Newly refilled legislation, The Representation Fairness Restoration Act, would prohibit unions from forming “micro-unions,” individual bargaining units within the same company consisting of as few as two or three workers.
The bill, filed by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) on May 24, would reverse a federal labor board’s Obama-era decision that allows unions to handpick small numbers of employees within a company in hopes of organizing them into small bargaining units “that fragment the workplace and make it nearly impossible for employers to manage.”
The bill would reinstate a nearly 80-year-old standard for determining which groups of employees should constitute an appropriate bargaining unit in the workplace.
“Common sense would tell you, and now experience has shown, that ‘micro-unions’ are a mistake, and I’m going to continue working to ensure that we have fair and equitable application of labor laws,” Isakson said in a statement.
Retailers and other employers have expressed serious concern with this ruling as it could potentially result in the formation of several dozen unions, each with its own representation, making it virtually impossible to manage.
“The NLRB’s decision to allow micro-unions fractures workplaces and makes it harder and more expensive for employers to manage their workplace and do business—all for the sake of boosting organized labor,” said Senate labor committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “For example, your local department store could splinter into dozens of factions that the employer must now negotiate with—with the men’s clothing department, the bedding department, the fragrance department, and the women’s shoe department all represented by separate unions that are fighting over who gets the better raises and break rooms.
Isakson first introduced this legislation in 2011, in the wake of the National Labor Relations Board setting a new precedent with its ruling on a case in Alabama in which unions were allowed to target and organize just the certified nursing assistants into a “micro-union” within a nursing home.
Since the labor board’s 2011 decision, “micro-unions” have begun to form in multiple retail stores and manufacturing sites across the country, making it nearly impossible for employers to manage such fragmentation of the workforce, Isakson says.