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National Labor Relations Board v. Beck Engraving Co.

August 20, 1975

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, PETITIONER
v.
BECK ENGRAVING CO., INC., RESPONDENT



ON APPLICATION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF AN ORDER OF THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD.

Biggs, Rosenn and Weis, Circuit Judges.

Author: Biggs

Opinion OF THE COURT

BIGGS, Circuit Judge.

The National Labor Relations Board petitions, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. Section 160(e), for enforcement of an order of August 26, 1974. In its decision and order,*fn1 the Board determined that Beck Engraving Co., Inc. (respondent) violated Section 8(a)(1) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act*fn2 by refusing to execute a collective bargaining agreement entered into by Philadelphia Printing Pressmen, Assistants and Offset Workers' Union No. 4 (Union) and Allied Printing Employer's Association (Association), a multi-employer bargaining unit. Respondent contends that it withdrew from the Association prior to agreement upon and execution of the collective bargaining contract. The Board found, and it argues here, that respondent's attempted withdrawal was untimely and ineffective.

The resolution of this controversy requires that we examine the nature of multi-employer bargaining units and the rules respecting withdrawals from those units. In so doing, we conclude that the Board's petition for enforcement must be denied.

I.

Beck Engraving Co., Inc. has participated in multi-employer bargaining for more than twenty years. During this time, respondent was a member of the Association or its predecessor, Allied Printing Employers' Association. The Association has represented Beck, as well as other employers in the Philadelphia area engaged in the printing industry, in collective bargaining with the Union. In turn, the Union has been the exclusive representative of the employees of the Association's members.

As a result of negotiations, members of the Association, including Beck, executed a collective bargaining agreement with the Union which extended from May 1, 1970 through April 30, 1973. Thirteen employers were signatories to this Agreement. On January 24, 1973, the Union sent the Association a letter signifying the Union's intention to amend the terms of the agreement following its expiration on April 30, 1973. The Union and the Association, then composed of eleven member-employers, commenced negotiations on the new contract on February 28, 1973. By the time the old agreement had expired, there had been twelve meetings but no consensus on a new contract.*fn3 Another ten meetings were conducted in May, 1973 after the agreement had expired.*fn4 The Union took no strike action during this period.

On June 1, 1973, the Union initiated a selective strike aimed solely at respondent. Three days later, on June 4, the Union, the Association, and Mid-City Press - a member of the Association - mutually agreed that Mid-City Press would withdraw from the multi-employer bargaining unit. On June 5, 1973, the Union struck two of the remaining ten members of the Association. It struck two more employers on the following day. In short, by June 6, 1973, the Union had struck one-half of the employers composing the Association. Though negotiations resumed on June 14, and additional conferences were held on June 26 and June 27 as well as July 2 and July 3, no agreement was reached.

At this juncture, respondent's seven union employees had been on strike for over a month. On July 8, 1973, one of these employees committed suicide.*fn5 Five days later, five of respondent's union employees submitted their resignations from the Union. They returned to work on July 14. The last union employee of Beck resigned from the Union on the same day.*fn6 He returned to work on July 16.

At that time, respondent's President, George D. Beck, mailed the Union a letter stating that respondent had withdrawn from the Association. The Association sent a similar letter to the Union on July 17, explaining that it was no longer authorized to represent respondent in collective bargaining with the Union. On July 18, the Association and Union agreed to terms covering the period from May 1, 1973 to April 30, 1976. The Union telegrammed Beck the next day to notify respondent that it neither consented to this withdrawal nor considered the withdrawal timely. Although the Association and Union subsequently executed the agreement, respondent has refused all entreaties to sign the contract.

II.

During initial proceedings before the Board, respondent contended that three circumstances, considered separately or integrally, justified its withdrawal from the multi-employer bargaining unit despite the fact that negotiations respecting a new contract were underway. First, Beck asserted that its withdrawal was sanctioned when all of its union employees resigned from the Union. Second, it argued that its withdrawal became permissible when Mid-City Press was allowed to withdraw from the Association. Finally, respondent contended that the Union's selective ...


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