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Roper Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board

decided: July 15, 1983.


Petition for Review and Cross-Application for Enforcement of an Order of the National Labor Relations Board.

Cummings, Chief Judge, Pell, Circuit Judge, and Brown, Senior Circuit Judge.*fn*

Author: Pell

PELL, Circuit Judge.

In this appeal petitioner Roper Corporation seeks review of an order of the National Labor Relations Board (Board), which found that Roper violated sections 8(a)(1) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 151 et seq. The Board cross-petitions for enforcement of its order.

I. Facts

Roper has its corporate headquarters in Illinois and two production facilities in Maryland. Prior to September, 1979, Roper used a merit review system to determine wage rates for all non-bargaining unit employees. The Baltimore facility employed eight security guards who were covered by the merit review system. Under this system, guards whose salaries fell below the midpoint of their labor grade were reviewed every six months, while guards who earned above the midpoint were reviewed once a year. The guards received raises depending upon the quality of their work. Although the raises were minimal or nonexistent on some occasions, the average raise ranged from 16 cents to 25 cents an hour.

A representative election was conducted in August, 1979, after which the Board certified the International Union, United Plant Guard Workers of America (Union) as the bargaining representative of the guards. The Union was certified during September, and negotiations with Roper began in October. After extended negotiations, the parties signed a contract in June, 1980.

In the wake of the Union's certification, Roper decided to abandon the merit wage reviews for the guards. Roper based this decision partly upon the advice of counsel, who thought that merit raises during contract negotiations would run afoul of the Act, and partly upon the Union's expressed antipathy toward merit raises. There is considerable conflict as to when and how Roper informed the Union of this change in working conditions.

None of the guards was due a merit raise until February. During February, Andrew Eisner, Roper's Manager of Safety and Security, told several guards that he could not give them raises while Roper and the Union were negotiating the contract. Eisner allegedly also told one guard that they had "a beautiful deal," but "blew it by getting the Union in." Eisner denied saying this, but we must credit the finding of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that Eisner did in fact make this statement.

II. Decision of the ALJ

An employee of Roper filed a charge with the Board, which eventually led to a formal complaint against the company. The complaint charged that Roper failed to bargain in good faith with the Union and coerced employees concerning the exercise of their rights by informing them that they lost benefits when they selected the Union as their bargaining representative. An ALJ conducted an evidentiary hearing and concluded that Roper was guilty of both charges.

Three guards appeared at the hearing and testified about Eisner's statements. In addition, Dana Schubert, former Director of Industrial Relations for Roper, and Eisner each testified about the contract negotiations with the Union. Schubert and Eisner represented Roper during the negotiations, while Max McDermott and one of the guards, Shan Carroll, represented the Union. Another guard, Luther Hempe, sat in on the final two negotiation sessions. Of the three men who represented the Union, only Hempe appeared at the hearing. McDermott died prior to the hearing, but General Counsel for the Board offered no reason to explain Carroll's absence.

Schubert testified that he informed McDermott during the early negotiation sessions that Roper would not conduct any more merit reviews, including those scheduled for February. Schubert also testified that McDermott was firmly against continuation of merit raises in the contract, a contention borne out by the exclusion of merit reviews in the final contract. Eisner confirmed that McDermott opposed merit raises, but did not know whether Schubert informed McDermott that no reviews would be conducted during the negotiations.

The ALJ recognized that the General Counsel had failed to present any witnesses to support the Board's contention that the company did not inform the Union that scheduled reviews were to be cancelled. The ALJ did not consider the Board's failure to produce Carroll as indicative of what Carroll's testimony might be, but did discredit Schubert and Eisner because "they seemed less than candid and forthright." Having discredited all of the evidence in Roper's favor, the ALJ found that it was "clear that at no time during the negotiations did Respondent notify the Union that it had discontinued the merit increase system." Based upon this factual premise, the ALJ found that Roper failed ...

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