Continuing the Fight Against NLRB’s Specialty Healthcare Decision

By July 11, 2012Labor Unions

In keeping up the fight against the NLRB’s Specialty Healthcare decision, the NAM joined onto yet another amicus brief yesterday. The latest brief, is regarding the Nestle Dryer Ice Cream Company case, which challenges the formation of a smaller bargaining unit.

The Specialty Healthcare case, issued by the NLRB last August, changed the landscape of labor law and overturned over seven decades of precedent allowing for the formation of several smaller bargaining units, or “micro unions” in any one facility. We have already seen several Board decisions in different business sectors citing Specialty Healthcare as a basis for smaller bargaining units; first, in the Bergdorf Goodman case out of New York, where the women’s shoe department is permitted to be its own bargaining unit separate and apart from any other sales associate departments of the store; and, now in the Nestle Dryer Ice Cream Company case. 

In Nestle Dryer Ice Cream, the maintenance employees petitioned for their own unit, but the employer requested the production employees to be included in the unit as well – as had been the circumstances of previous organizing efforts by the same union in the same facility.  The Board’s Regional Director in the case rejected the employer’s request citing the Specialty case.

In support of the employer, the amicus brief argues “[i]nexplicably and without warrant, Specialty Healthcare eliminates consideration of the context of the unit sought as it relates to the employer’s overall operations in favor of an ‘employees readily identifiable as a group’ framework that slavishly pays heed to job titles, departments or classifications, without regard to how such a unit integrates into the daily practicalities of operating the business. The result is a fracturing of the workforce and an increase in tension between employees and management.” 

While this argument seems logical and is rooted in prior Board case decisions, one can only surmise that overturning decades of established labor law and establishing a new standard to permit smaller “micro unions,” is apparently more important to the Board, than having businesses run efficiently in order to create badly needed jobs and promote a cohesive and stable workforce.  There most certainly will be more to come as cases continue to come down from Board on “micro unions.”

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