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Latest News - July 2012

July 17, 2012
RILA Urges House Appropriations Subcommittee to Overturn NLRB Micro-Union Rule
Source: Retail Industry Leaders Association

Today the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) urged members of the House Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee to overturn a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision that creates micro-unions. The Subcommittee is scheduled to consider the FY 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill on Wednesday.

Micro-unions are the result of the NLRB’s 2011 Specialty Healthcare decision.

“I write to urge you to support a provision in the FY 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill that will stop efforts by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to fragment workplaces through creating micro unions by reversing the Specialty Healthcare case decision,” said Bill Hughes, senior vice president for government affairs, in a letter sent to the Subcommittee.

The micro-unions decision redefines what the NLRB views as a proper bargaining unit and allows union organizers to gerrymander a workplace by cherry-picking small groups of employees within a larger workforce to form a micro-union.

The NLRB and its regional directors have already begun clearing the way for micro-unions including a unit made up of the women’s shoe department at a New York Bergdorf Goodman store as well as maintenance employees at a Nestle-Dryer Ice Cream plant, and behind-the-counter employees at a DTG car rental location.

There are countless stories in the retail industry of current executives who started their careers working on the sales floor. Micro-unions would impede employees from developing their knowledge base and advancing their careers. Not only does internal growth benefit the employee, but employers find that it provides for better employee retention and a healthier connection between senior management and the employees in their stores,” said Hughes.

Last November, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 235-188, legislation to address micro-unions, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (HR 3094). More recently, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 15-15 on an amendment to the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham that would have overturned the micro-union rule. While the vote failed, Sen. Graham’s amendment was the only one of its kind to receive bipartisan support.

“Understanding the devastating affects this will have on not only the retail industry, but the larger business community, the proposal has already received bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate,” added Hughes.

Given the process by which the NLRB reached the micro-union decision, a representation case, those who stand to be negatively affected have little immediate recourse. Legislative action is the only way to halt widespread application of the decision while legal appeals progress.

A copy of the letter is available here and pasted below


July 17, 2012

The Honorable Denny Rehberg

Sub-Committee Chairman

Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

Appropriations Committee

United States House of Representatives 20515

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro

Sub-Committee Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

Appropriations Committee

United States House of Representatives 20515

Dear Chairman Rehberg and Ranking Member DeLauro,

On behalf of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), I write to urge you to support a provision in the FY 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill that will stop efforts by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to fragment workplaces through creating micro unions by reversing the Specialty Healthcare case decision. Understanding the devastating affects this will have on not only the retail industry, but the larger business community, the proposal has already received bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

By way of background, RILA is the trade association of the world’s largest and most innovative retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers domestically and abroad.

The most striking negative effect of the August 2011 Specialty Healthcare decision is the extent to which it allows for what many have termed as “micro unions,” or bargaining units composed of small groups of employees from one department or shift. For example, in a retail store, greeters, cashiers and floor associates could now each form a separate unit. The same goes for the gardening and paint departments in a hardware store which could also be separated into fractured bargaining units. Formerly, these employees throughout the store would have consisted of one unit as the employees in an individual department or shift would not have been found to be “sufficiently distinct from those of other employees to warrant the establishment of a separate unit.” The Board articulated this standard as recently as August 27, 2010 in its decision in Wheeling Island Gaming.

The Specialty Healthcare standard has already been applied within the retail industry and other sectors as well. The Board, and its Regional Directors, have paved the way for micro-unions in a variety of sectors, including the women’s shoe department at a Bergdorf Goodman store, maintenance at a Nestle-Dryer Ice Cream plan, and behind the counter employees at a DTG car rental location.

When all workers in a retail establishment are in the same unit, covered by the same contract, there are mechanisms for cross-training, for covering absences between departments or in nearby stores. In other words, a larger unit is necessary in most cases for employees to able to move from one department to another, expand their horizons, earn extra money by picking up additional shifts, and for continuity of operations and enhanced customer service.

These issues are particularly important in retail. Retailers encourage employees to learn about their business by working in multiple departments. They recognize the importance of cross-training employees and employees also value the variety in their day-to-day work activities. It is especially important in the current economy, when many are looking for additional shifts, which are more available when unobstructed movement between departments can take place.

There are countless stories in the retail industry of current executives who started their careers working on the sales floor. Micro-unions would impede employees from developing their knowledge base and advancing their careers. Not only does internal growth benefit the employee, but employers find that it provides for better employee retention and a healthier connection between senior management and the employees in their stores.

Another important consideration is the impact this decision will for the retail industry’s customer. Retail prides itself on customer service and has built the industry on attending to its base. It is an added benefit to the customer when a customer can ask any store employee for help, and can effectively obtain assistance throughout the store. If micro-units were to exist, a customer would not receive the same type of support they receive in today’s store environment because an employee would be restricted to their narrowly defined unit.

Furthermore, at a time of universal discussion about the need to grow our economy, we look for expansion by our successful businesses, and opportunities to help companies that are struggling. Specialty Healthcare is a clear disincentive to both. At a minimum, healthy companies will wait to see what effects develop in their existing operations before investing in expansion—given the limited avenues of appeal for the Specialty Healthcare ruling this could take years. Struggling companies will not fare well with small groups of employees being organized, making them less likely to succeed. The end result will be fewer jobs.

Absent Congressional action, the actions of the NLRB will increase economic uncertainty that will have negative ramifications for the industry, the retail employees in our stores and distribution centers, and the tens of millions of consumers we serve. I respectfully urge you to support this reasonable and important provision in the FY 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.


Sincerely,


Bill Hughes
Senior Vice President, Government Affair

Brian Dodge

 

 


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