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National Labor Relations Board v. Ara Services Inc.

as amended december 27 1983.: September 9, 1983.



Adams, Gibbons and Garth, Circuit Judges. Seitz, Chief Judge, Aldisert, Adams, Gibbons, Hunter, Weis, Garth, Higginbotham, Sloviter and Becker, Circuit Judges. Adams, Circuit Judge, concurring. Garth, Circuit Judge, dissenting, with whom Judges Hunter, Weis and Becker join.

Author: Gibbons


GIBBONS, Circuit Judge:

This case is before us on the application of the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) to enforce its order finding ARA Services, Inc. (ARA) violated section 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(5) (1976), by refusing to recognize and bargain with Local 1111, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, AFL-CIO (the Union). That Union has been certified as the bargaining representative for ARA employees in a representation proceeding conducted pursuant to section 9 of the Act. 29 U.S.C. § 159 (1976). The employer concedes the refusal to bargain, but urges that the Board erred in overruling its objections to the conduct of a Board supervised election. The case requires our consideration of the scope of this court's review of the Board's review of a regional director's report on objections to the conduct of elections, in particular a regional director's decision to issue such a report on the basis of an administrative investigation rather than a hearing. We conclude that the Board did not abuse its discretion when it overruled objections to the conduct of the election without requiring that the regional director conduct a hearing, and we enforce the Board's order directing the employer to bargain collectively.

I. Proceedings Before the NLRB

ARA is engaged in the industrial catering business at a number of locations, including the cafeteria and dining room of Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. On October 24, 1979 the Union, claiming majority support among ARA employees at that facility, sought recognition as their collective bargaining representative. ARA declined recognition, and on November 9 the Union filed a representation petition with the Board. The company stipulated to a consent election on January 11, 1980, and the stipulation defined the appropriate bargaining unit of 69 members. Of these, 58 cast ballots, with 30 voting for union representation. The regional director for Region 22 thereupon furnished to the parties a tally of the ballots. Within the 5 days permitted by 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(a) counsel for ARA filed with him the following unverified objections to the conduct of the election:

Objection No. 1

The Union, by its officers, agents, supporters and adherents threatened employees with physical harm, social ostracism, and other reprisals if they voted against union representation. The Union, acting through its officers, agents and adherents, chilled the atmosphere and interfered with the free exchange of ideas by advising employees that it was aware of which employees were talking to management representatives, thereby creating an atmosphere of coercion and tension which interfered with the conduct of the election.

Objection No. 2

Board Agent Bennett Muraskin failed to exercise his authority and to affirmatively act so as to make it clear to the employees that the election was being conducted by the Board and that the Board was in actual charge of the voting arrangements but allowed the Union's designated observer to appear to be running the election process, thereby interfering with the election, creating the impression that the Government was not in control and substantially affecting the outcome of the election.

These unverified objections resulted in an investigation by the regional director. See 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(c)(1).

During the course of the regional director's investigation ARA furnished unverified handwritten statements by three bargaining unit employees, Kevin Woodruff, Frank Smith and June Colavito. The statement of Woodruff was tendered in support of Objection No. 1, while that of Colavito was tendered in support of Objection No. 2. Smith's contains an additional charge.

Woodruff's statement, in relevant part, reads

Paul Reisner and Enzo Fusco, two pro-union spokesmen on two different occasions, before the voting took place, told me that I should go along with the Union. Enzo said he'd "beat me up" if I did not join the Union. Paul Resiner told me he'd "get back at me" if I didn't join the Union.


The Union man a big tall guy, who was here for the vote said there would be an all-out strike -- no food, no jobs, that the trucks would be prevented from delivering food and no one would be able to come to work. Fusco was present when the Union official made this comment. Fusco said to me that I better vote yes. Fusco and some of the others told me that if I didn't vote for the Union, nobody would be my friend or talk to me.

Woodruff's statement does not say whether or not he voted in the election. During the course of his investigation the regional director interviewed Woodruff, Fusco and Reisner. With respect to the charge that Woodruff was threatened with the loss of friends, his Report on Objections notes that Woodruff "admitted, however, that the second threat of losing friends was not taken seriously, due to the bantering nature of the statement, and further claimed to be unsure if Fusco himself was serious when making the statements imputed to him." When interviewed Woodruff apparently reiterated the charge that Fusco threatened to beat him up. He also enlarged upon the charge that Reisner, an assistant chef, threatened to get back at him, stating that this threat was made after Reisner had learned Woodruff had disclosed a union campaign letter to a supervisor.

