Micro union madness

“A government agency run amok,” is how National Retail Federal president and CEO Matt Shay this week described the actions of the National Labor Relations Board regarding the issue of micro-unions.

NRF, its National Council of Chain Restaurants division and a coalition of business organizations filed an friend-of-the-court brief with the NLRB opposing efforts of workers to form a micro-union The topic flared this week because the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union organized workers in the women’s shoe department at Neiman Marcus’ Bergdorf Goodman store in New York. A regional NLRB director applied a decision made in 2011 to the department store chain that permitted the small group of workers to form a bargaining unit within the larger organization.

Retailers and the major trade groups representing them have long opposed the efforts of organized labor, but in this instance Shay was particularly outspoken.

“Over the past three years, the NLRB has steamrolled over long-settled precedent and procedures in an overt effort to empower big labor over the objections of retailers and the broader business community,” Shay said. “This is just another attempt by an unelected set of bureaucrats to pass backdoor card check by decree.”

At issue is the application of a ruling made in 2011 called the Specialty Healthcare decision which NRF and the business groups contend allow unions to cherry pick particular groups of employees to organize. The Specialty Healthcare decision overturned a half-century of case law to significantly alter the standard definition for an appropriate bargaining unit, according to NRF.

“This attempt to support the creation of micro-unions is especially dangerous and should send chills up the spines of every business owner,” Shay said. “Today it is Bergdorf who is fending off the NLRB and micro-unions but tomorrow it could be the factory owner, farmer or corner retailer. This case has the potential to upend a company’s entire workforce and change the dynamic in the employer-employee relationship.”

Also weighing in on the subject was the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Following defeat of a legislative measure that would have blocked the NLRB from authorizing micro-unions, RILA’s EVP of public affairs, Katherine Lugar, said, “While the outcome of today’s vote is disappointing, we will continue to pursue all avenues to block the NLRB’s job-killing micro-union decision.”

She noted that micro-unions will cause division within the retail workforce leading to conflicts and complexities that will undermine retailers’ ability to grow and create jobs.

"The NLRB’s micro-union decision benefits Big Labor at the expense of individual employees and employers. Micro-unions undermine the flexibility and the cross-training that retail employees seek and the agility that retailers rely upon to meet the expectations of customers,” Lugar said.