Home Town Foods, Inc. v. NLRB, No. 26487.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
Citation416 F.2d 392
PartiesHOME TOWN FOODS, INC., d/b/a Foremost Dairies of the South, Petitioner-Cross-Respondent, v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, Respondent-Cross-Petitioner.
Decision Date01 October 1969
Docket NumberNo. 26487.

416 F.2d 392 (1969)

HOME TOWN FOODS, INC., d/b/a Foremost Dairies of the South, Petitioner-Cross-Respondent,
v.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, Respondent-Cross-Petitioner.

No. 26487.

United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit.

June 18, 1969.

Rehearing Denied and Rehearing Denied October 1, 1969.


416 F.2d 393

William F. Ford, John Bacheller, Jr., William W. Alexander, Jr., Fisher & Phillips, Atlanta, Ga., for petitioner-cross-respondent.

Marcel Mallet-Prevost, Asst. Gen. Counsel, Washington, D. C., Walter C. Phillips, Director, 10th Region, Atlanta, Ga., Glen M. Bendixsen, Atty., N.L.R.B., Washington, D. C., Arnold Ordman, Gen. Counsel, Dominick L. Manoli, Assoc. Gen. Counsel, Ian D. Lanoff, Atty., N. L.R.B., for respondent-cross-petitioner.

Before RIVES, BELL and DYER, Circuit Judges.

Rehearing Denied and Rehearing En Banc Denied October 1, 1969.

RIVES, Circuit Judge:

This representation election "test case"1 is before us for the second

416 F.2d 394
time. See Home Town Foods, Inc. v. NLRB, 5 Cir. 1967, 379 F.2d 241, denying enforcement and remanding for an evidentiary hearing 160 NLRB 8 (1966). Home Town Foods petitions this Court to review and to set aside the Supplemental Decision and Order of the NLRB, 172 NLRB No. 126 (1968); the Board cross-petitions for enforcement. NLRA § 10(e), (f), 29 U.S.C. § 160(e), (f).2

Our scope of review is limited to ascertaining whether there is substantial evidence on the record considered as a whole to support the Board's decision and order. 29 U.S.C. § 160(e) and (f). Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 1951, 340 U.S. 474, 71 S.Ct. 456, 95 L.Ed. 456; NLRB v. Houston Chronicle Publishing Co., 5 Cir. 1962, 300 F.2d 273.3 While we also recognize that the Board has broad discretion in adopting procedures to govern the election process, we find no conflict between the breadth of discretion afforded the Board in its promulgation of procedures and the substantial evidence rules used by the courts to review applications of those procedures.

"There is no conflict or contradiction between the substantial evidence rule determinative of the scope of review
416 F.2d 395
and the principle whereunder the Board is entrusted with wide discretion in establishing the procedures and safeguards necessary to insure the fair and free choice of bargaining representatives as enunciated in National Labor Relations Board v. A. J. Tower Co., 1946, 329 U.S. 324, 330, 67 S.Ct. 324, 91 L.Ed. 322. These rules do not conflict because they affect differing spheres of activity. The Board\'s wide discretion lies in the initial promulgation of rules and regulations, while the court exercises its duties in reviewing decisions involving application of the Board\'s rules. Judicial review in these cases is not concerned with the wisdom of the Board\'s policy but must determine whether the record as a whole supports the findings and conclusions respecting compliance with the policies, rules and regulations promulgated by the Board.
"Unless or until Congress changes the language of the statute or the Supreme Court changes its interpretation of the application of the statute, this court is bound by the rule of the Universal Camera case."

Celanese Corporation of America v. NLRB, 7 Cir.1961, 291 F.2d 224 at 225. Accord, NLRB v. Bata Shoe Company, 4 Cir. 1967, 377 F.2d 821, 827. Compare Independent, Inc. v. NLRB, 5 Cir.1969, 406 F.2d 203. Finally, we note that this Court must review, on an ad hoc basis, the fairness of the Board's application of its chosen standard. Applying this standard of review to the supplemental decision and order now before us, we conclude that the Board has misapplied its orthodox "laboratory conditions" standard for evaluating the fairness of election campaign conduct and has thereby denied the production and maintenance unit employees of the Company's Sylacauga plant the requisite "free and untrammeled choice for or against a bargaining representative." General Shoe Corp., 1948, 77 NLRB 124, 127. Cf. LMRA §§ 7, 9(a) and 9(c) (1), 29 U.S.C. §§ 157, 159(a), and 159(c) (1). We deny enforcement.4

I.

