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Cusano v. National Labor Relations Board

August 16, 1951


Author: Staley

Before GOODRICH, STALEY and HASTIE, Circuit Judges.


This case is before us on a petition of the employer ("petitioner") to review and set aside an order issued against it by the National Labor Relations Board. In its answer, the Board has requested enforcement of its order. This Court has jurisdiction under Sections 10(e) and 10(f) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 160(e) and (f). The amended complaint of the Board, issued July 27, 1950, asserts that the petitioner has engaged in unfair labor practices within the meaning of Sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 158(a)(1) and (3).

The facts are as follows: Petitioner is engaged in the manufacture of shuffleboards, cabinet work products, and related products, in the State of New Jersey. On January 21, 1949, two of petitioner's employees, Silakowski and Peduto, were discharged for taking part in a "slow down" at petitioner's Union City plant. Immediately following the discharges, a majority of the employees met with two union representatives*fn1 and voted to strike unless Silakowski was reinstated. When knowledge of the proposed strike came to the ears of Paul Cusano, the general partner and chief executive of petitioner, he assembled the employees of the Union City plant and made a speech. In this speech, delivered January 24, 1949, Cusano told the employees that he had heard reports about the intended walkout. He then read them a copy of a notice which had just been placed on the bulletin board. The notice read,

"Any man leaving his job without reason judged to be legitimate by the undersigned, or any man leaving his job during the working day without good and sufficient reason, will be considered as having quit his job and will not be re-hired under any circumstances. * * **fn2

On January 25, 1949, the union filed with the Board a petition for certification as the exclusive bargaining agent for the employees at the Union City plant. On February 2, a meeting was held at the Board's regional office in New York City. In attendance, in addition to the Board's field examiner, were Davidson, attorney for petitioner, Wagner, the business representative of the union, and Paladino, an elected representative of the employees. The parties agreed to execute an agreement for a consent election. Upon the field examiner's request for a figure as to petitioner's volume of interstate business so that it might be incorporated into the consent agreement, Davidson disclosed, with reluctance,*fn3 that petitioner's interstate purchases and sales for the year 1948 each were in excess of $500,000.

The next morning Paladino made a full report of the conference to the shop committee which had been elected by the employees; included in his report was Davidson's information relating to petitioner's volume of interstate business. Cusano testified that there was considerable confusion in the plant that morning and that several employees reported to him that the confusion was caused by statements made by Paladino that petitioner had earned $500,000 in profits during the year 1948.

At lunch time a number of employees were huddled in a group outside the plant; among them was Paladino. Suddenly Cusano dashed excitedly from the plant, made his way toward Paladino, and demanded to know whether Paladino had spread the false report regarding petitioner's profits for 1948. Paladino answered that he had merely reported to the committee exactly what had transpired at the conference. Cusano's testimony, however, is that Paladino finally admitted that he had made the misstatement. This, Paladino denied, and his version of the "conversation" is corroborated by several witnesses. The Board found that Paladino had denied Cusano's accusations in substance.

That afternoon Paladino was discharged. An explanatory notice, signed by Cusano, was placed on the bulletin board,*fn4 declaring that Paladino had been discharged because he had deliberately and maliciously lied by stating that petitioner made fantastic earnings during the last year.*fn5

On February 10, 1949, 43 of the 55 employees at petitioner's Union City plant went out on strike. All agree that the strike was the result of postponement by the Board of the representation election, which had been scheduled for February 11. The strikers erroneously believed that petitioner was responsible for this postponement. On February 10, 11, and 12, Paul Cusano on behalf of petitioner wrote letters to each of the employees. In the letter of February 11, he asserted, inter alia,

"Because this strike is one to compel the employer to violate the law against its will, any man who fails to return to work at the above time is to consider himself automatically discharged. Any existing picket line is part and parcel of a conspiracy to compel us to violate the law and you should have no hesitancy to cross such a line."

The letter of February 12 declares:

"Any advice which you may have received to the effect that you cannot be discharged for not coming in to work on Tuesday morning, is all wrong. The plant is open despite the wildcat strike called by an unauthorized Union. Again I repeat, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT TO YOU AND YOUR JOB, call the National Labor Relations Board (Murrayhill 9-8730) to determine whether or not I can discharge you under the present circumstances for your failure to return to work on Tuesday morning. Make this phone call yourself. * * *"

The Board found that Cusano's speech of January 24 and the notice posted that day, and the letters of February 11 and 12 constituted violations of Section 8(a)(1) of the Act in that they interfered unlawfully with activities protected by Section 7. It also found that Paladino had been discharged because of his union activities and that this was a violation of Sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) of the Act. The order of the Board requires petitioner, inter alia, to cease and desist ...

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