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National Labor Relations Board v. Lyon & Ryan Ford Inc.

decided: April 24, 1981.

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, PETITIONER,
v.
LYON & RYAN FORD, INC., RESPONDENT .



Petition for Enforcement of and Order of the National Labor Relations Board

Before Wood and Cudahy, Circuit Judges, and Marovitz, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Cudahy

The National Labor Relations Board has petitioned this court pursuant to Section 10(e) of the National Labor Relations Act for enforcement of an order issued against respondent, Lyon & Ryan Ford, Inc., (the "Company") for violations of Sections 8(a)(5), 8(a)(3) and 8(a)(1) of the Act. See 29 U.S.C. § 160(e), § 158(a) (1979). In its order, the Board adopted the findings and recommendations of an Administrative Law Judge*fn1 and concluded that respondent had recognized Automobile Mechanics Local 701, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO (the "Union") as the employees' bargaining representative. According to the Board, the Company later withdrew this recognition by demanding a "federal election" and refused to bargain with the Union in violation of Section 8(a)(5) of the Act. The Board further found that the employees' strike in response to the Company's withdrawal of recognition was an unfair labor practice strike, and that the Company's action in discharging six employees because of their involvement in that strike violated Sections 8(a)(3) and 8(a)(1). Finally, the Board determined that a Company executive's conversations with two employees concerning their feelings about the Union constituted impermissible interrogation and also violated the provisions of Section 8(a)(1). The order which the Board seeks to enforce requires the Company to bargain with the Union on request, to reinstate the six discharged employees with backpay and to cease and desist from engaging in further violations of the National Labor Relations Act. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the Board's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, and therefore, we grant enforcement of the Board's order.

I.

THE FACTS

Lyon & Ryan Ford, Inc. is a new and used car dealership located in Antioch, Illinois, which employs workers in various capacities to prepare and service the cars it sells. On August 17, 1978, a representative of the Union met with certain Company employees to discuss the benefits of unionization. Several days later at a second meeting ten Company employees signed union authorization cards and applications for union membership.*fn2

These cards were presented to Company President Larry Ryan by Union business representatives Donald Carlson and Ed Vaughn at an impromptu meeting on August 24, 1979. Carlson and Vaughn went to Ryan's office with a copy of a letter, allegedly in the mail, which advised the Company that a majority of its "mechanics, bodymen, painters, semi-skilled and apprentices" had designated the Union as their collective bargaining agent. The letter demanded formal recognition of the Union and commencement of negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement.

During the ensuing discussion with Ryan, Carlson clarified the composition of the proposed bargaining unit. Carlson stated that the Union traditionally represented only those employees "who turn wrenches, not anybody else." In the Ryan dealership, "the parts men, the chasers, the parts chasers, the car washers and the hikers" would be excluded, leaving approximately twelve to fourteen employees in the unit represented by the Union. Ryan personally examined each of the eleven signed union authorization cards and membership applications. He also inspected a copy of the recently expired master contract for the Chicago area and a voting information sheet which contained the changes to be included in the new, but then unpublished, master contract. Carlson briefly explained the general terms of the contract and answered Ryan's specific questions on the cost of welfare and pension provisions and the Union's insurance coverage. Before concluding the meeting, Carlson reviewed the proposed wage scale with Ryan and pointed out that the Union and the Company were not far apart on this issue. Carlson asked for another meeting and Ryan agreed.

The second meeting between representatives of the Union and the Company occurred four days later on August 28, 1978. Carlson, Vaughn, Larry Ryan and his son, Patrick, who served as general manager for the dealership, were in attendance. The discussion, once again, centered on the terms of the master contract. Larry Ryan stated that the Company's present vacation policy was better than the Union's contractual provision on the subject, but Carlson replied that he would take the good with the bad and go with a straight "701 Contract."

The focus of the meeting then shifted to the job classification of specific employees. All but two of the employees were classified as mechanics, semi-skilled or apprentices. The two exceptions were Gary Wilke, whom Larry Ryan categorized as a detailer, and Mark Mantsch, a wash boy, who had been doing mechanical work under the supervision of another employee. Carlson subsequently sorted through the authorization cards and placed the cards of five employees in a pile identified as journeymen. The cards of four other employees were placed in a separate pile labeled semi-skilled and apprentices. A third pile was created for the cards of Wilke and Mantsch. Carlson commented that there was a "problem" with respect to the manner in which these individuals would be classified within the unit or whether they would be included in the unit at all. The parties then discussed the balance required between mechanics, semi-skilled and apprentices, and Carlson gave examples of the situation at other dealers. Carlson requested a third meeting to resolve the Wilke-Mantsch classification question and was then given permission to go into the shop and talk to some of the employees.*fn3

Later that day, Patrick Ryan approached employee Anthony Hynous at his work station and asked about the "circumstances with the Union." Hynous replied that the employees felt the Union could obtain better benefits for them. Ryan asked if more money would do, and Hynous indicated that the employees would have to evaluate that. Ryan left with the comment that "he guessed he had some talking to do."

Similarly, on August 29th, the younger Ryan called employee Michael Stern into his office and asked him what he thought about the Union. Stern answered that it sounded good, and that the Union was something the employees really wanted. Ryan then asked if money would make a difference, and Stern responded that he really didn't know.

When Carlson and Vaughn arrived for the third scheduled meeting with the Company on September 1, 1978, Larry Ryan called for a "federal election." Carlson responded that he was very disappointed with the decision since everything had been going along fine with the exception of two employees. He announced that the Union didn't have the time or the need for an election and if a contract was not signed by September 12th, "there would be a work stoppage." Carlson and Vaughn then informed two unit employees that the Company wanted an election and that the employees should be prepared to strike if a contract had not been signed by September 12th.

Eleven Company employees walked off the job on September 12, 1978, and began picketing the dealership. Six of those employees received a copy of the following form letter from the Company at various times during the month of October:

This letter is to inform you that effective ________, we have hired an individual who will replace you on our work force. Accordingly, it will not be our intention to recall you to work at the conclusion of our labor dispute inasmuch as the new employee will be taking your place.

246 NLRB at 4.*fn4 The strike was still in effect on April 11, 1979, when an Administrative Law Judge conducted a hearing in this case.

From these facts, the ALJ concluded that the Union represented a majority of the employees in an appropriate unit and had satisfactorily demonstrated that status to Company President Larry Ryan, who recognized the Union as bargaining representative for unit employees on August 24, 1978. The ALJ further found that the Company had engaged in discussions and negotiations with the Union over terms of the proposed contract on that date and on other occasions but subsequently violated Section 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act by withdrawing recognition and refusing to bargain. In addition, the ALJ found that the strike which began on September 12, 1978, resulted directly from the Company's withdrawal of recognition and was thus an unfair labor practice strike. By discriminatorily discharging six employees for their involvement in that ...


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