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J. I. Case Co. v. National Labor Relations Board

March 12, 1958


Author: Hastings

Before DUFFY, Chief Judge, HASTINGS and PARKINSON, Circuit Judges.

HASTINGS, C.J.: The J. I. Case Company petitions this Court pursuant to Section 10(f) of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act), as amended, 29 U.S.C.A. ยง 160(f), to set aside an order of the National Labor Relations Board, reported in 118 N.L.R.B. No. 56, requiring that company to cease and desist from refusing to bargain collectively by declining to furnish the certified bargaining representative of its employees*fn1 at its Bettendorf and Rock Island plants certain information and wage rate data concerning time studies and job evaluation. The Board, in its answer, has requested enforcement of its order pursuant to Section 10(e) of the Act.

The collective bargaining agreement in effect at all times material to this petition at the Company's Bettendorf plant was executed on January 27, 1956 and was to continue in force for two years. It was reopenable as to wages on January 30, 1957 upon sixty days written notice. Two sets of wage rates were set up under the contract: Schedule A rates were hourly rates and Schedule B rates were applicable to piece rate or incentive workers. It was provided that the company would establish piece prices by time study or other appropriate methods. "Classification rates" at ten percent higher than guaranteed minimum piece rates were to be in effect until piece rates were set. Further provision was made for review of a piece price in the event of a significant change in the nature of a job. The contract provided for the usual grievance procedure, specified that "[complaints regarding piecework prices may be handled in accordance with the grievance procedure", and indicated that the agreement should be interpreted as disposing "of any and all issues subject to collective bargaining, except with respect to grievances * * * ."

The Company had furnished the Union a summary of all jobs at the Bettendorf plant including the "vertical turret lathe" job which was indicated to be a single machine operation. After the execution of the bargaining agreement, the Company changed the job to a two machine operation but did not change the rate of pay.The Union made a formal request in writing on March 26, 1956 asking for certain data relevant to the job, including the time studies on the job as a two machine and as a one machine operation and the various criteria the Company used in setting up a job evaluation for the two machine job. The request from the Union suggested "that the information include what weight is given each factor used to arrive at a final decision on the established rate and what factors are considered in making such a decision." The Union stated in this letter that the information was needed before further discussion was possible.

There was no written reply to the Union's formal request, but, at the next regularly scheduled meeting between the Plant Grievance Committee and Company representatives, the superintendent in charge of the department making time studies, made an oral presentation of the time study information on the two machine and one machine jobs, and diagrammed the operation on a blackboard. The Company refused to give the time studies to the Union so that its time study experts could examine them. It also refused to supply the other data requested. The Union indicated its dissatisfaction with the information and some time later submitted a written request, pursuant to terms of the agreement, to negotiate a new rate for the job.

On March 28, 1956, the Union made a further request of the Company for information needed "for purposes of collective bargaining and contract administration * * *." This request was for "all data and time study information and material used in setting the incentive rates which are currently in effect for all jobs in the UAW Bargaining Unit at the Bettendorf works * * *", and for "all data, studies, and other information which is used to determine the value of each job currently listed in Schedules A and B * * *", as well as such data used in determining the respective labor grade for each job. The Company refused to supply this data, stating that since no negotiations were in progress, it was not obligated to do so.

The collective bargaining contract in effect at the Company's Rock Island plant was a two year agreement entered into on January 20, 1955. It was similar to the agreement at the Bettendorf works of the Company. The contract could be reopened after September 1, 1955 by either party, upon thirty days written notice, for negotiations on wage rates. The required written notice had to "set forth specifically the adjustments desired." The agreement contained provision for the usual grievance procedure and wage provisions, including a method for establishing piecework rates and a complete schedule of rates for the various labor classifications.

Some dissatisfaction arose among the Rock Island plant's tractor assembly employees over the failure of the company to announce piece rates. After these rates for the tractor line had been announced pursuant to a company time study, this dissatisfaction continued, and, on March 15, 1956, at a regular grievance meeting between the company representatives and the Bargaining Committee of the Union, the Union requested that the Company make available the time study data for the tractor line jobs. The Union repeated its request in writing on April 5, stating that it needed the time studies requested to "arrive at an answer as to whether there was a legitimate complaint or not." The Company, without explanation, refused to make these time studies available.

