Organize! Specialty Healthcare upheld, Unions may continue to organize “smallest appropriate” bargaining-units

In a win for labor, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a 2011 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board.  In the case  known as Specialty Healthcare, 357 NLRB No. 83 (2011), the NLRB ruled in favor of a Union that sought to organize a restricted group of employees (only nursing assistants)—despite the employer’s argument that other employees should also be included in the group to make the unit bigger.

In Specialty Healthcare, the NLRB placed the burden on the employer by holding the responsibility is on the employer to show that the additional workers share an “overwhelming community of interest” with the included workers—this makes it much harder to add workers to the unit the Union has selected as appropriate.  Unions have used this case effectively to organize units they select and that are appropriate.

Last week, the Sixth Circuit agreed with the NLRB’s Specialty Healthcare decision concluding that the NLRB has “wide discretion” to determine which workers should be included in a bargaining-unit.

Now the NLRB has three Democratic members and two Republicans, many employers expect it to issue similar rulings, which employers have complained could give Unions an advantage.  Employers fear the Specialty Healthcare ruling will allow Unions to create “micro units” of workers, in turn, making it easier to organize.

By organizing a small group of workers, a Union can gain footing among a workforce, and access to employer information during contract negotiations that can give the Union leverage for additional campaigns to organize other employee groups.  The Union can also add unorganized workers to an already organized unit.

For questions regarding how to effectively apply Specialty Healthcare, contact your labor law counsel.

By Lisl Duncan | August 21, 2013

Legal Developments