15:0932(175)CA - Defense General Supply Center and AFGE Local 2047 -- 1984 FLRAdec CA
[ v15 p932 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:
15 FLRA No. 175 DEFENSE GENERAL SUPPLY CENTER Respondent and AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2047, AFL-CIO Charging Party Case No. 34-CA-30048 DECISION AND ORDER The Administrative Law Judge issued the attached Decision in the above-entitled proceeding finding that the Respondent had not engaged in the unfair labor practices alleged in the complaint and recommending that the complaint be dismissed in its entirety. Thereafter, the General Counsel filed exceptions to the Judge's Decision and a supporting brief, and the Respondent filed an opposition thereto. Pursuant to section 2423.29 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations and section 7118 of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute), the Authority has reviewed the rulings of the Judge made at the hearing and finds that no prejudicial error was committed. The rulings are hereby affirmed. Upon consideration of the Judge's Decision and the entire record, the Authority hereby adopts the Judge's findings, conclusions and recommended Order. /1A/ ORDER IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the complaint in Case No. 34-CA-30048 be, and it hereby is, dismissed. Issued, Washington, D.C., August 31, 1984 Barbara J. Mahone, Chairman Ronald W. Haughton, Member Henry B. Frazier III, Member FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY -------------------- ALJ$ DECISION FOLLOWS -------------------- John W. Kyle, Esq. Bruce D. Rosenstein, Esq. For the General Counsel Karol V. Holmes, For the Charging Party William C. Walker, Esq. For the Respondent Before: JOHN H. FENTON Chief Administrative Law Judge DECISION Statement of the Case This proceeding arises under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (5 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.) and the Final Rules and Regulations issued thereunder (5 C.F.R. 2423.14 et seq). It is based on a Complaint issued by the Regional Director of Region III, Federal Labor Relations Authority, alleging that Respondent engaged in a campaign of interrogation, intimidation and harassment designed to discourage employee June Purser from exercising her Section 7102 right to function as a steward for Local 2047. Findings of Fact Background The American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2047, AFL-CIO (the Union) represents bargaining unit employees at the Defense Supply Center. Purser had been employed by Respondent for almost eight years when in April 1981 she was transferred to the Technical Support Division, Procurement Quality Assurance Branch, Directorate of Technical Operations, to work as a Quality Assurance Specialist. She joined the Union in February of 1982, was appointed Union steward in March and began her representational duties in April. She was one of four stewards in the Directorate. When Purser attempted to act as a newly appointed steward (and a new Union member), the relationship between Union officers and their supervisors was governed by a Master Agreement and a Local Agreement. Article 3, Section 4 of the Master Agreement between the Defense Logistics Agency and the DLA Council of AFGE Locals provided that: Each DLA Council Local official/steward will notify his/her supervisors each time representational duties begin and end in order that proper time and attendance records may be maintained and to permit supervisor assessment of the reasonableness of official time. /1/ The Local Agreement (Jt. Exh. 1, at page 9) added the requirement that: Union representatives shall notify their immediate supervisor when leaving their work area on representational matters and upon entering another work area, notify the area supervisor. Compelling workload and the urgency of need for representation may be a determining factor in leaving or entering the work areas. In addition, on July 31, 1981, OPM had published FPM Letter 711-61. It detailed the record-keeping requirements imposed on Federal agencies in tracking the official time and other costs associated with Union representational functions. Agencies were instructed to keep records in the following categories: (1) Basic, Renegotiation or Reopened Negotiations; (2) Midterm Negotiations; (3) On-going Labor-Management Relationships. Examples given for the latter were labor-management committees, consultation, walk-around time for OSHA inspections, FLRA proceedings, labor relations training for union representatives, and formal and Weingarten-type meetings. That directive was to have been implemented by January of 1982, although it appears clear that it was not in place when the events which gave rise to this proceeding occurred. Sometime in early May, Robert Costner, Director of Technical Operations, instructed his supervisors, including Billy K. Edwards, Purser's immediate supervisor, that certain questions were to be asked of Union stewards when they requested official time. Thus, in addition to asking stewards where they were going and when they expected to return, supervisors were to ascertain whether the steward would be engaged in negotiations, representing a "client" or involved as a witness in some proceeding. This was a claimed response to Costner's concerns about both the FPM Letter and abuse of official time, and it encountered