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Mincing Micro Unions

Senate Republicans are looking to repeal Obama’s micro-union NLRB deal

Brian Young's picture
May 30, 2017

In their continuing effort to make it harder to organize, Senate Republican’s have introduced a bill to repeal the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision to allow so called Micro Unions. Many of the 11 Senators who have signed onto the bill are from the South where micro unions have been a key tool in new member organizing.

Under Obama in 2011, the NLRB allowed unions to start organizing micro unions which allows workers within a smaller subset or department to organize without needing the entire workforce to organize.  The micro union needs to be made up of people who are doing similar jobs and allows the sections of the workforce that want to be organized to vote to join the union.  This organizing tool was used successfully at Volkswagen to organize skilled tradesmen at the plant after a plant-wide union vote was narrowly voted down.  The creation of micro unions has also caused a recent increase in union elections being called. While union rates slightly decreased last year, elections increased as employees who wanted to join a union were now able to form a bargaining unit with like minded co-workers. 

This bill which was introduced right before the Memorial Day Weekend, has the support of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). It also has the support of Tennessee’s other Senator Bob Corker. In a statement Alexander said that micro unions fracture workplaces, while Corker called them disruptive. Neither statement could be further from the truth.

Union leaders have a decidedly different outlook towards micro unions. UAW Local 42 President Steve Cochran, whose local organized the VW workers, said that while the nation is in crisis over healthcare and Russia, “Sens. Corker and Alexander are spending their time attacking blue-collar workers in Chattanooga. We hope other members of Congress will stand up for hard-working Americans and oppose this attack on workers' rights.”

This effort by the Senate to end micro unions is just another attempt by Southern Republicans to prevent unions from maintaining or gaining political power.  In passing Right to Work laws under the guise of giving choice to workers at a union workplace, eliminating micro union is a way to further suppress a voice on the job in hostile Right to Work states. Now that workers are utilizing that choice and organizing in smaller units, these same Republicans are once again trying to put the brakes on it and shut them down.

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