Labor Law -- 2016

Volkswagen Group of Am., Inc. v. United Auto Workers, Local 42   (NLRB)

Application of Specialty Healthcare to maintenance employee micro unit

On May 5, 2016 the NAM filed an amicus brief supporting Volkswagen in their dispute against the United Auto Workers (UAW). The UAW brought a complaint against Volkswagen for refusing to bargain with a group of maintenance employees at the automaker's Tennessee plant. Volkswagen opposed the creation of a bargaining unit for employees who are responsible for repairing and maintaining machinery and robots because the plant is a highly integrated manufacturing operation in which all of the employees in the plant work in concert to produce a finished product. The maintenance employees are fully integrated into that process, and they do not have their own, separate department. Instead, maintenance employees are assigned to, and work within, each of Volkswagen’s individual production shops.

This is yet another case where the NAM has filed an amicus brief objecting to the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) decision in Specialty Healthcare allowing employees to create a bargaining unit that is small and under inclusive. In this case, the NAM filed an amicus brief explaining the substantial impact this case will have on employers, particularly in the manufacturing industry, and urging the NLRB to use it as an opportunity to re-examine the Specialty Healthcare standard. Job titles, departmental lines and the like simply are not a valid proxy for the NLRB’s careful consideration of the proper grouping of workers for bargaining unit purposes, particularly in a highly integrated manufacturing process such as that at Volkswagen.

The NLRB’s wrongly decided Specialty Healthcare decision should be overruled for three reasons. First, the Specialty Healthcare rule violates the plain terms of the National Labor Relations Act by granting too much deference to the union’s proposed unit. Second, Specialty Healthcare represents a radical departure from the NLRB’s longstanding precedent and encourages a multiplicity of fractured units within workplaces throughout the country. Third, in deciding Specialty Healthcare, the NLRB violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

Notwithstanding the continuing questions regarding the legality and application of Specialty Healthcare generally, the decision in this case fails to even comply with the standard as set forth in Specialty Healthcare. Our national labor policy is not to foster industrial peace through collective bargaining while at the same time making that bargaining difficult and ineffective through the application of Specialty Healthcare. We urge the NLRB to take the opportunity presented by this case not only to correct the flawed decision, but in a broader sense to consider anew its Specialty Healthcare decision and, in particular, its application to manufacturing enterprises. On April 13, 2016, the NLRB rejected the NAM's petition.

Related Documents:
NAM brief  (December 23, 2015)


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