During the course of the investigation both Fusco and Reisner were interviewed, and both denied making the alleged threats. The regional director did not, however, resolve this credibility issue. Instead, his report observes:

The investigation revealed that neither Fusco nor Reissner [sic] were identified as prominent Union partisans in the pre-election period, neither distributed or collected authorization cards or acted as election observers. Further, Reissner [sic] resigned prior to the date of the election and Fusco's employment terminated shortly thereafter. Employees other than both Fusco and Reissner [sic], have been identified as having established initial contact with Petitioner [Union], distributing, collecting and returning authorization cards on behalf of Petitioner [Union] and serving as active members of an organizing committee. Such overt activity on behalf of Petitioner [Union] by such other employees is generally not sufficient to establish agency thereby holding Petitioner [Union] responsible for the alleged wrongdoings of employees without more.*fn2 In this regard, Fusco and Reissner [sic] were not the prime Union adherents, and there is no evidence that the Petitioner [Union] was aware of any alleged misconduct attributed to them nor condoned or ratified any of their alleged actions. Further there is no evidence that any representative of Petitioner [Union] engaged in any other misconduct.

Woodruff's statement is the only evidence submitted by ARA in support of Objection No. 1. Except for the interlineation describing Reisner and Fusco as "two pro-union spokesmen" it contains no information about the connection of either to the Union or the organizing effort. Thus the facts respecting their status developed during the regional director's investigation is uncontradicted by any evidence submitted by ARA.

Colavito's statement is quoted in the margin.*fn1 It refers to no specific misconduct by either the Board agent supervising the election or the Union observer. In a conclusory manner it asserts that from her viewpoint as a company observer the Union observer acted so officiously as to give the impression the election was under Union control, and the Board agents failed to negate that impression. The regional director's investigation determined that the election notices printed by the Board and informing the voters that the election was under the Board's aegis, were duly and timely posted; that observers for the parties were instructed as to their duties and were issued and wore identifying badges during the election; that the Board agents also wore identifying badges; and that both observers scrupulously followed the Board agents' instructions. The Regional Director concluded that "no probative evidence was submitted, nor did the investigation disclose any evidence that the Petitioner's [Union's] observer engaged in any conduct that was intended to or had the effect of interfering with the employees' free choice in the election. . . ."

Smith's statement contains the charge that "several of the pro-Union girls told me that if I voted for the Union in the NLRB election, the Union would be giving me a birthday gift." This objection was not made within the time permitted by 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(a), but Board precedent permits the regional director to consider matters uncovered in the course of an investigation not specifically alleged in objections to an election. See Pure Chem Corp., 192 NLRB 681 (1971) (election set aside on basis of facts developed in regional director's investigation, not alleged in objection). The regional director in his investigation obtained an affidavit from Smith denying that the Union was to be the donor of the birthday gift, and admitting that the reference to such a belated gift (his birthday was some time past) was made facetiously. The regional director reported that the incident "does not raise a substantial issue which would warrant setting aside the election."

On February 21, 1978, the regional director recommended to the Board that ARA's objections be overruled in their entirety, and that the Union be certified as bargaining representative. Within the 10 days provided in 29 U.S.C. § 102.69(e), ARA filed 13 exceptions to his report which are quoted in the margin.*fn2a A three-member panel of the Board reviewed the record in light of ARA's exceptions and brief and adopted the regional director's findings and recommendations. It certified the Union as bargaining representative on April 3, 1980. ARA's motion for reconsideration was denied on May 1, 1980. Meanwhile on April 11, 1980, ARA informed the Union that it would not bargain collectively, and on April 17, 1980 the unfair labor charge was filed. The Board's general counsel promptly filed a complaint and moved for summary judgment. ARA's response relied on its exceptions to the regional director's report and motion for reconsideration. In granting the general counsel's motion on August 12, 1980, the Board noted:

All issues raised by Respondent [ARA] in this proceeding were or could have been litigated in the prior representation proceeding, and Respondent does not offer to adduce at a hearing any newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence, nor does it allege that any special circumstances exist herein which would require the Board to reexamine the decision made in the representation proceeding.

It therefore held that ARA's refusal to bargain violated section 158(a)(5).


