Editor's note: This column was authored by Peter Schaumber.
The Associated Press recently described legislation aimed at reversing certain decisions of the National Labor Relations Board as merely a Republican response to “union-friendly” decisions of the Obama Board (Sam Hananel, “Labor Board Headed For Gridlock Again,” Associated Press, 10/28/11). The AP misses the real story: the NLRB decisions addressed by these legislative proposals are inconsistent with fundamental principles of American labor law and threaten to destabilize labor relations in the United States and further undermine the U.S. economy.
One of the most damaging of these decisions, known as Specialty Healthcare, swept aside decades of labor law developed by Republican and Democratic Board members alike. In this decision, the Obama Board authorized unions to represent tiny groups of employees (“micro-units”) — as small as two or more employees performing the same job in the same location. So instead of a traditional unit of all retail sales clerks, there could be a unit for those who sell cosmetics, another for those who sell men’s cloths, a third for housewares, and so on.
The National Labor Relations Act, however, contemplated bargaining units as large as all the employees of the employer, multi-facility or facility-wide. It specifically prohibited the Board from considering a union’s extent of organization as a controlling factor in making unit determinations.