A former counsel to NLRB member Jenkins has written that:

"It is in the American tradition to conduct elections with more vigor than restraint and elections to determine the bargaining representative of employees are no exception. The period between the filing of a petition and the election may be a brief one but it is crucial to the parties and fascinating to the spectator. Emotions run high and temperance in speech and conduct is not the rule. It is not unusual therefore for the Board, despite all the safeguards it has established, to receive loud cries of `foul\' from the loser."

Funke, Board Regulation of Pre-Election Conduct, 36 Tex.L.Rev. 893, 895 (1958). Congress has vested in the Board the authority to investigate and resolve objections to election conduct. LMRA § 9, 29 U.S.C. § 159. The Board has adopted appropriate evaluation procedures. 29 C.F.R. § 102.69. See generally 2 CCH Lab.Law Rep. ¶¶ 2701, 2790, 2791, 2792. The Board has recently acknowledged that it must "closely guard the integrity of its elections so that employees may exercise the freedom of choice contemplated by the Act and thereby have a full opportunity to enjoy its other benefits." Oak Mfg. Co., 1963, 141 NLRB 1323, 1324.

In General Shoe Corp., supra at 127, the Board established its landmark standard for evaluating election campaign conduct:

"Conduct that creates an atmosphere which renders improbable a free
416 F.2d 396
choice will sometimes warrant invalidating an election, even though that conduct may not constitute an unfair labor practice. An election can serve its true purpose only if the surrounding conditions enable employees to register a free and untrammeled choice for or against a bargaining representative.
* * * * * *
"In election proceedings, it is the Board\'s function to provide a laboratory in which an experiment may be conducted, under conditions as nearly ideal as possible, to determine the uninhibited desires of the employees. It is our duty to establish these conditions; it is also our duty to determine whether they have been fulfilled. When, in the rare extreme case, the standard drops too low, because of our fault or that of others, the requisite laboratory conditions are not present and the experiment must be conducted over again."

The "laboratory conditions" test represents an ideal atmosphere in which a free choice may be made by employees, protected from interference by employer,5 union,6 Board agent,7 or other parties.8 As to any conduct objected to as interference, the critical Board determination is whether the employees were permitted to register a free choice. Cf. NLRB v. Southland Paint Co., 5 Cir. 1968, 394 F.2d 717, 727, and the case from which it quotes, NLRB v. Lake Butler Apparel Co., 5 Cir. 1968, 392 F. 2d 76, 82 ("The struggle is between the employer and the union, but the right to select is the employees.")9

416 F.2d 397

II.

In our original consideration of this case, we noted that the alleged pre-election and election day misconduct,10 if proven, left no doubt that the election should have been set aside on the basis of deterioration of the requisite "laboratory conditions." 379 F.2d at 244. See Electra Mfg. Co. v. NLRB, 5 Cir. 1969, 408 F.2d 570; Neuhoff Bros. Packers, Inc. v. NLRB, 5 Cir. 1966, 362 F.2d 611, cert. denied 386 U.S. 956, 87 S.Ct. 1027, 18 L.Ed.2d 106; NLRB v. Houston Chronicle Pub. Co., 5 Cir. 1962, 300 F.2d 273.

Moreover, we remanded with instructions that (1) the conduct to which the Company objected must be considered cumulatively rather than as isolated individual incidents; (2) while an objective evaluation is normally the basis for determination whether interference occurred sufficient to require setting aside an election, "subjective evidence of fear and coercion, however, may carry the day as well," 379 F.2d at 244 (emphasis added); and finally (3) all coercive acts need not be shown to be attributable to the union, rather than rank-and-file supporters.

III.

Nine witnesses testified on behalf of the Company, and in varying degrees substantiated the validity of every objection

416 F.2d 398
but one11 made by the Company. Three witnesses testified on behalf of general counsel: one, a challenged voter who stood in front of the voting booth during the election, merely stated that he could not see into the booth so as to determine how any voter cast his ballot;12 the other two were concerned only with absolving the union organizer from any election day misconduct in the area of the polling place. The Company's prima facie case of pre-election threats, sabotage, rumors, and of election day irregularities was largely uncontroverted by General Counsel

The Trial Examiner, however, concluded that:

"It cannot be said that in this case the conduct * * * during the election campaign period was of such an aggravated character as to create a general atmosphere of fear and reprisal rendering a free expression of choice of representatives impossible."