ARA's Objection to Certification

ARA objects to enforcement on two grounds; that the Board should have directed the regional director to hold an evidentiary hearing, and that its certification was made without reviewing all the materials relied on by the regional director.

A. The Evidentiary Hearing Contention

Disposition of ARA's contention that it is entitled to a pre-certification evidentiary hearing requires an appreciation both of the statutory scheme governing representation proceedings, and of the standards developed by the Board respecting the atmosphere in which representation elections shall be conducted. Section 9 of the National Labor Relations Act governs selection of collective bargaining representatives. 29 U.S.C. § 159 (1976). It provides that employees may petition for certification of a bargaining representative. Upon the filing of such a petition an employer and a labor organization may, as was done in this case, enter into a consent election agreement. 29 U.S.C. § 159(c)(4); 29 C.F.R. § 102.62 (1981). If no consent agreement is made "the Board shall investigate such petition and if it has reasonable cause to believe that a question of representation affecting commerce exists shall provide for an appropriate hearing upon due notice. Such hearing may be conducted by an officer or employee of the regional office, who shall not make any recommendations with respect thereto." 29 U.S.C. § 159(c)(1). While the statute refers to a "hearing," it is clear that the purpose of that hearing is merely to gather information to facilitate the Board's investigation. "It shall be the duty of the hearing officer to inquire fully into all matters and issues necessary to obtain a full and complete record upon which the Board or the regional director may discharge their duties under section 9(c) of the act." 29 C.F.R. § 102.64(a) (1981) (emphasis in original). If a representation question exists the Board "shall direct an election by secret ballot and shall certify the results thereof." 29 U.S.C. § 159(c)(1). The Act contains no provision for direct judicial review. Congress made the deliberate choice of insulating those proceedings from direct judicial review so as to prevent attrition of union support caused by delay in the commencement of collective bargaining. Boire v. Greyhound Corp., 376 U.S. 473, 478-79, 84 S. Ct. 894, 11 L. Ed. 2d 849 (1964). Instead the Act provides:

Whenever an order of the Board made pursuant to section 160(c) of this title is based in whole or in part upon facts certified following an investigation pursuant to subsection (c) of this section and there is a petition for the enforcement or review of such order, such certification and the record of such investigation shall be included in the transcript of the entire record required to be filed under subsection (e) or (f) of section 160 of this title, and thereupon the decree of the court enforcing, modifying, or setting aside in whole or in part the order of the Board shall be made and entered upon the pleadings, testimony, and proceedings set forth in such transcript.

29 U.S.C. § 159(d). This is the only statutory provision dealing with judicial review of representation questions. It does not deal with election irregularities in a consent election. Investigations under section 9(c) are directed only to such issues as the substantiality of union support and the appropriateness of the bargaining unit; questions which are mooted by a consent election agreement. Such elections are conducted "in conformity with regulations and rules of decision of the Board." 29 U.S.C. § 159(c)(4).

Under the rules adopted by the Board as of 1981 for the conduct of elections, 29 C.F.R. § 102.69 (1981), "within 5 days after the tally of ballots has been furnished, any party may file with the regional director . . . objections to the conduct of the election or conduct affecting the results of the election, which shall contain a short statement of the reasons therefor." 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(a). If such objections are filed "the regional director shall, consistent with the provisions of § 102.69(d) investigate such objections" and prepare a report for the Board. 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(c). That report "may be on the basis of an administrative investigation or, if it appears to the regional director that substantial and material factual issues exist which, in the exercise of his reasonable discretion, he determines may more appropriately be resolved after a hearing, he shall issue and cause to be served on the parties a notice of hearing on said issues before a hearing officer." 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(d).*fn3

If the regional director exercises his discretion in favor of a hearing, that hearing "shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of §§ 102.64, 102.65, and 102.66, insofar as applicable, except that at the close of such hearing, the hearing officer shall, if directed by the regional director, prepare and cause to be served on the parties a report resolving questions of credibility and containing findings of fact and recommendations as to the disposition of the issues." 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(e). The cross-reference to sections 102.64, 65 and 66 is to the procedures for conducting a section 159(c) investigation. But whereas in a section 159(c) investigation the role of the hearing officer is merely to gather information, not to resolve credibility issues or make recommendations, the election procedure permits the hearing officer to do so if the regional director so elects. Thus a second element of discretion is added to the regional director's initial discretion with respect to holding a hearing.