resistance from the Union. /2/ While it is not clear what form this resistance took, or whether and how the matter was ever resolved, a meeting between Costner and various Union agents, including President Earl and Steward Purser occurred on May 19. So far as this record shows, no Union agent except Purser encountered any difficulty and by her own testimony she was not a particularly active one. It was in this context that the alleged unfair labor practices occurred. It was complicated by Purser's disposition to be unclear about the nature of her representational duties, and supervisor Edwards' tolerance of such conduct, when she left this office. I credit her testimony that she would routinely leave her work with the explanation that she had "union activities" or "representational functions" to attend to, and I specifically reject his claim that he asked Costner's questions and quietly suffered her defiance of his refusal to excuse her on several occasions. It is also clear that she resented and feared what she perceived as management's unwarranted intrusions into her right to absent herself from work without any specific explanation as to the nature of her representational mission. The Alleged Unfair Labor Practice (1) The interrogation on April 26, 1982. On April 22, Purser was called by a Union Vice-President, who explained that the person designated by the President to attend the weekly management review staff meeting could not attend, and that she herself could not attend, and asked whether Purser could attend that morning. /3/ She replied that she could and then informed Branch Chief Edwards that she "needed to leave work to go on union duties." He made no reply. Purser attended the meeting, which was chaired by Captain Plante and attended by various Directors including Mr. Costner. Near the end of the meeting, Captain Plante asked Purser (who had previously attended such meetings, but never as a Union representative) if she was representing President Earl and the Union. She said she was and the Captain asked whether she had any comments to make on behalf of the Union. She had none. Mr. Costner was in attendance, 20 to 25 feet from Purser, and two chairs to the left of Captain Plante. On April 26, Branch Chief Edwards called Purser to his desk and asked what she was doing at the last staff meeting. She replied that she had told him she had "union duties" that day and asked what the problem was. He informed her that Costner had told him to ask the question. She then asked if Costner had a problem with her attendance and he replied that he was told to ask the question and that was all he knew. On these facts, the General Counsel alleges that Edwards unlawfully interrogated Purser. The record is admittedly unsatisfactory concerning the purpose of the inquiry. Edwards gave various and conflicting explanations so as to leave his real purpose essentially unexplained. On Purser's credited version that she simply requested time for union duties and that he did not respond, there is the strong suggestion that Edwards, when confronted with some comment or inquiry from Costner about her presence, was ignorant of the matter and embarrassed at his inability to account for her presence. Whatever in fact happened, I fail to comprehend why Edward's mere inquiry is alleged to be unlawful. He, of course, had every right to know how she made use of a grant of official time as a matter of law and under the contract. (2) The May 5 interrogation concerning Purser's participation in gate-closing negotiations. The Master Agreement (Jt. Exh. 2 at 4) authorizes official time for negotiating supplements and mid-term proposals. A meeting was scheduled for April 30 to discuss the closing of security gates and a reduction in guard personnel. On that day a Union Vice-President asked Purser to attend the session. According to the credited testimony of Purser, she then informed Edwards that she "had to be away from my work site on union business." Once again, he did not respond. She attended the session and, on May 5 was called to Edward's desk. He told her they had to get together to establish some guidelines for the type of Union functions she would be allowed to attend. When she asked what the problem was, Edwards responded that Costner had questioned whether she was authorized to attend the gate-closing negotiations. According to Edwards' uncredited version, she had originally told him she was not on the negotiating team, he refused her request, and she nevertheless attended. There were no repercussions except for the above discussion, which Purser perceived as indicating that Costner was spying upon her. Nor were any guidelines agreed upon or established. Again, we are presented with a situation where Costner checked with Edwards to determine whether the steward in his unit was authorized to attend a representational function. Crediting Purser, as I do, it follows that Edwards had not the slightest idea where Purser was on the occasion of the gate-closing negotiations. She didn't tell him and he didn't inquire. Consistent with what I conclude was his pretense that he had specifically refused permission for Purser to attend the session after she acknowledged she was not a negotiator, he followed up on Costner's inquiry by telling Purser of the report that she attended the meeting and of the need to establish guidelines for such attendance. Just as he failed to