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Board Overrules Specialty Healthcare, Eliminates “Overwhelming Community of Interest” Standard

Office of Public Affairs


Washington, D.C.—In a 3-2 decision involving PCC Structurals, Inc., the National Labor Relations Board overruled Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB 934 (2011) (Specialty Healthcare), and reinstated the traditional community-of-interest standard for determining an appropriate bargaining unit in union representation cases.  The National Labor Relations Act provides that the Board must decide in each case whether the group of employees a union seeks to represent constitutes a unit that is “appropriate” for collective bargaining.  


Under Specialty Healthcare, if a union petitioned for an election among a particular group of employees, those employees shared a community of interest among themselves, and the employer took the position that the smallest appropriate unit had to include employees excluded from the proposed unit, the Board would not find the petitioned-for unit inappropriate unless the employer proved that the excluded employees shared an “overwhelming” community of interest with the petitioned-for group. 


The Board has now abandoned the “overwhelming” community-of-interest standard.  In today’s decision, the Board stated that “there are sound policy reasons for returning to the traditional community-of-interest standard that the Board has applied throughout most of its history, which permits the Board to evaluate the interests of all employees—both those within and those outside the petitioned-for unit—without regard to whether these groups share an ‘overwhelming’ community of interests.”  


Today’s case was before the Board on the employer’s request for review of a Regional Director’s Decision and Direction of Election.  The Regional Director found that a petitioned-for unit of approximately 100 welders was appropriate for collective bargaining.  Applying Specialty Healthcare’s “overwhelming community of interest” standard, he rejected the employer’s contention that the smallest appropriate unit was a wall-to-wall unit of 2,565 employees.  Expressing no opinion as to whether the petitioned-for unit was appropriate, the Board remanded the case to the Regional Director for further appropriate action consistent with its order.


Chairman Philip A. Miscimarra was joined by Members Marvin E. Kaplan and William J. Emanuel in the majority opinion.  Members Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren McFerran dissented.