NLRB reverses decisions on joint employers, micro unions

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NLRB reverses decisions on joint employers, micro unions
NLRB reverses decisions on joint employers, micro unions

The National Labor Relations Board last week reversed rulings related to joint employers and micro unions that some in senior living believed negatively affected management-employee relations and residents.

Thursday, in a case involving Hy-Brand Industrial Contractor, the board reinstated the former definition of joint employer, overruling its 2015 decision involving Browning-Ferris Industries of California. That 2015 case outcome held that a company must exhibit only the potential to exert control over terms and conditions of employment, rather than have “direct and immediate” control as had been the previous standard, to be considered responsible for decisions related to worker wages and working conditions.

The expanded definition was thought to apply to senior living operators that use temporary or contract workers as well as operators that have franchises, among others. In June, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced that he was rescinding the rule.

Friday, the board reinstated the previous standard for determining an appropriate bargaining unit in union representation cases, overruling a 2011 decision in “Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile” that found that labor organizers could form micro unions in workplaces (the case specifically was about nursing assistants organizing at Specialty Healthcare in Mobile, AL).

Friday's reversal came in “PCC Structurals, Inc. and International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, AFL–CIO, District Lodge W24.”

Proponents of micro unions maintain that the smaller groups of organized employees can help make working conditions fairer for workers, but opponents say they could force employers to bargain with multiple unions at the same location.

The expanded joint employer definition and allowance of micro unions were two topics that Argentum President and CEO James Balda had described as “regulatory overreach” in February when he wrote a letter to leaders of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions.

“These changes, if not addressed, will continue to negatively impact not only labor relations among management and workers, but for Argentum, the senior living residents we serve,” Balda wrote in the letter, sent to be included as part of the record for a subcommittee hearing on the NLRB.

In November, the House of Representatives passed a bill introduced by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) that by law would define a joint employer as one that has “actual, direct and immediate” control over employees.

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