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Legal Alert: Not So Fast: National Labor Relations Board Rejects Boeing S.C. Micro Unit

On September 9, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) clarified its test for unionizing “micro units” of employees within larger workforces, and prevented the International Association of Machinists from representing a small group of Boeing Co. technicians at a plant in South Carolina. The Boeing Company, 368 NLRB No. 67 (2019). In a three-to-one vote, the Board said a proposed bargaining unit consisting of about 175 flight-readiness technicians at Boeing’s Charleston Final Assembly operation does not meet federal standards for appropriate units, because the workers are not distinct from the site’s larger workforce of approximately 2,700 maintenance and production workers.

The International Association of Machinists won an election in May of 2018 to become the bargaining representative of this smaller unit of employees. This election followed an earlier election where a large unit of production and maintenance workers rejected the Union in a 2,087 – 731 vote. After the May 2018 election, the Company appealed the certification of the smaller unit of Boeing employees, arguing that the NLRB Regional Director had improperly approved the small unit of flight-readiness technicians.

In Boeing, the Board indicated that the standard it set forth for unionizing smaller bargaining units of employees in the PCC Structurals decision from December of 2017 was being misapplied. The standard for unionizing micro units of employees, as set forth in Boeing, requires a three-step legal analysis to determine the appropriateness of the proposed bargaining unit. First, the proposed unit must share an internal community of interest. Second, the interests of those within the proposed unit and the shared and distinct interests of those excluded from that unit must be comparatively analyzed and weighed. Third, consideration must be given to the Board's decisions on appropriate units in the particular industry involved.

Moving forward, unions will have to demonstrate a sufficiently distinct community of interest among the proposed bargaining unit as compared to excluded employees. And, excluded employees’ distinct interests will have to outweigh the similarity of interests that excluded employees share with members of the proposed bargaining unit. This decision strikes a strong blow against unions’ efforts to organize and represent smaller bargaining units.

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About this Author

Kerry Martin Employment Attorney Ryley Carlock
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Kerry maintains a thriving traditional labor practice built over his 18-year legal career. He represents employers with regional, national and global operations in industries including transportation, trucking, mining, industrial, manufacturing, construction and hospitality. In addition, Kerry practices in the areas of employment, appellate and administrative law.

Labor & Employment Practice. Kerry represents clients in all aspects of traditional labor relations. He also counsels and defends employers facing claims of discrimination and harassment, as well as...

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As a member of the Labor and Employment practice, Holly assists with a variety of employment and labor relations issues, including research and drafting documents. She also participates in the firm’s Sports Law group, which gives her an opportunity to combine her legal work and her athletic background to assist in representing athletes and coaches.

Holly was awarded the Dean’s Recruitment Award and Sun Angel Funk Scholarship to attend Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Holly graduated among the top 10 students in her class. While there, she earned A+ grades (or CALI Excellence for the Future Awards) in Legal Method & Writing, Evidence, Constitutional Law II, FDA Regulation, The Moral Leader, and Family Law. She served on the Arizona State Law Journal and was named Editor of the Year in 2017. Holly externed with Honorable James A. Teilborg of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona and participated in the Blackstone Legal Fellowship.

Holly received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, summa cum laude, from Arizona State University, where she was a co-captain of the ASU Sun Devil Women’s Soccer Team. In 2004, Holly was the only Sun Devil athlete to be named an Academic All-American. The year prior she was named the Sparky Female Scholar Athlete of the Year, awarded to Arizona State University’s most outstanding NCAA Division I Athlete. Before transferring to Arizona State University, Holly was a member of the 2001 Division I National Championship Women’s Soccer Team at Santa Clara University.

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