The option of a hearing with respect to objections to the conduct of an election, then, is solely a creature of the Board's rulemaking authority. Nothing in the statute mandates it. Moreover in drafting 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(d) the Board was careful not to track the language of Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), authorizing summary judgment only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." Instead the Board provided that the regional director had discretion to determine whether or not a given issue of fact could be better resolved by an investigation rather than a hearing. That approach in drafting the rule dealing with challenges to the conduct of elections is consistent with the intention of Congress, which, in section 159(c), chose an inquisitorial model of procedure in the certification of bargaining representatives. In section 160, by contrast, Congress provided for a classic adversarial model of procedure in which any "proceeding shall, so far as practicable, be conducted in accordance with the rules of evidence applicable in the district courts of the United States under the rules of civil procedure for the district courts of the United States." 29 U.S.C. § 160(b) (1976).

Following an investigation the regional director must file a report to the Board, to which any party may file exceptions with a supporting brief. "In a case involving a consent election . . ., if exceptions are filed . . . and it appears to the Board that such exceptions do not raise substantial and material issues with respect to the conduct or results of the election, the Board may decide the matter forthwith upon the record, or may make other disposition of the case. If it appears to the Board that such exceptions raise substantial and material factual issues, the Board may direct the regional director or other agent of the Board to issue . . . a notice of hearing on said exceptions before a hearing officer." 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(f). As in the case of a hearing directed by a regional director, the Board has discretion to direct the hearing officer to resolve questions of credibility and make findings of fact and recommendations. Id. Thus there is superimposed upon the discretion vested in the regional directors a second level of discretion in the Board, to decide whether or not a hearing will facilitate its investigation into election irregularities.

Reasons for the distinction in procedural models between certification proceedings and unfair labor practice proceedings relate to the respective rights involved. If a majority in an appropriate bargaining unit chooses a collective bargaining representative the employer has no right to withhold recognition. Thus the essential dispute in a section 159 certification proceeding is between competing groups of employees, and the sole object of the proceeding is the safeguarding of majority free choice. An inquisitorial or investigatory model is well suited to that end. In an unfair labor practice proceeding, on the other hand, the employer, or a labor organization, is charged by the government with the violation of a statutory duty, and Congress obviously believed that the safeguards of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including Rule 56(c), were necessary. And in casting 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(d) in terms of discretion to conduct a hearing rather than an investigation, the Board chose simply to give the neutral regional directors an additional inquisitorial tool which they can use, in their discretion, to aid in making an informed decision as to whether, as between competing groups of employees, the election represents the voice of the majority. It made the same choice with respect to its consideration of exceptions to the regional director's report.

While section 159(d) makes express provision for limited judicial review of section 159(c) investigations, it makes no reference to the review of issues arising with respect to election procedures. Thus it is not clear on the face of the statute that judicial review was intended in a section 160 enforcement proceeding with respect to any issues other than those arising in a section 159(c) investigation. The Supreme Court cases construing section 159(d) all involve bargaining unit determinations, which present the most typical section 159(c) issue. NLRB v. Metropolitan Ins. Co., 380 U.S. 438, 13 L. Ed. 2d 951, 85 S. Ct. 1061 (1965); Boire v. Greyhound Corp., 376 U.S. 473, 11 L. Ed. 2d 849, 84 S. Ct. 894 (1964); Pittsburgh Glass Co. v. NLRB, 313 U.S. 146, 85 L. Ed. 1251, 61 S. Ct. 908 (1941). See also NLRB v. Sun Drug Co., 359 F.2d 408 (3d Cir. 1966); NLRB v. Capital Bakers, Inc., 351 F.2d 45 (3d Cir. 1965). Nevertheless this court, without considering the possible distinction between section 159(c) issues and election conduct issues, considered on the merits an objection that the Board erred in failing to hold a hearing about the atmosphere surrounding an election. In that case we held that "the Board is entitled to rely upon its expertise in reaching its conclusion" that a hearing was unnecessary. NLRB v. Clearfield Cheese Company, 322 F.2d 89, 94 (3d Cir. 1963). Since Clearfield Cheese we have assumed that we have authority from some source to review the Board's election dispute dispositions. See Season-all Industries, Inc. v. NLRB, 654 F.2d 932 (3d Cir. 1981) (election misconduct); Anchor Inns, Inc. v. NLRB, 644 F.2d 292 (3d Cir. 1981) (election misconduct); Zeiglers Refuse Collectors, Inc. v. NLRB, 639 F.2d 1000 (3d Cir. 1981) (election misconduct); NLRB v. Campbell Products Dept., 623 F.2d 876 (3d Cir. 1980) (election misconduct); NLRB v. Staiman Brothers, 466 F.2d 564 (3d Cir. 1972) (eligibility to vote); NLRB v. El-Ge Potato Chip Company, 427 F.2d 903 (3d Cir. 1970) (eligibility to vote). The voter eligibility cases, which involve membership in the bargaining unit, involve issues which would ordinarily arise in a section 159(c) proceeding, and thus have a rather strong claim for judicial review on the authority of section 159(d). Our statutory authority to review Board resolutions of electioneering misconduct disputes in unfair labor practice enforcement case is considerably less apparent. Nevertheless our undertaking to do so involves a not unreasonable interpretation of the interrelationship between section 159(c)(4) and section 160(f). In the absence of an objection by the Board to the exercise of that authority, we assume that some form of judicial review with respect to election misconduct is available. Our inquiry is narrower: what is the scope of such review when the Board decides not to require an evidentiary hearing.

