Stopping “Micro-Unions” Is Critical Undertaking
By Fred Wszolek
Business investment and job growth are encouraged by legal rules that promote workplace harmony and productivity. But because discord is such a fertile ground for union organizing, the Obama Administration’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has done its best to create conditions that foment workplace unrest.
Consider the following, in a case called Specialty Healthcare or the “micro-union” decision engineered by labor militant and former NLRB member Craig Becker, the board ignored more than a half century of labor law and authorized unions to divide the workplace into multiple, small collective bargaining units of employees. Such a balkanization of the workplace into micro-unions will breed workplace unrest as a small sub-group of represented employees will view its individual interests as distinct and in competition with the interests of their fellow employees.
And no union is too small. While Congress in the National Labor Relations Act contemplated unions as large as all the employer’s employees, multi-facility or facility wide, the board in Specialty Healthcare held that a union is not “inappropriate simply because it is small. That fact that a proposed unit is small is not alone a relevant consideration…”
A vivid example of the impact of the NLRB’s new standard on the workplace is in the retail industry. For decades storewide units were presumptively appropriate, but under Specialty Healthcare or the micro-union decision each sub-group of employees selling a different category of goods is presumptively appropriate. A few weeks ago, relying on Specialty Healthcare, the board’s New York regional office rejected Bergdorf Goodman’s request for a storewide union or a union at least as large as all the store’s sales associates. It approved labor’s request for a micro-union of sales associates that sold only women’s shoes.
The only beneficiary for such a misguided standard is union bosses who want easy access to an employer because they are unable to convince a majority of the employer’s workers to vote for the union. With access, labor organizers can more easily and less expensively organize the balance of employees. From its perch inside the business, union bosses can use the micro-union to cause or threaten labor unrest that could destabilize business operations unless the employer accedes to the union’s demands, which can include a neutrality card check agreement and others.
A neutrality card check agreement stacks the deck in favor of a union outcome. The employer’s agreement to remain neutral on the issue of unionization will keep its employees uninformed on all the consequences of unionization; the vote by card check will deprive the employees of the ability to make an un-coerced choice for or against the union through a secret ballot election.
Thus this sweeping change in board law – engineered by Craig Becker whose nomination received bipartisan opposition in the Senate – enables unions to trade labor peace for the employer’s acquiescence in methods of unionization that are inconsistent with fundamental principles of workplace democracy.
Congress has the opportunity to protect the employees within the workplace and restore the fundamental principles of American labor law. Senator Lindsey Graham has introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which will disallow any taxpayer resources from being dedicated to implementing the NLRB’s micro-union decision. The amendment deserves overwhelming bi-partisan support.