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Dover Energy, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

March 22, 2016

DOVER ENERGY, INC., BLACKMER DIVISION, PETITIONER
v.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, RESPONDENT

         Argued November 19, 2015.

          On Petition for Review and Cross-Application for Enforcement of an Order of the National Labor Relations Board.

         Keith E. Eastland argued the cause for the petitioner. William H. Fallon was with him on brief.

         Marni L. von Wilpert, Attorney, National Labor Relations Board, argued the cause for the respondent. Richard F. Griffin, Jr., General Counsel, John H. Ferguson, Associate General Counsel, Linda Dreeben, Deputy Associate General Counsel, and Kira Dellinger, Supervisory Attorney were with her on brief.

         Before: HENDERSON, PILLARD and WILKINS, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

         KAREN LECRAFT HENDERSON, Circuit Judge

         In a two-to-one decision, the National Labor Relations Board (Board) held that Dover Energy, Inc., Blackmer Division (Blackmer) committed an unfair labor practice when it warned one of its employees, Tom Kaanta, to stop submitting " frivolous" information requests that his union, the United Auto Workers Union, Local 828 (Union), had not authorized. Because the record--viewed with the deference due the Board--lacks substantial evidence in support of the Board's decision, we grant Blackmer's petition and deny the Board's cross-application for enforcement.

         I.

         Blackmer is a Michigan industrial-pump manufacturer. For decades, Blackmer had a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Union. To monitor adherence to the CBA on a day-to-day basis, the Union elected certain Blackmer employees to serve as stewards, who acted as liaisons between the Union and Blackmer and were responsible for investigating and settling employee grievances.

         During the summer of 2012, Blackmer and the Union began to negotiate a new contract to replace the then-current CBA, which was set to expire in September 2012. John Kaminski (Kaminski), Blackmer's Director of Human Resources, served as the company's lead negotiator. A bargaining committee consisting of Union president Dennis Raymond (Raymond) and several other Union representatives conducted negotiations on behalf of the Union.

         Enter Tom Kaanta. Kaanta, a long-time Blackmer employee with past service as a Union steward, was elected in June 2012 to serve again as a steward, representing skilled-services employees on the second shift--a group of four employees. Notably, Kaanta was not a member of the Union bargaining committee and did not participate in any CBA negotiations.

          As CBA negotiations progressed, Kaanta apparently grew suspicious that members of the Union bargaining committee had conflicts of interest that could compromise their ability to effectively represent Union members at the negotiating table. Thus, on June 12, 2012, Kaanta submitted a handwritten " Information Request" to Kaminski. The request read:

I[,] Tom Kaanta, steward of Local 828 request any and all financial information (names, dates, amounts, etc.) pertaining to any and all financial relationships outside the collective bargaining agreement (employee/subcontractors, employee liasions to subcontractors, employee/company investigators, monies, benefits, gifts, side deals, etc.) between Blackmer PSG (Dover) and Local 828 members, reps, pensioners, spouses, and immediate children. I request this information for the purpose of future bargaining.

Deferred Appendix (D.A.) 91 (errors in original).

         After receiving the request, Kaminski contacted Raymond to determine if the Union had authorized Kaanta's inquiry. Raymond told Kaminski that the Union had not authorized the request and that the request was not within the scope of Kaanta's role as Union steward. On June 19, 2012, Kaminski sent Kaanta a letter denying his request. The letter stated that " [a]ny requests must be processed through the normal bargaining committee process . . . . You are not part of the negotiation committee and ...


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