Eliminate ‘Micro Unions’ and Restore Appropriate Bargaining Units | U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Eliminate ‘Micro Unions’ and Restore Appropriate Bargaining Units

Friday, July 21, 2017 - 9:30am

In Brief:

The Trump administration's appointees at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board), should reverse the Obama-era Specialty Healthcare decision that allowed non-majority or “micro unions” in the workplace.  Congress should also amend the National Labor Relations Act to adopt the pre-Specialty Healthcare standard for determining collective bargaining units.  


In its 2011 Specialty Healthcare decision, the NLRB threw out decades of precedent regarding what is an “appropriate” collective bargaining unit.  Abandoning the long-established preference for units representing all workers in a class or craft, the NLRB decided it would allow almost any bargaining unit suggested by a union, even “micro unions” made up of just a few workers.

By isolating a small number of workers in a small bargaining unit, it is far easier for unions to win an election.  This cherry-picking of smaller groups of employees could lead to increased numbers of fractured bargaining units, disrupting business operations and undermining stable labor relations as multiple units make competing demands for wages, benefits and work rules.

In his dissent to Specialty Healthcare, former NLRB Member Brian Hayes declared this to be “perhaps the most glaring example in cases decided recently by my colleagues . . . for the purely ideological purpose of reversing the decades-old decline in union density in the private American workforce.”  

When it announced Specialty Healthcare, the Obama NLRB claimed that its decision would only apply to non-acute healthcare facilities, and did not constitute a broad new legal standard. However, as detailed in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Workforce Freedom Initiative’s report Trouble with the Truth: ‘Specialty Healthcare’ and the Spread of Micro-Unions, subsequently the NLRB used the ruling to authorize micro-unions in a wide variety of industries including retail, manufacturing, rental cars, delivery services, and telecommunications.

This is yet another example of the Obama NLRB taking advantage of every opportunity to tilt the playing field in favor of organized labor, one that is having far-reaching and harmful consequences for workers, employers, and the economy.  The bottom line is that it is now much easier for unions to organize, even in places where they have previously been rejected by a majority of workers, and much more difficult for employers with micro unions to manage their workplaces.

The Board should:

  • Overturn the Specialty Healthcare decision, and return to the prior standard.

Congress should pass legislation that:

  • Invalidates Specialty Healthcare and restores the test for appropriate bargaining units that had stood for more than 50 years.