The Guide Dog Days of Summer: Board Affirms Another Micro-Unit After Specialty Healthcare

Since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued the Specialty Healthcare decision in 2011, unions have been permitted to organize “micro-units” of an employer, such as employees of a department rather than employees of an entire facility. The Board’s recent decision in Guide Dogs for the Blind, 359 NLRB No. 151 (2013) is yet another example of the Board using the Specialty Healthcare ruling to affirm such a micro-unit. 

In Guide Dogs for the Blind, the employer operated a facility in which guide dogs were bred, raised, and trained. A union petitioned for a unit at the facility to be composed of canine welfare technicians and instructors, while the employer took the position that the smallest appropriate unit needed to include employees from five additional departments, including breeding, puppy-raising, kennel, admissions and graduate services, and veterinary.

Not surprisingly, the Board affirmed the acting regional director’s finding that the petitioned-for unit was appropriate. Specifically, the Board concluded that the employees in the petitioned-for unit were a readily identifiable group who shared a community of interest. While the Board conceded that some of the employees in the other departments shared overlapping tasks with the employees in the petitioned-for unit, the Board found that the employer had not met its burden of demonstrating that those employees shared an overwhelming community of interest with the petitioned-for employees, so as to require their inclusion in the unit. 

For an in-depth look at “micro-units” in the aftermath of Specialty Healthcare, please see our article, “Fragmented Workforces: Specialty Healthcare and the Advent of ‘Micro-Units.’