Unfair labor practice charges were filed with the Board by the International Union against the Company. The Trial Examiner found violations of Section 8(a)(5) and (1) of the Act in the Company's refusal of the March 15 and March 26 requests but found no violation in the refusal of the broad request made on March 28 for "all data and time study information" for "all jobs" in the bargaining unit at the Bettendorf works because such request was unduly burdensome and because the information so requested exceeded any need by the Union, existing or prospective. The Board, upon the undisputed facts presented, sustained the holding that the refusals to supply the data requested on March 15 and 26 were in violation of the Company's statutory bargaining obligations but found, in addition, that the refusal of the March 28 request was also a violation of the provisions of the Act.

Although the particular circumstances in each case must be considered in determining whether or not the statutory obligation to bargain in good faith has been met (N.L.R.B. v. Truitt Mfg. Co., 351 U.S. 149, 153 (1956)), there are numerous decisions to the effect that a refusal by an employer to supply pertinent and relevant age data concerning wage rates of the employees is a violation of the obligation to bargain in good faith. N.L.R.B. v. F. W. Woolworth Co., 352 U.S. 938 (1956), reversing 9 Cir., 235 F.2d 319 (1956); Taylor Forge & Pipe Co. v. N.L.R.B., 7 Cir., 234 F.2d 227 (1956), cert. den., 352 U.S. 942 (1956); Boston Herald-Traveler Corp v. N.L.R.B., 1 Cir., 223 F.2d 58 (1955); N.L.R.B. v. Item Company, 1955, 5 Cir., 220 F.2d 956 ; N.L.R.B. v. Whitin Machine Works, 4 Cir., 217 F.2d 593 (1954); N.L.R.B. v. Otis Elevator Co., 2 Cir., 208 F.2d 176 (1953).

The Company contends that, in light of the circumstances in this case, it fulfilled its statutory duty to bargain. It urges that it had no obligation to furnish the desired information because the Union's requests for data were not made in good faith for purposes of collective bargaining; the requested data pertained neither to a pending grievance nor to a request for negotiation under the contract; the production of the data would have been unwarrantedly burdensome since the Company did offer to supply some of the information orally; and, finally, the requested data had not been relied upon by the Company during negotiations with the Union but was used for internal management purposes only.

If, as the Company contends, the Union's requests, in each instance, were not made in good faith for the purpose of collective bargaining, the refusal to supply the data would not have been a violation of the Act. Boston Herald-Traveler Corp. v. N.L.R.B., 1 Cir., 223 F.2d 58, 63 (1955); Superior Engraving Co. v. N.L.R.B., 7 Cir., 183 F.2d 783, 794 (1950). The Board has never disputed this but urges that, on the record in this case, the Union's requests were made in good faith. Cf. Utica Observer Dispatch v. N.L.R.B., 2 Cir., 229 F.2d 575, 577 (1956). In this connection, the Company failed in its attempt to prove a series of groundless requests for data all purportedly part of a general scheme of harassment by the Union. There was also little to bolster the Company's claim that the Union indulged in the filing of groundless charges with the Board.

Putting aside the matter of the good faith of the Union in previous dealings with the Company, the question of whether the Union's requests in this case were made in good faith turns, as the Board indicates, on a determination of the relevance of the information to the Union's task as the bargaining representative.The Board urges that, in each instance, the data requested was required by the Union in the administration and policing of the collective bargaining agreements in force at the two plants here involved. The Company takes issue with the Board of this latter point and in so doing raises basic questions as to the nature of collective bargaining. The petitioner contends that the statutory duty to bargain in good faith is pegged to the existence of pending wage negotiations without which there is no obligation to bargain. It urges further that under its contracts with the Union all complaints regarding piecework prices must be handled by grievance procedures and that no grievances were filed in the instant situations.

These contentions stem from a basic disagreement between petitioner and the Board as to the proper conception of the Union's role as representative of the employees and of the very nature of the collective bargaining process. The contention that the Union's right to data is limited to pending wage negotiations overlooks the fact that collective bargaining is a continuing process which, "[among] other things, * * * involves day to day adjustments in the contract and other working rules, resolution of new problems not covered by existing agreements, and the protection of employee rights already secured by contract." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 46 (1957). See also Aeronautical Industrial District Lodge 727 v. Campbell, 337 U.S. 521, 525 (1949).A collective bargaining agreement thus provides "the framework within which the process of collective bargaining may be carried on." Timken Roller Bearing Co. v. N.L.R.B., 1 Cir., 161 F.2d 949, 955 (1947). The union not only has the duty to negotiate collective bargaining agreements but also the statutory obligation to police and administer the existing agreements. The provision in the Bettendorf contract that the agreement "disposes of ...

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