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Latrobe Steel Co. v. National Labor Relations Board

decided: August 19, 1980.

LATROBE STEEL COMPANY, PETITIONER
v.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, RESPONDENT UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, INTERVENOR; UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, PETITIONER V. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, RESPONDENT LATROBE STEEL COMPANY, INTERVENOR



PETITIONS FOR REVIEW OF ORDER OF NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD BOARD NO. 6-CA-10333

Before Hunter, Weis and Sloviter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Hunter

Opinion OF THE COURT

This case centers around the attempted negotiation of a collective bargaining contract between the Latrobe Steel Company (the Company) and the United Steelworkers of America (the Union). We are called upon to review the decision of the National Labor Relations Board, which found the Company guilty of three unfair labor practices for refusing to bargain with the Union in violation of § 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(5) (1976) (the Act), and acquitted the company of another charge. The Board also found that a strike which occurred subsequent to the alleged unfair labor practice was an unfair labor practice strike and ordered reinstatement of the strikers with back pay. The Board presents a cross petition for enforcement of its decision.

The parties met 27 times between June 7 and August 1, 1977, but were unable to conclude an agreement to replace the existing 1974 contract. At the expiration of that contract, on August 1, 1977, the Union went out on strike. Negotiations continued intermittently from mid August until November, when they resumed on a full time basis. The Union filed an unfair labor practice charge on December 20, 1977, which alleged several violations of the Act. Specifically, the union alleged that the Company had violated the duty to bargain imposed by § 8(a)(5) of the Act by improperly insisting on the presence of professional stenographers at bargaining sessions and by insisting "to impasse" on the inclusion in the collective bargaining agreement of three clauses concerning non-mandatory subjects of bargaining.

The case was heard by an administrative law judge (ALJ) who found unfair labor practices based on the stenographer issue and two of the three contractual issues. The ALJ further found that because of these unfair labor practices the strike was an "unfair labor practice strike." The Board affirmed the rulings, findings, and conclusions of the ALJ. We will enforce the Board's decision only insofar as it finds that the Company's insistence on the issue of the presence of a stenographer constitutes an unfair labor practice. We will not enforce the decisions relative to the unfair labor practices based on the two proposed contract clauses, or to the characterization of the strike. Finally, we will affirm the dismissal of the charge based on the third contractual clause.

I

A. The Stenographer Issue

At the first negotiating session, the Company's chief negotiator introduced two professional court reporters and indicated that these reporters would, on the Company's behalf, record all of the negotiations. He further noted that nothing would be "off the record" and that the transcripts of the negotiations would be made available in the Company's personnel office to all interested persons, including the employees. The Union objected to this procedure. Following a lengthy discussion, the company negotiator stated "(all) right, we have been talking about this subject for almost an hour. We can talk about it for another hour, but I have to inform you that the transcripts will be at the personnel office. That is as blunt as I can put it." Despite continued objections by the Union throughout the course of the negotiations, and the filing of an unfair labor practice charge on June 21, 1977,*fn1 the stenographers were present at every negotiating session.*fn2 Based on this and other evidence, the ALJ concluded that it was clear that the Company would only negotiate on the record, with stenographers present, and that no discussion of negotiable issues would be permitted to take place off the record.

In addition, the ALJ found that the issue was a non-mandatory subject of bargaining. He therefore found the Company guilty of an unfair labor practice for refusing to bargain with the Union.

B. The Contract Proposals

In prior contracts, the Company, which produces specialty steel products, and the Union had adopted the Basic Steel Settlement Agreement, negotiated between the Union and the companies comprising the basic steel industry. In the instant negotiations, the Union again demanded the adoption of the Basic Steel Settlement Agreement, as well as the continuation of the provisions of the 1974 agreement between the Company and the Union. The Company, however, sought to negotiate a separate agreement. In addition, the Company proposed 22 specific changes in the existing agreement. The Union, in addition to its position on the Basic Steel Agreement, made 21 specific proposals.

Three of the Company's proposals are relevant to this case. First, the Company proposed that the local union be made a signatory to the collective bargaining agreement. Traditionally, the Union had been the only signatory to the agreement, although officers of the local had signed in their capacity as members of the Union bargaining committee. Since 1937, the Union, or its predecessors, had been the recognized bargaining representative of the employees.

Second, the Company demanded that the grievance procedure be altered to require individual employees to sign all grievances. This would, in effect, have precluded the Union from bringing general grievances on behalf of unidentified employees.

Finally, the company proposed a change which would have given employees the option to attempt to settle grievances at the second level of the grievance procedure, either with or without the presence of a union representative. A similar option had previously existed at the first level by agreement of the parties.

The ALJ found the first two proposals to concern non-mandatory subjects of bargaining and that an impasse existed prior to the time the Union went on strike. He further found that the Company's insistence on the first two proposed clauses contributed to, and helped to cause the impasse. He stated that it was impossible to find, as the Company contended, that the impasse would have occurred in the absence of the non-mandatory proposals. Finally, the ALJ found that the third disputed proposal did not constitute a non-mandatory subject of bargaining. Accordingly, this charge was dismissed.

II

Section 8(a)(5) of the Act states that "(it) shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer to refuse to bargain collectively with the representatives of his employees . . . ." 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(5) (1976). Section ...


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