Board Rules Michigan Steel Installers Cannot Organize Without Shop Employees

A bargaining unit consisting solely of all full-time and regular part-time journeyman field iron workers and apprentices is unable to unionize separately from shop workers at American Steel Construction, a structural steel fabrication and installation company in Livonia, Mich. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which heard arguments about the collective bargaining issue, ruled that the two groups have too much in common to exclude certain employees.

The board stated in its decision that “the evidence is insufficient to establish that the employer’s employees who work on jobsites in the field as installers share a community of interest sufficiently distinct from excluded employees.”

This is because employees at the company generally begin working in the shop before advancing to the field and, according to the decision, shop employees may spend up to 30% of their time in the field and vice versa.

American Steel Construction Inc.’s business is not formally divided into departments, but functionally. The employees at issue in the proceeding work in the company’s fabrication shop making and finishing steel beams, stairs, handrails and other architectural elements; work at jobsites installing those finished parts; and transport the finished parts and equipment between the shop and the jobsites—or among jobsites. There are 29 employees who perform these functions to varying degrees.

“Although the employees who generally work in the field appear to share a community of interest, their differences from the employees who generally work in the shop are not sufficiently distinct so as to warrant a separate bargaining unit,” said Terry Morgan, regional director for NLRB Region 7, in the decision. “Rather, the record discloses and I find that, although employees working in the shop and in the field perform different functions, have different day-to-day-supervision, and different working conditions at their job locations, there is significant evidence of employee interchange, functional integration, common hours of work, the same wages and benefits, and similar skills. There is a community of interest among all the employees.”

The board says it’s found that units consisting of both shop and field workers are appropriate where the employer both fabricates and installs structural steel. Due to these findings, the petition, which was filed under section 9(c) of the National Labor Relations Act, has been dismissed.

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