This week, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) filed an amicus brief that seeks to overturn a decision by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that approved a union of a small, gerrymandered subset of Boeing employees. The Boeing plant, which manufactures the Dreamliner, employs approximately 7,000 employees, of which about 3,000 are production and maintenance employees.
The plant is a highly integrated operation that has been the subject of three union representation petitions over the past three years. The first petition for all production and maintenance employees was withdrawn. The second petition was voted down by employees. Having failed in their first two attempts to persuade Boeing employees to unionize, the union tried a third time with a fractured subset of the employees. In response, the NLRB’s regional director allowed that small subset of employees to hold a union election, which was successful.
Specifically, the regional director determined that a particular subgroup of flight-readiness technicians (less than 4 percent of the plant’s production and maintenance employees) constituted a unit “appropriate” for collective bargaining, even though the interests of those employees are virtually identical to those of other production and maintenance employees at the plant.
On Monday, July 16, the NAM filed a coalition amicus brief in support of Boeing’s request that the NLRB review the regional director’s decision. The issue is what standard the NLRB will apply to determine appropriate bargaining units under the National Labor Relations Act. The regional director’s decision fails to properly apply NLRB precedent, disregards the NLRB’s longstanding presumption in favor of plant-wide units and ignores a prior NLRB decision that addresses a nearly identical fractured unit in another Boeing operation.
Fragmented units, like the one permitted by the regional director in this case, erect artificial barriers separating employees and departments that significantly impede operations and frustrate relationships between employers and employees. Furthermore, employees are less able to train cross-functionally on the job to learn new skills and gain promotions. The NAM asks the NLRB to remember its long-established and accepted traditional community of interest standard for bargaining unit determinations and reverse this troubling election.