Specialty Healthcare 357 NLRB Decision No. 83: Impact on Nursing Home and Resident Care Industry
Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handed down an important decision for those in the nursing home and resident care industry: Specialty Healthcare, 357 NLRB No. 83. In this decision, the Board redefined the standard for “unit determination” cases for the “non-acute health care industry.” The Board’s conclusion reversed twenty years of precedent and made further unionization in the nursing home industry likely.
The Board’s decision makes unionization more likely because a key factor in the success of an organizing campaign is the size of the bargaining unit. Traditionally, unions fare better when organizing a smaller unit, whereas employers fare better when the union must organize a larger unit. Under the newly announced “traditional community of interest” standard, smaller units will be harder to challenge by employers, and thus are likely to proliferate. The Board summarized the new standard
[when a union] petition[s] for an election in a unit of employees who are readily identifiable as a group (based on job classifications, departments, functions, work locations, skills, or similar factors), and the Board finds that the employees in the group share a community of interest after considering the traditional criteria, the Board will find the petitioned-for unit to be an appropriate unit, despite a contention that employees in the unit could be placed in a larger unit which would also be appropriate or even more appropriate, unless the party so contending demonstrates that employees in the larger unit share an overwhelming community of interest with those in the petitioned-for unit.
Applying this standard, the Board held that a unit of Certified Nursing Assistants was the appropriate bargaining unit because the employer was unable to show that there was a larger group that had an “overwhelming community of interest” that overlapped the interest of the CNAs. In application, this rule will make it harder for employers to challenge prospective units and increase a union’s ability to organize smaller units.
Employers should be aware that Specialty Healthcare gives unions an advantage in their organizing efforts, and as a result employers should take proactive steps to prepare for a potential union campaign, especially those employers in the non-acute health care industry. At a minimum, supervisors should know the warning signs of unionization and how to respond. Supervisors should also be empowered with the information necessary to articulate the company’s position of a union-free workplace with credibility. Lastly, employers should also institute policies that guide employees regarding union solicitation, union access to facilities, and employee uniform policies.