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The Dawn of the “Micro-Unit”: NLRB Upholds Petitioned-For “Micro-Unit” at Macy’s Store as Appropriate

July 29 2014

By The Labor and Employment Group

In a recent 3-1 decision in Macy’s Inc., the NLRB used its controversial Specialty Healthcare decision in upholding as appropriate a micro bargaining unit of only 41 employees in the cosmetics and fragrances department of a Boston-area Macy’s store.  The Micro-Unit excludes all other sales employees at the store, despite there being almost 80 other salespersons employed there.  This case is the first NLRB matter that applied the Specialty Healthcare standard to a retail employer.   Applying the standards established in Specialty Healthcare, the NLRB found that the petitioned-for unit was appropriate because the 41 cosmetics and fragrances employees are a “readily identifiable group who share a community of interest.”  The NLRB further held that Macy’s had not met its burden of showing an “overwhelming” community of interest between those employees and the other sales employees in the store’s 10 other departments.

This is terrible news for all employers, especially those in the retail industry.  The Specialty Healthcare and Macy’s Inc. decisions help unions’ efforts to organize small groups of employees into “micro-units”, in order to gain a foothold within a targeting company.

Employers must therefore be mindful of this issue in preparing for and responding to union organizing campaigns, as unions are increasingly seeking to organize the smallest subset of employees which they believe they can secure a majority of supporters.

Read the decision here. http://mynlrb.nlrb.gov/link/document.aspx/09031d45817f7387.