A bargaining unit is a group of several workers involved in a similar industry or occupational field that, on the determination of the National Labor Relations Board, can engage in collective bargaining. This group also helps the union represent the other employees in the industry to handle any issues, improprieties, or unfair work ethics or practices that may come to light. To establish a bargaining unit, certain laws and doctrines must be strictly adhered to.
To create a bargaining unit, the worker group must first have an organized union that deals with their specific industry. The union represents the group exclusively, and deals with all negotiations and discussions to further the workers' causes. Because of this exclusivity, any firm in talks with the workers must deal with them as a group, and is in turn represented by their union. The more far-reaching the union is, the more power it has over the workers' movements, which is why sometimes production can slow down or cease altogether on major projects around the country.
Review by the NLRB
Once a union has been formed, the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, looks at several criteria before allowing part of the worker group to be recognized as a bargaining unit. The NLRB reviews the workers' mutual interests in working conditions, wages earned, training protocols, and number of hours in a workweek. They also look at the management scope, the public interest factor, and the worker group's history of bargaining in the past through other associations.
A group of designated workers are then formed from the entire worker group, with special consideration and support from the workers' union and the workers' group as a whole. This smaller group will then represent the rest of the workers in deriving benefits from management or to discuss circumstances or working issues that surface. This then becomes the worker group's bargaining unit.
Before the group is given bargaining authority, however, they must register with the Federal Labor Relations Authority, a branch under the NLRB, in order to be recognized and then voted in officially by their group. The Federal Labor Relations Authority will then issue a certificate naming the chosen group as an exclusive representative to handle all bargaining for the organization. As a situation comes up within the workers' group, the union is notified, and the bargaining group meets with head management of the labor organization to resolve the matter.