In 1990, some employees at Hudson’s Department Store at the Westland Mall in Westland, Michigan, began an effort to organize and bring in the UAW. On May 11, 1990, an authorized ballot of eligible workers took place; 274 votes were cast for the union and 179 against. Hudson immediately filed timely objections with the NLRB, contending that the outcome of the election was tainted by a letter sent to all employees on May 8, 1990, three days before the election. The NLRB overruled Hudson’s objections and certified the UAW as the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit. Hudson refused to negotiate with the UAW. The UAW subsequently alleged Hudson’s Department Store with violating unfair labor practice charge Section 8(a) (5) and (1) of the NLRA.
Hudson then moved to reopen the record on allegations of newly discovered evidence that forged authorization cards were used, prior to the election, to generate additional support for the union. Hudson petitioned to Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Ladwig for review after the Board’s refusal to reopen the record. At this hearing, Hudson attempted to establish its forged cards allegations primarily through the testimony of John Madgwick, a former UAW supporter. At the conclusion of the hearing, ALJ Ladwig reaffirmed the NLRB’s order to bargain.
Dayton Hudson Department Store Company versus United Automobile Workers (UAW) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) In an effort to build and designate support for a union, an employee must sign a legally binding document known as an authorization card. Collecting singed authorization cards is a crucial part of the union organizing process because the cards demonstrate the interest in unionization to three important players: union organizers, the employer, and if necessary the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) (Budd, 2010, p.189). If the union gets cards signed by over 50% of the employees, it may request of the employer to recognize the union as the bargaining agent of its employees. Once the employer recognizes the union’s majority status, then a contract or a collective bargaining agreement must be negotiated with the union.
Employers may use different pro- company campaign tactics to try to influence individual voting decisions such as sending letters, emails, and holding captive audience meetings. During a captive audience meeting, employees are required to attend the group meeting where management has a one-way conversation with them about the evils of unionism. These meetings occur during working hours because the employer is then best able to exert its economic authority over employees and to play on fears of job loss if employees vote for the union (Secunda, 2010). Such meetings are legal as long as they are not within 24 hours of the election.
Employer campaigning is more refined, widespread, and expensive than union campaigning. Unions use different tactics to establish personal relationships with the employees such as making house calls, holding rallies and small group meetings, and distributing flyers and letters in the mail.
It is illegal for an employer or a union to threaten or coerce any employee to sign a union authorization card, or to distort the purpose of the card. For example, it is unlawful for employers to use union avoidance techniques such as using threats, lies, promises, and firings. Marty Levitt, a former union buster, admitted to using these fear and divide-and-conquer techniques to prevent unions from winning representation elections (Levitt, 1993, pp.2-4). There is also union propaganda that employees should watch out for. Examples include making false statements, unfounded allegations against the employer, and making threats to employees. If union threats or harassments distort employee free choice, the election results can be invalidated and a new election held (Budd, 2010, 209).
The NLRB ensures that both the employers and unions follow the law pertaining to workers right to join or not join a union. Their principal functions include identifying unfair labor practices committed by either employers or unions, and conducting elections to determine whether a majority of employees wish to be represented by a union. The NLRB conducts a secret ballot election when a petition is filed requesting one. A petition can be filed by any union, worker, or employer (Mayer, 2007). The case of Hudson Department Store (“Company”) versus the UAW illustrates the fundamentals of NLRB decisions. The Petitioner was the Dayton Hudson Department Store Company who owned and operated Hudson’s Department Store, which was located at the Westland Mall in Westland, Michigan. The Intervener was the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, better known as the United Auto Workers (UAW). The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) functioned as the Respondent/Cross-Petitioner.
Decision: Statement of the Case
In 1990, some of the employees of the Company began an effort to organize and bring in the UAW. On May 11, 1990, the Company and the UAW agreed to let the NLRB conduct a secret-ballot election. Out of the 537 eligible voters, 274 cast votes for the Union and 179 against (Dayton Hudson Department Store v. NLRB, 987 F.2d 359, 1993). The Company immediately filed an objection, with the NLRB, contending that the outcome of the election was tainted by a letter sent, by the UAW, to all employees three days before the election. On December 26, 1990, the NLRB certified the UAW as the exclusive bargaining representative of Hudson’s Department Store. The Company refused to negotiate with the UAW, based on their belief that the union certification was unsound. The UAW subsequently filed an unfair labor practice charge against the Company noting violation of Section 8(a) (5) and (1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employer refusal to bargain in good faith with union representatives (https://www.nlrb.gov/national-labor-relations-act).
