Micro-Unions Return to Gut Employee Rights

newspaperAs part of their ongoing efforts to weasel their way into workplaces and curtail employee rights, labor unions have aggressively pursued the creation of “micro-units”—subdivisions of a workplace that a union can organize one-by-one. Since the Obama-stacked National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in the precedent-eviscerating Specialty Healthcare case that micro-units were hunky-dory, it was only a matter of time before Big Labor’s best friends in D.C. expanded the ruling. The NLRB has now done so, recently ruling in a case called Macy’s, Inc. and Local 1445, United Food and Commercial Workers Union that perfume and cosmetics salespeople constituted their own micro-unit eligible to be unionized alone.

Micro-unions are part of a wide-ranging effort by unions to get dues dollars however they can, in this case by Balkanizing a workplace so that a small group of unhappy people can form their own union even if the larger group of employees has no interest in joining. The UFCW has other methods, as well—most notably “worker centers” like the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), a UFCW “subsidiary organization” dedicated to activism against the world’s largest retailer.

For all the press OUR Walmart—which is managed by Big Labor P.R. firm Berlin Rosen—seems to get, it doesn’t get much support from employees. But micro-unions might offer worker centers like OUR Walmart the ability to sneak a foot in the door by dropping big money on a small set of employees to get publicity for their broader organizing drive.

But the problems for uninterested employees and employers is obvious. Could Fast Food Forward, SEIU’s New York City restaurant worker center, attempt to unionize just cashiers, forcing employers to make different work arrangements with cooks? Micro-unions, so-called “minority unions,” and worker centers are the farthest things from the principles of organized negotiation—termed “labor peace”—that form the core of modern labor law.