NLRB Approves UFCW’s Micro-Unit Election at Macys


National Labor Relations Board upheld United Food and Commercial Workers Union’s Macys Micro-Unit, which may undermine the union

Micro-units have arrived, and the UFCW is one of the first on board, with a small, two-department micro-unit at a Macy’s department store:

Earlier this week, in a 3-1 decision in Macy’s Inc., the NLRB applied its controversial Specialty Healthcare decision in upholding as appropriate a bargaining unit that consists of 41 employees in the cosmetics and fragrances department at a Boston-area Macy’s store, and excludes all other sales employees at the store.

The story goes on to note that these 41 employees constitute only about one-third of the Macy’s approximately 120 employees. Not only that, but the employees are from two different departments, on two different floors of the store. As the NLRB acknowledged, in the two departments, “employees worked in separate departments, reported to different supervisors, worked in separate physical spaces, and there was no significant contact between the employees.”

The UFCW’s support for micro-units may actually blow up in their faces. There are significant risks to the employees in the union, not only from experiencing a degraded level of support, but from competition from other unions:

Micro-units create unnecessary barriers and inherently sow discord between different small groups of workers and lead to different segments of the workforce negotiating against one another. It’s possible that different groups of employees could organize under the auspices of different major unions – some could join the UFCW while others may opt to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for instance. And inordinate amounts of time would be taken up dealing with the different unions’ competing demands.

Not only are micro-units a threat to the experience of employees, but it may actually threaten the position of the union itself. The NLRB’s rush to allow all kinds of smaller sized units to organize may actually undermine the very unions they intend to help. With more fractured representation and more time lost on organizing, employees may not want to stick with this model and reject unions entirely.

The UFCW may think they have the upper hand with the ability to target more employers with micro-unit elections, but they may in fact be setting themselves up for failure. Not only does the micro-unit undermine the union’s position as the best way of representing themselves to the employer, it also means other unions like the SEIU may compete with the UFCW for the same employees.

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