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Self-Reliance Ukrainian American Cooperative Association Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

May 4, 1972

SELF-RELIANCE UKRAINIAN AMERICAN COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION, INC. DBA CERTIFIED FOODS, PETITIONER
v.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, RESPONDENT, AND RETAIL FOOD AND DRUG CLERKS UNION, LOCAL 1550, AFFILIATED WITH RETAIL CLERKS INTERNATIONAL AFL-CIO, INTERVENOR



Castle, Senior Circuit Judge, Kiley and Sprecher, Circuit Judges.

Author: Kiley

KILEY, C. J..

Petitioner Self-Reliance Ukrainian American Cooperative Association, Inc. (employer) seeks to set aside a Labor Board decision that it violated Sections 8(a) (1), 8(a) (3) and 8(a) (5) of the National Labor Relations Act.*fn1 We deny the employer's petition and grant the Board's cross-petition for enforcement of the order.

The employer's work force in its neighborhood food store*fn2 numbered 19 when on December 22, 1969, employee Irene Burtniak began a Union*fn3 organizational drive. At that time she requested cards from the Union authorizing the Union to act as the employees' bargaining representative. On January 14 the Union orally requested discussion of a contract with the employer, and on January 15 it made a formal written demand for recognition. The employer on January 21 refused recognition, and the Union then filed charges with the Board alleging violation of Sections 8(a)(1), 8(a)(3) and 8(a)(5).

The Examiner, after the hearing, concluded that the 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) charges were proven, but that the 8(a)(5) charge was not proven. The Board adopted the Examiner's findings, conclusions and recommendations, except as to the 8(a)(5) charge. The Board concluded that the employer had violated Section 8(a)(5) and it ordered the employer to bargain with the Union if requested to do so.

The employees involved in the charges are Irene Burtniak and her daughter Lydia, Debra Romanchuk, and John Chorkawciw. All four were included as "regular part time employees" in the unit for which the Union claimed to be representative. Irene Burtniak had obtained signatures of the other three for Union authorization cards*fn4 in the period December 25 to December 31, 1969. Except for Irene Burtniak, the employees involved here were teen-age high school students.

The relevant testimony*fn5 concerns a statement made by Pylawka over the telephone on the afternoon of January 14, and his separate conversations with each of the four employees within the following three day period. The conversations took place after two Union agents, on January 14, with seven authorization cards, had called on Pylawka at the store. When they disclosed their purpose to discuss representing the employees, Pylawka referred them to Datzco, whose office as secretary of Self-Reliance was a few doors away. The employer's refusal to recognize the Union demand for recognition followed.

I.

The Examiner found that the employer violated § 8(a)(1) of the Act by coercive interrogation of John Chorkawciw and Debra Romanchuk concerning their Union activities. In this appeal, however, the employer directs his argument only to the interrogation of John Chorkawciw.

John Chorkawciw testified that on January 14 Pylawka asked him whether he had signed a Union card. John said he first denied signing, but then admitted signing, after Pylawka told him there was no use lying about it since Pylawka knew everyone who had signed. Pylawka in his testimony admitted talking to John about the Union, but denied saying he knew who had signed the cards.

In cross-examination John was confronted with an affidavit made before the hearing. In the affidavit he had made no mention of Pylawka's inquiry concerning others who had signed the cards. The affidavit, except for this omission, was generally consistent with John's credited testimony. And the statement that he first denied signing a card, before admitting it, is significant. An employer's question concerning union activities which inspires fear among employees is unlawful under the Act, and here the initial denial of signing a card is one of the factors from which the employer's coercion might reasonably be inferred. Bourne v. NLRB, 332 F.2d 47, 48 (2nd Cir. 1964); NLRB v. My Store, Inc., 345 F.2d 494, 497 (7th Cir. 1965). Furthermore, the inquiry was directed toward a high school student, sixteen years of age. We think the Examiner was not required to find that Pylawka's interrogation of John was a mere innocent question for the lawful purpose of learning whether the Union had a card majority, as the letters were held to be in this court's opinion in Lake City Foundary Co. v. NLRB, 432 F.2d 1162, 1175 (7th Cir. 1970).

In view of the context in which the inquiry was made, the Examiner did not err in finding an 8(a)(1) violation. Pylawka knew that Union activity was in progress. The finding that the interrogation was coercive is indicated by John's age and his initial denial that he signed the card, and is supported by the whole evidence.

II.

The Examiner found that Irene Burtniak, her daughter Lydia, and Debra Romanchuk were discharged for their Union activities, in violation of § 8(a)(3) of the Act. If their testimony was properly credited,*fn6 the finding must be ...


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