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International Union of Electrical v. National Labor Relations Board

October 8, 1959


Author: Staley

Before BIGGS, Chief Judge, McLAUGHLIN and STALEY, Circuit Judges.

STALEY, C.J.: This petition for review of an order of the National Labor Relations Board (Board) simply raises a question of the substantiality of the evidence to support the Board's determination.

The complaint initiated by the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, AFL-CIO (IUE) alleged that Westinghouse Electric Corporation (Westinghouse) had violated Section 8(a) (5) and (1) of the National Labor Relations Act*fn1 by refusing to bargain with the IUE with respect to an employee stock purchase plan and by putting the plan into effect without affording the IUE an opportunity to negotiate as to its terms. The Intermediate Report filed by the trial examiner contained extensive findings of fact, and conclusions of law favorable to the complainant, IUE. On review, the Board concluded that there had been no violation of Section 8 (a) (5) or (1).

The facts found by the trial examiner may be summarized as follows: Westinghouse in 1957 employed approximately 127,000 employees, 94,000 of whom were represented by labor organizations in 268 collective bargaining units. The IUE represented 39,000 of the employees in thirty-nine of these bargaining units.The other organized employees were represented by the Federation of Westinghouse Salaried Employees, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers.

Each of the Westinghouse bargaining units organized by the IUE was represented in the IUE-Westinghouse Conference Board (Conference Board) for collective bargaining purposes. During April, 1957, this organization had as its chairman Robert Nellis, and as its secretary Ellis Hockenberry. Both were also members of the IUE's negotiating committee, which was made up of members of the Conference Board.

On April 8, 1957, Nellis wrote Clark Frame, Westinghouse's director of labor relations, requesting a meeting for the purpose of discussing certain specified problems relative to the pension and insurance programs then in effect between Westinghouse and the IUE. The meeting was set for April 22. On April 18 Frame telephoned Hockenberry and indicated his desire to place on the agenda for the meeting a proposal for an employee stock purchase plan. Hockenberry agreed to the addition of the subject to the agenda.

At the meeting of April 22, following discussion of the pension and insurance matters, the subject proposed by Westinghouse was taken up. There were material discrepancies between the testimony offered by the General Counsel (of the Board) and Westinghouse as to what transpired at this and subsequent meetings. This was especially true as regards the position taken by Westinghouse on negotiability of the stock purchase plan. Inasmuch as this issue is central to the conflicting conclusions reached by the trial examiner and the Board, we summarize the evidence presented on this point.

Frame testified that in his position as director of labor relations he is the "chief or main contact" between Westinghouse and the various unions representing its employees. He indicated that he first learned that management was about to propose reinstitution of an employee stock purchase plan to the board of directors on April 17 or 18.*fn2 Inasmuch as he felt a duty to see that the plan was properly announced, Frame contacted Hockenberry and others on April 18. Frame began discussion of the plan at the April 22 meeting by indicating several reasons why Westinghouse felt the time propitious for reinstitution of the plan. He indicated that he regretted the short notice involved but explained that this resulted from the desire of the company to initiate the plan as soon as possible and still avoid the year-end rush in the accounting department. To accomplish this, management intended to present the proposal to the board of directors for approval at its meeting on Wednesday, April 24. If approved, the proposal would then be submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). After approval by the SEC, this calendar was to be followed: applications of employees for participation would be accepted from May 13 to 24, payroll deductions would be begun June 1, and stock issued in December. Frame indicated the prospectus was not yet available but gave the union representatives two copies of the plan which had been in effect prior to 1955. Since there were no significant changes in the new plan, he felt that they would adequately serve to apprise the union as to the features of the program.*fn3

Frame additionally testified that he was asked by Nellis whether Westinghouse considered the plan a matter for collective bargaining, and he replied that, although he had no legal opinion on the question and was not prepared to take a position, "from a very practical point of view the company had a relationship to build and uphold, and * * * was discussing it with the union, regardless of whether it was a matter of negotiations or not a matter of negotiations." On being asked whether Westinghouse would proceed with the plan regardless of objections from the Union, Frame replied that if there were "any substantial objection on the part of IUE" Westinghouse would at that point decide whether or not to "proceed with the plan as regards the employees represented by the IUE." He also testified that although it was a company-wide plan, there were provisions that it need not be applied that way, i. e., the company would put it into effect in the "nonbargaining areas" and in the union-represented areas where "there were no substantial objections" to it.

Nellis' testimony concerning the meeting of April 22 diverges from that set forth above primarily as regards the position taken by Westinghouse on negotiability of the stock purchase plan. Nellis testified that he asked whether the plan was a subject for negotiations and that Frame replied "the plan was not a subject of negotiations and that he believed that the IUE had waived their rights to bargain on the plan" by reason of the existing contract between the company and the union. Additionally, Nellis asserted that during a recess Frame again stated that the plan was not a subject for negotiations.

Frame testified that, prior to the termination of the conference, he asked that the union advise him before the coming board meeting whether it had any serious objections to the reinstitution of the plan. There was some misunderstanding as to when the board meeting was scheduled to be held. Frame testified that he indicated that the board was to meet on April 24; however, the union representatives were of the opinion that he had said next Wednesday which they took to mean May 1. In any case, on April 24 Frame called Hockenberry to find out what the union "had done about the stock purchase plan." The misunderstanding as to dates was brought to light and Nellis directed Hockenberry to draft the telegram which is set out in the margin.*fn4 Frame replied by telegram*fn5 and in addition arranged by telephone for a meeting the following day.

As to what transpired at this second meeting, Frame testified that he told the IUE that the company was interested in whether the union "had a substantial objection" to the reinstitution of the plan. He asked Nellis if he was prepared to state the IUE position and Nellis replied that he was not. Immediately prior to the close of the meeting, Frame stated, "Now, I want you to know we are not refusing to bargain over this question." Most importantly, he testified that although he stated to Nellis that he was willing to meet again with the union on this matter, he also "* * * told him that as far as the company-wide application of the plan*fn6 was concerned it was not subject to change."

Once again the testimony of Nellis and the other witnesses produced by the General Counsel conflicts with Frame's testimony concerning negotiability of the plan.Nellis stated that he asked on more than one occasion whether the plan was subject to collective bargaining and that Frame replied in the negative. He further testified that he reiterated the IUE's interest in bargaining on the plan and their availability to do so, but stated that at that time neither he nor Hockenberry was in a position either to accept or reject the plan. At the close of the meeting, Nellis told Frame that the "company would hear more of the union's views in the near future."

Thereafter Westinghouse circularized its employees, including those represented by the IUE, concerning the plan. No further efforts to reopen the matter for discussion were made by the IUE ...

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