The Retail Litigation Center (RLC), the voice of the retail industry in the judicial branch, filed an amicus brief in the case of Macy's Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The case, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, deals with the formation of "micro-unions," which are collective bargaining units of only a subset of a store's employees. Here, the union organized the cosmetics and toiletries employees in a store, despite the fact that the majority of employees of the same store voted against the union's previous attempt to organize the whole store. The brief expresses support for Macy's in the case and asks the Court to review a lower court decision that upends the longstanding presumption that a "whole store" is the appropriate bargaining unit for employees, not a small faction within one store department.
The RLC argues that allowing sub-store bargaining units creates a negative ripple effect throughout the entire retail store. In addition to limiting employee opportunities for skills training and development, "micro-units" decrease the ability of employees to provide seamless customer service across departments and weaken employee relationships throughout the store.
"In today's ever-evolving retail environment, seamless customer service and ease of access across all departments and retail channels is essential for consumers and employees alike," said Deborah White, president of the RLC. "Employee growth opportunities and flexibility are dependent upon the ability of employees to interact and assist across store departments. The lower court's decision to allow a microunit not only threatens employees' individual success within the workplace, it threatens retailers' ability to grow and thrive in today's marketplace. We support Macy's in their request for review of this decision and urge the Court to reach a resolution that supports fairness within the workplace."
According to the brief:
"Especially given the needs of today's dynamic retail market, the proliferation of 'micro-units' within a single store will limit employee choice – as it did in this very case – and reduce store performance, to the detriment of employees and customers."
"A formula for units that silences the majority of employees in a workplace, harms employee morale, reduces productivity, and exacerbates administrative difficulties is a far cry from the NLRA's purpose of advancing the 'friendly adjustment of industrial disputes' and the 'free flow of commerce.'"
The brief, drafted by Jason C. Schwartz, Lindsay See and Theane Evangelis of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, can be read here.
The Retail Litigation Center is a public policy organization that identifies and engages in legal proceedings that affect the retail industry. The RLC, whose members include some of the country's largest retailers, was formed to provide courts with retail industry perspectives on significant legal issues, and highlight the potential industry-wide consequences of legal principles that may be determined in pending cases.