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National Labor Relations Board v. Bliss and Laughlin Steel Co.

February 5, 1985


Petition for Enforcement of an Order of The National Labor Relations Board

Author: Eschbach

Before CUDAHY, EDWARDS,*fn* and ESCHBACH, Circuit Judges.

ESCHBACH, Circuit Judge. In this petition for the enforcement of an order of the National Labor Relations Board ("Board"), respondent Bliss and Laughlin Steel Co., Inc. ("B&L") challenges the Board's finding that B&L violated section 8(a)(1), (3), and (4) of the National Labor Relations Act ("Act"), 29 U.S.C. ยง 158(a)(1), (3) and (4), in discharging two of its employees, Steven Hughes Michael Nameche. For the reasons stated below, we grant the Board's petition for enforcement of its order.


A. Events Leading up the the Discharges

B&L maintains a place of business ("plant") in Batavia, Illinois, that is engaged in the manufacture of cold finished steel bars. At the time of the discharges in question, the plant employed about fifteen production employees-including three working foremen-in three departments, each of which was under the supervision of a working foreman.

Thomas Emerick was the plant superintendent at the time of the discharges and had held that position since April 1980. From April 1980 to October of that year, Emerick's superior was plant manager Viewig. Viewig left the Batavia facility in the fall of 1980. Between October 1980 and May 1981, Kenneth Oakes, the administrative manager and controller, assisted Emerick in the operation and administration of the plant.

Mike Nameche, the first employee hired by B&L when the plant was opened in 1977, was a long-time union activist and was deeply involved in the two attempts, in 1978 and 1979, of Local 200 of the Allied Crafts Division of the United Textile Workers of America to obtain representation at the plant. Nameche acted as an observer for the union in both elections. The 1978 election was set aside, B.L.K. Steel, Inc., 245 N.L.R.B. 1347 (1979), and Local 200 did not prevail in the 1979 election. Relations between B&L and Nameche were not always amicable. In the previous proceeding, for example, the Board found that B&L had engaged in a number of unfair labor practices during the Local 200 campaign, which included a threat of reprisal, i.e., "discipline or discharge ... for tardiness," to Nameche for his union activities. Id., 245 N.L.R.B at 1352.

In developing a response to the organizational efforts of its employees, B & L procured the services of West Coast Industrial Relations Association ("WCIRA"). This firm, as an agent of B&L, was also found in the prior Board decision to have engaged in unfair labor practices. See id. A number of letters from WCIRA were introduced in the instant proceedings. Correspondence under the date of August 27, 1979, and addressed to Frank Aughnay, a senior vice-president of operations at B&L, recommended the following course of action:

Consider offering a worker foreman job to Mike Nameche, the union's organizer, so as to attach him to management objectives ..., thereby decreasing his ability to campaign against the company and forcing him to place supervisory type pressure on his fellow union adherents.

A second letter, dated October 25, 1979 and addressed to then plant manager Viewig, states:

Our proposed remedy is simple: ... after the election objections and challenged ballots are resolved, use the work rules in the handbook, and built cases on, and terminate the following employees: [Nameche and others] ... . These workers should be replaced with non-union prone employees.

This letter also suggested that then acting plant supervisor Ramm be replaced "if a stronger production manager can be found or provide him with leadership training if he can't be replaced." Ramm was in fact demoted in April 1980 and was replaced by Emerick.

A third letter, dated January 7, 1980, and addressed to Aughnay, stated;

Unfortunately, as long as Mike Namesch [sic] is employed at [B&L], local management there must devote an inordinate amount of time and attention to employee relations matters.

According to Ramm, WCIRA participated in the preparation of the employee handbook. Ramm also referred to rumors at the plant concerning a "his list," allegedly drawn up by WCIRA, that singled out certain union supporters, including Nameche, for termination. ...

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