To put that inquiry in focus we must consider the nature of the three charges on which ARA relies, and the substantive law to which they are addressed. The charges are of threats designed to produce a vote in favor of the union, and a promise designed to induce such a vote, and of inadequate supervision of the balloting. The first two involve allegedly coercive electioneering and may be considered together.

1. The Coercion Claim

All of the law with respect to the atmosphere to be maintained in an election campaign is Board-made under the lawmaking authority delegated to it by Congress. Thus the courts must ordinarily defer to the Board's policy judgments respecting the conduct which will be deemed so coercive as to interfere with employee free choice. Traditionally the Board has been reluctant to set aside elections because of misconduct by third parties, as compared with agents of an employer or a union. See, e.g., NLRB v. Aaron Brothers Corporation, 563 F.2d 409, 412 (9th Cir. 1977) (per curiam); NLRB v. Bostik Division, USM Corporation, 517 F.2d 971 (6th Cir. 1975); NLRB v. Staub Cleaners, Inc., 418 F.2d 1086, 1088 (2d Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 397 U.S. 1038, 25 L. Ed. 2d 649, 90 S. Ct. 1357 (1970). One reason for the Board's approach is that coercion by an employer or a labor organization in the choice of a bargaining representative is itself an unfair labor practice, prohibited by section 157(a)(1), (b)(1).*fn4 Another is that setting aside an election is an effective deterrent to misconduct by an employer or a union, while it is no deterrent to third parties. There is, therefore, no assurance that a second election will be held in an improved atmosphere. See NLRB v. Staub Cleaners, Inc. Another reason is that the Board, with judicial concurrence, has always accorded less weight to conduct which is attributable to neither the Union nor the employer. Threats of fellow employees are deemed to be less coercive than those of agents of a union or an employer who may have the wherewithal to effectuate them. Employees, moreover, are credited with the ability, from experience in the workplace, to give appropriate weight to possibly impulsive statements of fellow employees in the heat of a campaign. NLRB v. Sauk Valley Manufacturing Co., 486 F.2d 1127, 1131 n.5 (9th Cir. 1973); see also NLRB v. Aaron Brothers Corporation, 563 F.2d at 412; NLRB v. Bostik Division, USM Corporation, 517 F.2d at 975. Perhaps the most important reason for scrutinizing mere employee misconduct by a lower standard than is applied to misconduct by agents of an employer or a union is that expressions of temper and passion may reflect the reality that in a contested election friction is inevitable. Given the nature of inter-employee relations, the Board cannot realistically be expected to create a totally frictionless election environment. See Polymers, Inc. v. NLRB, 414 F.2d 999, 1004 (2d Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 396 U.S. 1010, 24 L. Ed. 2d 502, 90 S. Ct. 570 (1970); NLRB v. Monroe Automotive Equipment Co., 470 F.2d 1329, 1332 (5th Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 412 U.S. 928, 37 L. Ed. 2d 155, 93 S. Ct. 2752 (1973). Indeed, insisting that there be no give and take among employees on the subject of the desirability of collective bargaining would in itself be an undue interference with informed employee democracy. Thus the Board's policy of giving lesser weight to instances of third- party misconduct in an electioneering context bears a rational relationship to the underlying policies of the Act, and this court must accept the Board's judgment.