To reach this conclusion on the evidence presented necessitated (1) that the Trial Examiner eliminate from consideration part of the threats and all of the rumors, as well as the supervisor participation, by ruling that the Company failed to show such events occurred during the critical campaign period; (2) that he discount the various election day events, considering each in isolation, as resulting in "baseless fear"; and (3) that he discredit the testimony of one employee found by the Board to have been threatened on three separate occasions, and thereby find that there was no evidence to establish that fear actually affected any vote.

The Board adopted, with substantial modifications,13 the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Trial Examiner. Notwithstanding its findings, the Board concluded that there was no basis for setting aside the election. The rationale underlying the...

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33 practice notes
  • Trencor, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., No. 96-60130
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • April 8, 1997
    ...Thus, Trencor argues, the "laboratory conditions" necessary for the employees' free choice were destroyed. See Home Town Foods v. NLRB, 416 F.2d 392, 396 (5th Cir.1969) (" 'laboratory conditions test' represents an ideal atmosphere in which a free choice may be made by employees, protected ......
  • Hickman Harbor Service, a Div. of Flowers Transp. Co. v. N.L.R.B., AFL-CI
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 16, 1984
    ...(3d Cir.1981); Home Town Foods v. NLRB, 379 F.2d 241, 244 (5th Cir.1967), decision on remand, 172 N.L.R.B. 126 (1968), enforcement denied, 416 F.2d 392 (5th Cir.1969). Though we recognized that the "laboratory climate" surrounding representative elections will not always be optimum, and eve......
  • N.L.R.B. v. Claxton Mfg. Co., Inc., No. 79-1527
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 21, 1980
    ...the outcome of the election. NLRB v. Gulf States Canners, Inc., 585 F.2d 757, 759 (5th Cir. 1978); Home Town Foods, Inc. v. NLRB, 416 F.2d 392, 397 (5th Cir. 1969). Such a showing is particularly difficult to make where, as here, the union won by a wide margin. NLRB v. Sumter Plywood Corp.,......
  • Certainteed Corp. v. N.L.R.B., No. 81-7251
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 24, 1983
    ...responsibility to assess the cumulative effect of these allegations on the validity of the proceedings. See Home Town Foods, Inc. v. NLRB, 416 F.2d 392, 399 (5th Cir.1969). However, our finding that only objection 1 may have substantial merit disposes of any purported cumulative impact of t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
33 cases
  • Trencor, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., No. 96-60130
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • April 8, 1997
    ...Thus, Trencor argues, the "laboratory conditions" necessary for the employees' free choice were destroyed. See Home Town Foods v. NLRB, 416 F.2d 392, 396 (5th Cir.1969) (" 'laboratory conditions test' represents an ideal atmosphere in which a free choice may be made by employees, protected ......
  • Hickman Harbor Service, a Div. of Flowers Transp. Co. v. N.L.R.B., AFL-CI
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 16, 1984
    ...(3d Cir.1981); Home Town Foods v. NLRB, 379 F.2d 241, 244 (5th Cir.1967), decision on remand, 172 N.L.R.B. 126 (1968), enforcement denied, 416 F.2d 392 (5th Cir.1969). Though we recognized that the "laboratory climate" surrounding representative elections will not always be optimum, and eve......
  • N.L.R.B. v. Claxton Mfg. Co., Inc., No. 79-1527
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 21, 1980
    ...the outcome of the election. NLRB v. Gulf States Canners, Inc., 585 F.2d 757, 759 (5th Cir. 1978); Home Town Foods, Inc. v. NLRB, 416 F.2d 392, 397 (5th Cir. 1969). Such a showing is particularly difficult to make where, as here, the union won by a wide margin. NLRB v. Sumter Plywood Corp.,......
  • Certainteed Corp. v. N.L.R.B., No. 81-7251
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 24, 1983
    ...responsibility to assess the cumulative effect of these allegations on the validity of the proceedings. See Home Town Foods, Inc. v. NLRB, 416 F.2d 392, 399 (5th Cir.1969). However, our finding that only objection 1 may have substantial merit disposes of any purported cumulative impact of t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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