On December 15, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) struck down the ability to use “micro-unions” to organize private workplaces. In the pro-employer decision, the NLRB reinstated the older, traditional “community-of-interest” standard for determining whether a particular unit of employees is eligible for union representation.
The micro-union issue arose in 2011 when the NLRB decided the Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile case. In Specialty Healthcare, the NLRB significantly expanded a union’s ability to organize smaller units of employees by merely showing the group it organized represented a “readily identifiable” group based on job classifications, departments, functions, work locations, skills, or similar factors.
Micro-unions made it much easier to organize employees in a specific department or with a common job description, forcing some employers to negotiate with multiple unions at the same time. Because of this month’s NLRB decision, unions will again have to meet the much more stringent community of interest standard before a particular unit of the company can be unionized.