Accepting the Board's judgment in this respect narrows the inquiry still further, for in this instance the regional director's report assumes that Fusco and Reisner may have made the threats attributable to them, and that some of the girls in the plant promised Smith a belated birthday gift. Two questions remain: (1) was an evidentiary hearing required as to whether Fusco, Reisner, and the birthday girls were union agents; and (2) if not, were the threats or promises such as to require, as a matter of law that the election be set aside. If the second question were to be answered affirmatively a hearing might be appropriate to resolve outstanding credibility issues, since Fusco and Reisner denied the threats, and Smith recanted part of his unsworn statement.

ARA contends that the failure to hold an evidentiary hearing as to the agency status of Reisner, Fusco, and the birthday girls violated its due process right, which it equates with the standards for evidentiary hearings in Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). We reject that contention. The strict standard of Rule 56(c) is derived not from the due process clause of the fifth amendment, but from the seventh amendment. It could be changed with respect to proceedings in which jury trial is not required. What sort of factual investigation is required by due process depends upon a number of variables. See Friendly, Some Kind of Hearing, 123 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1267 (1975). Certainly the inquisitorial model of procedure selected by Congress for certification matters in section 159(c) of the Act satisfies due process even though the hearing officer, under 29 C.F.R. § 102.64(a) merely reports, without resolving credibility issues or making recommendations. A fortiori investigations of election irregularities, which are entirely creatures of Board regulation, do not require evidentiary hearings satisfying Rule 56(c) standards. The governmental policy being implemented is employee free choice of bargaining representative, not employer freedom from collective bargaining. Board supervision and Board investigation with no provision for a hearing on employee complaints would be perfectly consistent with due process for employers. There are instances in which due process requires that an agency afford an adversarial mode of procedure and an evidentiary hearing, in preference to an ex parte inquisitorial process. Determining the basic fairness of an election, however, is not such an instance. At most what we are dealing with in this case is non-constitutional judge-made administrative law with respect to agency conduct, specifically the rule that an agency must generally apply its own rules in a manner that is not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion.

There was no such abuse here. The Board's rule on election challenges directs the regional director to refer an election challenge to a hearing officer only if he concludes that it raises "substantial and material factual issues." The only material factual issue raised by the statements of Woodruff and Smith was the status of Reisner, Fusco, and the birthday girls as agents of the union. The only "evidence" of such agency status is the interlineation in Woodruff's statement of the words "two pro-union spokesmen" and Smith's attribution of the promise of a birthday gift to "several of the pro union girls." The regional director's ex parte investigation produced no evidence of agency status of these persons. Even if the Board's rules had adopted the "no genuine issue of material fact" standard of Rule 56(c), it is questionable whether ARA, by furnishing the statements of Woodruff and Smith, raised such an issue as to agency status. But certainly it was not an abuse of discretion for the regional director to conclude that no "substantial and material factual issue" as to that status was raised. The Board, when it reviewed the regional director's report and recommendation, was required to consider whether ARA's exceptions raised substantial and material factual issues. An examination of them discloses that they add nothing to what the regional director had before him. Thus its decision to decide the certification question on the record made by the regional director cannot be held to be an abuse of discretion.

Since the regional director and the Board properly treated the allegedly coercive statements as third-party statements, we could deny enforcement only if we believed that assuming they were made they required setting aside the election. Patently the facetious promise by the birthday girls is a trivial matter. As to the threats of Reisner and Fusco, we have recognized that threats by third parties can create such an atmosphere of intimidation and coercion that a fair election cannot be held. Zeiglers Refuse Collectors, Inc. v. NLRB, 639 F.2d 1000 (3d Cir. 1981). In the Zeigler case, however, there was a hearing at the regional director level, and as authorized by 29 C.F.R. § 102.69(e), the hearing officer made credibility determinations. That officer, having heard the witnesses, concluded that there was a general atmosphere of fear and intimidation. The Board, however, with no evidentiary support, rejected the credibility determinations and factual findings which its own regulations authorized the hearing officer to make. Clearly Zeiglers involved an abuse of discretion by the Board in rejecting the hearing officer's findings without explanation or evidentiary support. In this instance, however, both the regional director and the Board ruled that if the threats were made they had no material effect on the election. Woodruff, we note, did not allege that he was influenced by the threats. Considering that the law respecting electioneering atmosphere is Board-made law, ...

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