By Evan Armstrong, vice president, government affairs
Imagine an 18-year-old named Mary starting her first job stocking inventory at a local retailer.
One day, the store is short-staffed and Mary is offered the opportunity to temporarily work as a cashier helping to process customers. After filling-in a few more times, Mary is promoted to a full-time front of the store employee, serving as a cashier in various departments.
Over time, Mary moves up the ranks and is promoted to a store manager.
This specific story may be fiction but it a very common path for individuals working in the retail industry. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, providing jobs and opportunity for 42 million Americans.
Retailers offer countless ways for employees just stepping into the workforce to learn new skills. Workforce training and flexibility is the hallmark of the industry and one of the ways in which retail employees learn the ropes is by cross-training in different departments.
Learning new skill-sets leads to upward mobility but bad policy is threatening that opportunity.
Unfortunately, due to regulations adopted by the Obama Administration and its activist National Labor Relations Board, opportunities for employees to move through the ranks have been stifled as the NLRB’s top-down regulatory approach prevents employee mobility within departments.
One of the most egregious examples of the Board’s overreach is their decision in the Specialty Healthcare case. In summary, the NLRB’s decision upended years of established law in favor of allowing micro-bargaining units — small units of an entire store — to organize without the consent of the majority workers at a company.
In fact, micro-units can be now validated by the NLRB even after a full vote rejected unionization. The Retail Industry Leaders Association recently issued a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review the NLRB’s decision to allow a micro-union at Macy’s after the entire workforce rejected unionization. This decision is not only a setback for retailers but has a widespread negative impact on employee mobility.
Without a majority of the NLRB willing to overturn the damaging Specialty Healthcare decision, instances of micro-units will increase, creating static workplaces where unions force employees to remain within a unit rather than learning new skills and advancing careers.
Unfortunately, this is the end result of human resource operations dictated by an overreaching NLRB and its big union allies.
Fortunately, common sense legislation has been reintroduced to turn back this harmful policy.
The Representation Fairness Restoration Act, introduced by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) aims to reverse the Specialty Healthcare decision, which would restore well-founded, proven years of legal precedence.
As leaders in the workforce arena, we want to continue to train our employees and help them grow. We must not let red tape get in the way of progress.
Congress would do right by America’s employees to pass this important legislation.
Armstrong points to the Representation Fairness Restoration Act, introduced by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) this week, as a common-sense solution to restore workplace mobility and flexibility.
To learn more about RILA's efforts to protect workplace flexibility, contact Evan Armstrong at email@example.com.
*This op-ed was originally published in The Hill, May 25, 2017.