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Employment Blog

Micro-Union Ruling is Start to Lengthy Legal Process

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on January 14, 2015
Filed under Employment

The National Labor Relations Board has confirmed an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decision that Macys, Inc. is obligated to bargain with a small bargaining unit of cosmetic and fragrance sales persons instead of holding that these employees have a community of interest with other Macys, Inc. employees and should not be in a separate (small) bargaining unit. This decision is the next step in a legal journey to review the policy of the NLRB about union elections under its new majority that minor bargaining units or what some call “sub units” of an employer may be recognized for collective bargaining purposes. The concept is often called “micro-unions” and is based upon an initiative by unions to organize small groups of employees first and then pursue representation of a large group of employees after “getting their foot in the door.”

The recent ruling by the NLRB sets the stage for legal challenges as to whether or not the concept of a “micro-union” is appropriate. The NLRB has always operated under a “community of interest” standard which meant that the bargaining unit should be comprised of all employees that had a similar community of interest. This allowed for the expansion of a potential bargaining unit in some instances, but also affected the majority vote needed by the union to be recognized as a bargaining representative for those employees. The concept of a “micro-union” will now be used by unions to start the union organizing process with a small group and then use that opportunity to expand to a larger group at a later time.

This is the start of a legal process that may run several years. Employers must recognize that a micro-union election petition may be coming in the future although, it will be a lengthy period of time before the courts determine what standard should be applied to those type of union recognition petitions.