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Farmers Energy Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board

decided: March 28, 1984.


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

Bauer, Wood, and Eschbach, Circuit Judges.

Author: Bauer

BAUER, Circuit Judge.

The employer-petitioner, Farmers Energy Corporation (Farmers Energy or the Company), requests review of a National Labor Relations Board decision that it violated Section 8(a)(1), (2), and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 158(a)(1)-(3) (1974). The case against Farmers Energy arose when Mary Blackard, a Company employee, charged that the Company interfered with her choice of a union. A regional director for the Board consolidated Blackard's case with another against the Company and issued a complaint. The administrative law judge ruled against Farmers Energy. Both the General Counsel and Farmers Energy excepted to the judge's rulings. The Board adopted the General Counsel's arguments and ordered Farmers Energy to cease recognizing the union it had assisted. Farmers Energy now argues that the Board incorrectly considered events occurring after the union was recognized when the Board ruled that Farmers Energy unlawfully recognized the union. Farmers Energy further argues that the evidence does not support either the Board's findings or the remedy it imposed. We believe that the Board ruled correctly, and thus grant enforcement of its order.


A. Recognition of the CIU

The administrative law judge found the following facts.*fn1 Farmers Energy, an Illinois corporation employing approximately forty persons, manufactures dog food. In October 1980, it began remodeling its facilities so it also could produce ethyl alcohol. The Teamsters Union picketed the plant for about one week during the conversion effort. Several months later, Farmers Energy's operations manager, Herb Vendig, announced at a meeting of all employees that the Teamster's Union picket line had been to protest use of non-union construction workers, and not to organize Farmers Energy employees.

Soon thereafter, in April 1981, Vendig met with Ed Brechner, his assistant superintendent, to discuss plans to install a union at the Company. Vendig told Brechner that Vendig could set up the Congress of Independent Unions, Solar Energy Workers, Local 1 (the CIU or the Union) in any manner he wished. Vendig also stated that he wanted Brechner to represent the CIU.

Vendig met again with Brechner on April 9. He told Brechner that the CIU wanted a different representative because Brechner was a Company supervisor. Vendig said that Roy Rogers, one of the Company's carpenters, would lead the CIU organizing campaign. Vendig then told Brechner to announce a noontime employees' meeting for that day.

The meeting started immediately after the employees' lunch break. Neither Vendig nor Brechner attended. Rogers was introduced at the meeting as the CIU employee representative. Rogers announced that he had arranged a meeting that night with a CIU representative at a motel. When some employees balked at traveling to a motel for the meeting, Rogers agreed to set up the meeting at the plant if possible.

That evening after work, the employees met with CIU National President Truman Davis who stated that the CIU could win for them a fifty-cent raise from Farmers Energy. Several days later, the employees met again with Davis and, between April 12 and April 23, a majority of them signed CIU membership applications. Additionally, the employees formed a negotiating committee composed of one employee from each department of the Company's operation.

Davis soon called Vendig to demand Company recognition of the CIU. Vendig referred Davis to the Company's labor lawyer, John Harris; together they agreed to submit the authorization cards to a neutral third party for verification. After verification, Farmers Energy recognized the CIU and began collective bargaining on April 23.

The administrative law judge viewed Vendig's initial introduction of Rogers to the CIU as an unlawful interference in the rights of employees to choose their own representatives under Section 8(a)(1) and (2). The judge ruled, however, that the General Counsel failed to prove that an uncoerced majority of employees had not selected the CIU, and that Farmers Energy did not dominate the CIU. The judge focused ...

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