In Historic NLRB Ruling, Temps Win the Right To Join Unions

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A new ruling will enable temporary and permanent employees to come together to negotiate with their bosses in mixed bargaining units.

The National Labor Relations Board on Monday overturned a Bush-era standard that said a union could only organize a bargaining unit of jointly employed and regular employees if both employers consented—even if those employees worked together closely. “Jointly employed” includes temps who are hired through staffing agencies.

The new decision allows jointly employed temps to bargain collectively in the same unit with the solely employed workers they work alongside, ruling that bosses need not consent so long as workers share a “community of interest.”

In a 3-1 decision, the Board overturned a 12-year-old ruling in Oakwood Care Center, where the Board said that a group of temporary workers could not unionize with permanent employees without the approval of their employer and the appropriate staffing agency.

In this new ruling from Miller & Anderson, Inc., the Board returns to a standard set in 2000, during the Clinton administration, in a case called M.B. Sturgis, Inc., which was overruled in Oakwood.

Under Sturgis, and now Miller & Anderson, permanent and jointly employed workers can negotiate in the same unit if they are employed by the same primary employer, and if they share a “community of interest.”

In a statement announcing the ruling, the NLRB said, “requiring employer consent to an otherwise appropriate bargaining unit desired by employees, Oakwood has … allowed employers to shape their ideal bargaining unit, which is precisely the opposite of what Congress intended.”

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