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National Labor Relations Board v. Ajax Tool Works

decided*fn*: August 2, 1983.


Application for Enforcement of an Order of the National Labor Relations Board.

Bauer, Wood, and Eschbach, Circuit Judges.

Author: Per Curiam

This application for enforcement of the Board's order raises two issues: (1) whether employee Piotrowski was a supervisor within the meaning of section 2(11) of the National Labor Relations Act; and (2) whether Piotrowski and Shea, an admitted supervisor, violated section 8(a)(1) of the Act by unlawfully interrogating employees concerning their union activities. For the following reasons, we grant enforcement of the Board's order.



The following factual findings of the ALJ, which we conclude are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, were adopted by the Board on review. Respondent, Ajax Tool Works, Inc., is an Illinois corporation engaged in the business of manufacturing chisels. In April, May, and June of 1980, the night shift at respondent's Franklin Park plant consisted of approximately 30 hourly-paid employees working from 4:00 P.M. to 1:30 A.M. in two departments, the machine shop and the forge shop. The night shift comprised approximately one-third of respondent's total work force.

David Shea, foreman of the forge shop, and Joe Capriatti, foreman of the machine shop, both admitted supervisors, worked on the day shift, and usually left the plant by 5:00 P.M., leaving Peter Piotrowski as the single "leadman" on the night shift for the two departments. Piotrowski was knowledgeable in the operation of the plant and its machinery, especially the machine shop. He was familiar with the entire line of chisels produced by the company, and knew all of the machine settings and the adjustments necessary to produce each variety.

Piotrowski was the highest paid hourly-rated employee in the plant. All of his superiors were salaried. He reported for work daily at 3:00 P.M., one hour before the remaining employees on the night shift. Between 3:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M., Shea and Capriatti briefed him on the night shift production requirements. They generally left Piotrowski to implement their instructions. He assigned night shift employees to particular tasks on particular machines in a manner consistent with Shea's and Capriatti's instructions. With respect to the machine shop, this meant that Piotrowski decided which of the 18 employees would work on which machine; with respect to the forge shop, this decision apparently was made by foreman Shea, to be implemented by Piotrowski.*fn1

When the night shift employees arrived at work, they checked with Piotrowski as to which tasks they were to perform because he frequently changed their assignments. Although they usually worked on the same machine as the previous day, at times they were reassigned to another machine, and often they were given a new task on the same machine. When an employee had finished a specific task during the shift, Piotrowski reassigned him to another. When necessary, Piotrowski was expected to "set up" machines for the production run. He also made adjustments in the settings as needed, and at times attempted to repair machines broken on the night shift. When a machine became dysfunctional, he assigned the operator to another machine or task. When not performing these enumerated duties, Piotrowski sat at his desk and read.

Piotrowski had no authority to hire or fire employees on his own initiative; he was, however, responsible for seeing that production requirements and quality standards were met, and that discipline was maintained. On one occasion, employee Villegas handled an order incorrectly; Piotrowski rejected it and required Villegas to do it again. On another occasion, Piotrowski ordered Villegas to refrain from attempting to repair a machine, stating that it was not his job to do so. Piotrowski enforced the ten minute limit on coffee breaks, and generally ensured that working time was spent working. Piotrowski's orders generally were obeyed, presumably because they were backed by a degree of power. On one occasion, he sent an employee home, with consequent loss of pay, for reading a novel in the washroom. On another occasion, Piotrowski argued with an employee and threatened to have him fired. The employee subsequently was discharged.*fn2

On several occasions, Piotrowski sent home men who were too intoxicated to work safely; he was authorized by respondent to do so. Piotrowski had instructions to telephone the plant manager or company president whenever an emergency arose that he could not handle; this did not occur frequently. The employees who testified viewed Piotrowski as the equivalent of a supervisor. Piotrowski identified his position as that of "supervisor" of the night shift when first questioned on his company status, and according to his testimony, he viewed himself as the individual "in charge."

If an employee failed to punch a time card, Piotrowski initialled the card to vouch for the time. In addition, employees were required to report to him if they wanted time off. Piotrowski was the sole night shift employee who possessed keys to the plant and to a desk wherein valuable company property was stored. He was responsible for locking the plant each night after all employees had left.

At appropriate times, Piotrowski testified, he discussed with the foremen whether particular employees should receive raises, and he made recommendations. Two company witnesses testified that he did not. The ALJ noted that the conflicting testimony probably stemmed from different conceptions of the term "recommendation," respondent's witnesses apparently contending that formal recommendations were not elicited or received, and Piotrowski contending that the foremen asked his opinion. The ALJ found obvious the fact that the company would have been unable to make informed decisions on prospective raises absent an evaluation by the only individual well-informed on night shift employees' attitudes and conduct, factors admittedly considered.

On the basis of these facts, the ALJ concluded that Piotrowski was a supervisor within the meaning of ยง 2(11) of the National Labor Relations Act, with authority to direct responsibly the work of other employees. Noting that although many of Piotrowski's duties were routine in nature, and some were clearly those of a skilled employee rather than a supervisor, the ALJ stressed that Piotrowski was solely responsible for the plant on the night shift, for directing the work of the 30 night shift employees, for meeting shift production requirements, for meeting quality standards, and for maintaining discipline. The ...

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