Appellate Court Upholds NLRB Union-Busting Finding

August 8, 2005 ( - Appellate judges have ruled that Brandeis Machinery & Supply Company, based in South Bend, Indiana, illegally included a policy statement in its employee handbook inviting workers to report "harassment" by union organizers trying to get them to sign authorization cards.

In view of Brandeis’ desire to remain union-free, and the fact that union activity was the focus of the prohibition against harassment, the policy could reasonably be construed to mean that such conduct would be punished, the US 7 th  Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. Brandeis sells and services heavy construction and mining equipment throughout Kentucky and Indiana.

In an opinion authored by Circuit Judge Kenneth Ripple, the appellate judges turned away the company’s arguments that its actions in terms of the unionization effort were designed to allow it to provide the highest quality customer service and upheld a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) order finding federal labor law violations.

“Brandeis is free to adopt nondiscriminatory policies that forward its legitimate objectives of maintaining plant productivity and discipline,” Ripple wrote. “However, those policies may not target, either through design or enforcement, (union organizing) activity protected by (federal labor law).”

According to the appellate ruling, the NLRB general counsel issued a complaint against Brandeis which was considered by an administrative law judge. The NLRB adopted the judge’s decision with only minor modifications.

Specifically, the administrative law judge held that Brandeis had violated labor law by

  • “[q]uestioning job applicants about their union membership and affiliation”
  • “promulgating . . . a written policy that encourages employees to report to management any employees who solicit support for a union”
  • “[t]hreatening job applicants with plant closure if employees chose to be represented by a union”
  • “[v]erbally encouraging employees to report to management any employees who solicit support for a union and stating that [the Company] would put a stop to such union solicitation”
  • “[p]rohibiting employees from wearing union buttons and union hats on the job during working hours”
  • “[v]erbally promulgating, maintaining and enforcing a rule that prohibits employees from discussing theUnion during work time, while allowing non-union and non-work discussions during the same time.”

The appellate ruling in Brandeis Machinery & Supply Co v NLRB, 7thCir, 151 LC ¶10 is    here .