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National Labor Relations Board, v. Alwin Manufacturing Co. Inc.

March 4, 1996






On Application for Enforcement of an Order of the National Labor Relations Board No. 30-CA-11899

Before POSNER, Chief Judge, and KANNE and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.

DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judge.



Few topics are more central to the relationship between an employer and its union-represented employees than vacation policy and performance expectations. Thus, it should not have been surprising to the Alwin Manufacturing Company (Alwin, or the Company) when the United Steelworkers (the Union) complained that its unilateral changes in vacation provisions and minimum production requirements, imposed while a collective bargaining agreement was in force, violated secs. 8(a)(1) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). An administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found in favor of the Union; the NLRB affirmed his decision. When the Company continued to resist implementation of the remedies ordered by the Board, the Board petitioned this Court for enforcement of its Order. Finding no merit in the Company's arguments against the Board's petition, we order the Board's decision enforced.


The background of this case is relatively straightforward. Alwin is a manufacturer and seller of paper towel dispensers and related products. The Union represents the production and maintenance employees at Alwin's plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Since the early 1960s, labor relations at the plant have been governed by a collective bargaining agreement. The agreement at issue in this case covered the period from March 1, 1991, through February 28, 1994.

In June of 1992, Glen Thiede, the Company's Director of Manufacturing, informed members of the Union's grievance committee that Alwin wished to modify the vacation scheduling provisions of the existing collective bargaining agreement. John Tilly, a member of the Union's grievance committee, responded with a written proposal setting forth possible modifications. A few days later, the Company came back with a memorandum detailing a plan under which the number of employees who could take vacation on any given day would be limited, and the scheduling of vacations would be done on a "first come, first served" basis rather than by seniority. After reviewing that proposal, the Union committee informed Alwin that it was unacceptable.

The very next day, on June 26, 1992, Alwin presented the Union with a revised plan that was identical to the rejected one except for the inclusion of an additional clause providing that vacation requests received more than three weeks in advance would be granted on a "first come, first served" basis only where a financial commitment had been made. Again, the Union committee informed the Company that they could not accept the proposal, and that in any event, all changes had to be approved by the union membership. Immediately after the June 26 meeting, Alwin unilaterally implemented its last offer.

Three months later, on September 21, 1992, Alwin acted again. At a meeting with the grievance committee that day, Thiede informed the Union that the Company was instituting minimum production standards for some bargaining unit jobs, which would take effect the very next day. Employees who did not meet these new requirements would be subject to discipline. Thiede followed up by informing the employees themselves of the new requirements on September 22. Shortly thereafter, the Company in fact began to subject employees to discipline for failing to meet the minimum production standards.


The Union filed its unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB on October 8, 1992, alleging that Alwin violated secs. 8(a)(1) and (5) of the NLRA by unilaterally implementing first the new vacation scheduling procedure and then the new minimum production standards. After a trial in early 1993, Administrative Law Judge Richard J. Skully issued his opinion on April 27, 1994. As noted above, he found that Alwin had violated the NLRA by taking each of the actions at issue without prior notice to, and bargaining with, the Union. He ordered the Company to cease and desist from making unilateral mid-term changes in the collective bargaining agreement; to rescind the minimum production standards and the changes in vacation policy; to expunge all evidence of discipline from employee records related to any failure to meet the minimum production standards; to make those employees whole; and, upon request, to bargain with the Union. By order dated July 28, 1994, the NLRB affirmed Judge Skully's rulings, findings, and conclusions, and adopted his recommended Order.


Before this Court, Alwin raises two principal arguments in opposition to the Board's petition for enforcement. First, it asserts an enforcement order would be a pointless act, because the issue of the Company's compliance with the July 28, 1994 Order is currently before another administrative law judge in the subsequently filed Case No. 30-CA-21556. Since the NLRB itself does not know whether the Company complied, Alwin argues, this action is premature. In addition, or in the alternative, Alwin asserts that the Board is not entitled to enforcement because there is no reasonable expectation that the wrong will be repeated. The latter argument, although developed in the brief under the "prematurity/mootness" point, relates as well to Alwin's second principal argument: enforcement would be inequitable under the circumstances here. Alwin claims that it has been subjected to "vexatious and multiplicative" litigation before the Board, and that the Board has filed this petition in a ...

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