 3:14 PM

“Union forces are already up in arms over these proposals…”

When are they not up in arms…?

Seven Percent Solution on November 16, 2011 at 3:15 PM

This is rich. Try forming a “micro-union” in a union shop and see what happens.

Mike Antonucci on November 16, 2011 at 3:16 PM

The NLRB is just protecting the interests of the little guy. That’s why they deep sixed the aircraft plant in SC and eliminated all those jobs.

a capella on November 16, 2011 at 3:18 PM

Obama is business friendly, though. Let’s not forget this.

lorien1973 on November 16, 2011 at 3:18 PM

?

Trying to unionize small breweries?

davidk on November 16, 2011 at 3:19 PM

NLRB. America falls, slowly I turn, in by inch, step by step…

(Like Seinfeld, you can also apply the Three Stooges to every day life.)

TxAnn56 on November 16, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Could this also be a way around a failed organizing effort? If an attempt to organize a company fails could those employees performing similar jobs inside the plant who voted in favor of a union form a mini-union? Could the check-out people at Walmart store number xxx have a union, for example, even if the employees as a whole voted down a union?

MTF on November 16, 2011 at 3:20 PM

I asked my Congressman, Robert Hurt on a conference call a few months back on what can be done to reign in the power ceded by previous Congresses to regulatory agencies headed by the Executive Branch.

His answer was to bring up the TRAIN act which the house was getting ready to vote on that week.

Conservatives need to gain control of both Houses and the Presidency to roll back previous Congress’s mistakes in arrogating legislative power outside of control.

The Executive Branch gets more and more control that was never envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

It’s past time for the citizens to demand power be back in their hands.

ButterflyDragon on November 16, 2011 at 3:30 PM

where as few as two or three cashiers in a single grocery store could wind up creating their own “micro-union”

They could appoint themselves as President, VP, and something else of an “important” (albeit nebulous) nature, and due to the need to devote time to union activities, never have to do a days worth of work. And get paid for it. The business would have to hire actual workers to fill these spots and the “union” could collect dues.

Full employment right around the corner. Followed closely by full economic collapse.

Machiavelli? I piker in comparison…

karl9000 on November 16, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Could this also be a way around a failed organizing effort? If an attempt to organize a company fails could those employees performing similar jobs inside the plant who voted in favor of a union form a mini-union? Could the check-out people at Walmart store number xxx have a union, for example, even if the employees as a whole voted down a union?

MTF on November 16, 2011 at 3:20 PM

That is exactly what it is. It will allow unions to keep organizing and organizing even after they lose an election. It will allow those who want a union to organize one for themselves even if the majority of their coworkers don’t want one.

The other thing this will do is present massive litigation opportunity, as any employer who tried to “retaliate” against a three-person union could be sued.

Not to mention all those union dues that will be paid by members of the mini-unions.

I can see this really being disastrous for groceries and small retailers, and killing jobs for teenagers. As the mom of two teens, I am very sensitive to this.

rockmom on November 16, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Single unions can be bad enough, but several unions with overlapping functions in the same workplace can be a nightmare. When I was in college, a friend who was studying electrical engineering got a summer job at the ABC network. One day, while he was repairing monitors or something, he got a frantic call to get right up to a studio. When he got there, he found cameras, sets, cast and crew of a show that was going to be taped all waiting out in the hall because a mike stand was partially blocking the door. Seems that all the engineers waiting in the hall were NABET and as such weren’t allowed to handle mike stands. That needed an IBEW member, and my friend was the nearest one around.

bgoldman on November 16, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Cue Ernesto’s comment about how this just allows the oppressed Brown man to get what is owed to him due to racism in the 1940s.

angryed on November 16, 2011 at 3:43 PM

More laziness to follow.

Kissmygrits on November 16, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Congress needs to be undoing the damage of previous congresses, not doing more damage. A national right to work bill would be a better start at dealing with unions than this.

AnotherOpinion on November 16, 2011 at 4:59 PM

From a libertarian perspective, individuals ought to have the right to gather, form unions, and negotiate collectively… even 3 of them at a time. The trouble comes from all the surrounding law and case law that stupidly empowers those individuals far FAR beyond the scope of their size. It’s yet another example of the State intruding on the business of individuals… shop owners and their employees… to the detriment of all.

Myno on November 16, 2011 at 5:03 PM

From a libertarian perspective, individuals ought to have the right to gather, form unions, and negotiate collectively… even 3 of them at a time.

Myno on November 16, 2011 at 5:03 PM

Agreed, and I should have the right to fire each and every one of them and replace them if their demands exceed what I’m willing to pay… right?

That’s where the NLRB really breaks down. Once you’re a Union shop you’re hosed for all eternity. Your choices are to suffer with Unions forever, or close your business entirely.

If one fraction of your business goes Unions (say, Boeing) then you’ve just hosed every operation you have… as the NLRB has shown.

Yeah, I can see this being a problem.

gekkobear on November 16, 2011 at 5:29 PM

?

Trying to unionize small breweries?

davidk on November 16, 2011 at 3:19 PM

3 Stooges Beer, anyone?

http://www.ebay.com/sch/Collectibles-/1/i.html?_nkw=three+stooges+beer

Del Dolemonte on November 16, 2011 at 5:30 PM

Promote the general welfare… You know, one of those arcane notions found somewhere in the Constitution that our legislators are sworn to uphold…

Seems like this is more about promoting unionism while making more and more work for the NLRB while making it harder, not easier, for small businesses to succeed.

drfredc on November 16, 2011 at 6:43 PM

Why are “union” monopoly extortion rackets still legal?

Count to 10 on November 16, 2011 at 8:05 PM

From a libertarian perspective, individuals ought to have the right to gather, form unions, and negotiate collectively… even 3 of them at a time.

Myno on November 16, 2011 at 5:03 PM

Right — like corporations have the right to get together and set prices across a whole industry?

Count to 10 on November 16, 2011 at 8:07 PM