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On April 25, Volkswagen announced it would look to federal court to overturn the results of an election at its Chattanooga, TN facility. The appeal was necessary because the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had refused to do so.
The case is particularly interesting because the election resulted in the certification of a “micro” union made up of just 160 or so maintenance employees at the Chattanooga plant. As readers of this blog will recall, in 2014, the United Auto Workers (UAW) faced a historic defeat when a plant-wide unit of production and maintenance workers voted against unionization. A year later, however, the UAW decided they would have better luck with a much smaller unit. Relying on the NLRB’s ruling in the 2011 Specialty Healthcare case, the union convinced the NLRB to hold an election with this gerrymandered bargaining unit, which the UAW won.
Volkswagen appealed the election, arguing that the production employees shared an “overwhelming community of interest” with the maintenance workers. However, the NLRB, as mentioned, declined to review the results.
Specialty Healthcare was the now notorious case that allowed unions to essentially hand pick the units they wish to organize, which has resulted in ridiculous situations like organizing just the cosmetics salespeople at a department store, or small groups of bakers at multiple locations of a franchise. Volkswagen is just the latest example of how the theory in this case continues to spread into additional industries, and how the decision allows organized labor to override the wishes of majorities at a workplace that have rejected unionizing. Congress may have an opportunity to overturn Specialty Healthcare this year. It should do so.