NLRB Grounds Proposed Micro-Unit at Boeing Plant


In Boeing Co., the National Labor Relations Board found a petitioned-for “micro unit” inappropriate, and clarified that its 2016 PCC Structurals decision contemplates a three-step process for determining whether a proposed bargaining unit is appropriate under the Board’s community-of-interest test.

First, the Board will consider whether the petitioned-for group of employees shares an internal community of interest. A unit without an internal, shared community of interest is inappropriate and the Board’s inquiry ends there. Second, if the unit does have an internal, shared community of interest, the Board will compare the included and excluded employees and determine whether the excluded employees have meaningfully distinct interests that outweigh similarities with the included employees.  If the distinct interests do not outweigh the similarities, the unit is inappropriate. Finally, if the proposed unit has survived the first two steps, the Board will consider guidelines, if any, the Board has established for specific industries regarding appropriate unit configurations (e.g., public utilities).

Applying this test, the Board found that a proposed unit of 178 technicians and technician inspectors at Boeing’s 2,700-employee facility in South Carolina was an inappropriate bargaining unit. The Board first concluded that the proposed unit did not share an internal community of interest. The Board reasoned that the two classifications were in different departments, did not share immediate supervision or any supervision below the level of CEO, and had completely different job functions. The inquiry could have ended there, but the Board also found that the interests of the excluded employees are not meaningfully distinct from and do not outweigh similarities with the interests of the petitioned-for employees.  The Board noted that the two petitioned-for classifications are in the same departments as excluded classifications.  Further, the included and excluded employees share most skills and training, and largely enjoy the same terms and conditions of employment. Thus, even if the analysis survived the first step of the Board’s inquiry, the second step also required a finding that the proposed unit was inappropriate. Finally, the Board noted that there no industry-specific guidelines applicable to this case.

This decision clarifies the framework to be used by the Board in analyzing whether a proposed unit is an appropriate unit, and reinforces that any petitioned-for “micro unit” will have to share an internal community of interest, and the interests of the excluded employees must be sufficiently distinct to warrant their exclusion.