On June 7, 1991, the Company filed a motion to reopen the record, alleging that it had obtained newly discovered evidence that several authorization cards were forged and ‘‘intentionally used by the UAW to falsely portray union strength and support from a majority of the eligible voters (Cohen, Devaney, and Stephens, 1994).’’On September 30, 1991, the NLRB denied the motion on the ground that this was an insufficient basis for reopening the record. As a result, the Company partitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for review.
The court hearing was held in January 1994 before Administrative Law Judge Marion C. Ladwig. At this hearing, the Company attempted to establish its theory of forged cards allegations primarily through the testimony of John Madgwick, cochairman of the Westland Employees Organization Committee. After assessing all the evidence, ALJ Ladwig sided with the NLRB’s decision. He felt as though Madgwick’s claim that he forged authorization cards was a ‘‘total fabrication” and concluded that the May 8, 1990 letter did not affect the outcome of the election (Case 79 F. 3d 546, 1992) ALJ Ladwig also opined that the Company’s allegation that the Union used forged authorization cards was grounded on fictitious evidence. Findings of Fact
The May 8, 1990 Letter
The Company alleges that the UAW issued a letter to eligible employee voters just three days before the election. According to Case 987 F.2d 359 (1992), the letter went as follows: “Dear Fellow Hudson’s Employee,” contained a number of references to “we” and “us,” and addressed anti-union arguments and tactics employed by Hudson. It alleged that Hudson “claimed profits of OVER 60 MILLION DOLLARS in our Westland Hudson’s store alone last year.” In closing, the letter stated: With the UAW on the ballot, we have the opportunity to choose to balance the power between [Hudson headquarters] and us. By our joining the UAW, we guarantee ourselves a voice in our future. On May 11 vote to give yourself a meaningful voice in decisions that impact your life–VOTE YES FOR THE UAW. ” The Company claimed that the letter was deceptive as it was meant to look as though it was authored by fellow employees of Hudson’s Department Store. According to Case 79 F.3d 546 (1992), the Company argues that the deception increased the convincing power of the misrepresentation to such an extent as to negate voters’ freedom of choice on the issue of whether or not to join the UAW.
The Forgery Allegations
After the UAW won the May 11, 1990 election by a vote of 274 for the Union and 179 against, the Company filed a motion to reopen the case alleging that the UAW used the forged cards to create the appearance that the campaign had broad support in order to build momentum (Hurd, 1994). To substantiate their claim they presented a signed statement from an employee and one-time former UAV supporter John Madgwick. Madgwick allegedly forged between ten and twenty cards in order to indicate additional union support in hopes of inducing undecided employees who to start a bandwagon. Alleged Unfair Labor Practices
After the UAW won the election held May 11, 1990, it was certified as the collective-bargaining representative of the employees at the Hudson Department Store. According to the NLRB decision made in Case 7–CA–31476 (Devaney, Oviatt, and Raudabaugh, 1991) this agreement included the following: All full-time and regular part-time selling and non-selling employees, including employees of leased departments, except employees of Glemby International Michigan, Inc., employed at the Employer’s facility located at 35000 West Warren, Westland, Michigan; but excluding confidential employees, employees of Glemby International Michigan, Inc., guards and supervisors as defined in the Act. The UAW requested the Respondent to bargain repeatedly but the Company refused, on the basis of the May 8, 1990 letter and the alleged forged authorization cards. The UAW filed a claim with the NLRB stating that this refusal constitutes an unlawful refusal to bargain in violation of Section 8(a) (5) and (1) of the NLRA. Discussion and Analysis
Both ALJ Ladwig and the NLRB concluded that the May 8, 1990 letter was not sufficient to authorize a new election. According to the NLRB, an election will only be determined unsound only if the employees were unable to recognize the forgery for what it is. The NLRB overrule the Company’s objections and determine that the letter did not warrant a new election ALJ Ladwig determined that that most of the employees were more than likely able to recognize that the pro-union statements in the letter as campaign propaganda. Madgwick’s testimony was found to be inherently untrustworthy. After looking at the evidence from both the Company and the UAW, ALJ Ladwig found that Madgwick was motivated to speak out against the UAW because the company paid off an $8,055.79 deficit in his commission account (Cohen, Devaney, and Stephens, 1994). Conclusions of Law
By refusing to bargain with the Union as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of employees of Hudson Department Store, the Company has engaged in unfair labor practices in violation of Section 8(a)(5) and (1) of the NLRA. The NLRB reaffirmed its May 15, 1991 bargaining order and the Company was told to cease and desist and to bargain in good faith with the UAW. Appendix A shows the document that the Company had to display as a result of the judgment (Devaney, Oviatt, and Raudabaugh, 1991).
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