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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