| WASHINGTON, July 24
WASHINGTON, July 24 The U.S. National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB) said this week that 41 cosmetics and
fragrances workers at a single Macy's department store can
vote on whether to join a union.
The NLRB's decision Tuesday further aligns the agency with
organized labor in a battle with employers over how small is too
small for a workplace bargaining unit.
Macy's sales employees in the cosmetics and fragrances
departments in Saugus, Massachusetts can now vote on whether to
join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).
The board's move signals its willingness to apply to other
industries a standard it set in its 2011 decision in Specialty
Healthcare. In that case, the NLRB concluded that a group of
nursing assistants at a long-term care facility could pursue
Business groups and employers said the decision was a shift
in NLRB policy that would allow so-called micro-unions to
proliferate and fracture workplace relations.
The NLRB is a Depression-era federal agency tasked with
overseeing union elections and policing unfair labor practices.
Macy's said it was "disappointed" with the board's decision.
"Organizing a selected portion of a store's selling
associates into multiple collective bargaining units is
impractical and an impediment to providing a consistent level of
customer service," Macy's said in a statement.
The company is considering challenging the NLRB ruling in
The Macy's Saugus store has 120 sales employees. The 41
working in the cosmetics and fragrances departments are
stationed in two separate areas, according to the board's
The cosmetics and fragrances employees are readily
identifiable as a group and share a community of interest, while
other employees do not, the board concluded.
Macy's said that a more appropriate bargaining unit would be
all store employees or all sales employees at that location. It
said that if only cosmetics and fragrances workers unionize,
there could be a "proliferation of micro-units" based on the
products sold by employees.
The board should overturn Specialty Healthcare or not apply
it to the retail industry, Macy's and industry groups argued.
The NLRB said its 3-1 decision along ideological lines would
not fracture labor relations at the store because it tracks a
departmental line set by the employer. The lone Republican who
considered the case dissented.
The National Retail Federation's David French said the
industry group has been concerned the NLRB would apply Specialty
Healthcare to retailers and expects more such cases.
A dispute over a proposed bargaining unit at luxury retailer
Neiman Marcus is pending before the board.
The Macy's unit approved by the NLRB does not reflect how
stores operate in the real world and will force employers to
deal with multiple unions within a single store, and even impact
employers' ability to move workers from department to
department, French said.
"It's one thing to be unionized, but it's a completely
different thing to be Balkanized within your store by different
unions," French said in an interview.
(Reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and