follow through with any discipline or even reproach for her claimed defiance of his order that she was not to attend, he failed to follow through on his request that they get together and establish guidelines. She continued to do business as usual without restriction except for such inhibitions as arose from her growing concern that she was being singled out and watched in her effort to carry out her representational responsibilities. I conclude that Edward's question about her attendance at the meeting was devoid of any illegal aspect, focusing as it did on his responsibility to monitor official time. (3) The May 17 removal of Purser's time card and flexsheet by Mr. Costner, Director of Technical Operations. On this day, once again, Purser simply informed Edwards that she had to go to the Union office for a short period of time. She then passed Costner in the hallway on her way to the Union office. According to Costner it was in a place he did not normally see her, and he wondered whether her time was being "costed" correctly. Upon arriving at the Union office, Purser was told that a co-worker had called to report that Costner was in her work area asking about her whereabouts, and that there was concern about some action being taken against her. When she returned she was informed by a secretary that Costner had requested her time card and flexsheet. Later that afternoon Purser asked Edwards whether they had been returned. He said they had not, and she asked what Costner wanted with them. Edwards said he did not know. The forms were not returned to her office until the following day. Costner could not recall going to Purser's work site and speaking to Edwards, but acknowledged that he sent his secretary to find out "how her time was costing," and that the secretary returned with the time cards and flexsheet and told him that they would not provide the needed information, which would be on the labor cost card. Costner testified that he then dropped the issue. If this record establishes anything clearly, it is that Costner was concerned about policing the appropriate use of official time and keeping accurate records thereof. It is also clear, from the credited testimony of Purser, that Edwards was not careful about such matters, as he regularly released her upon the basis of a request which would not exclude a purpose of attending to internal Union business. While Purser on this occasion went to the Union office to work on a grievance, I see nothing untoward in Costner's decision once again to check on events in Edwards' office. He had every right to determine whether Purser was in fact "on his clock" or on official time when he saw her away from her usual duty station. (4) The allegation that Costner, on May 20, unlawfully interrogated Purser about her motivation for becoming a steward and stated that "certain questions would have to be answered before any steward could be released to perform union business." Three days after the time card check, Costner called Purser into his office and took up the business Edwards had dropped on May 5: he said that he thought that "we needed to establish some guidelines" for what kind of Union business she would be allowed to attend. He added by way of explanation that he had learned that she had been attending functions he did not think she was authorized to attend. She responded that the collective bargaining contract covered the kinds of union business a steward is allowed to attend. Costner told Purser that he had instructed his supervisors to ask specific questions of stewards before releasing them for representational duties: where they were going and for what purpose, and whether they were to represent an individual or be a witness, (or undoubtedly, to negotiate). As Purser's testimony makes clear, she felt he was entitled to know no more than the contract called for-- notice that she had Union duties to perform. She expressed her belief that this violated the contract and he replied that that was a matter of interpretation. She apparently understood his remarks as meaning she could not represent employees so long as she stood on her right not to answer such questions. Thus, she told Costner he was putting her in an awkward position because she, as a steward, had an obligation to look out for the interests of the employees "and there were things going on in our Directorate that I personally knew about where the Union should be involved." He then asked her what kinds of things she was talking about, and she reported, "she gave him specific examples of things that I thought the union should be involved in and why a steward was necessary in the directorate." /4/ I found Costner also to be a convincing witness. It is understandable that he recalled no discussion of Purser's motivation for being a steward. Even her own version of their exchange does not support the claim that he interrogated her about her motivation as such. Rather, it appears that Purser viewed his insistence upon her disclosure of the nature of her representational duties as an unlawful obstacle to her discharge of those responsibilities, and that, feeling caught between her obligations to her Employer and the Union, she elaborated upon the need for a steward in the Directorate. There is no indication that the meeting was not cordial, nor is there any indication that he did anything more than listen "patiently" to her examples of problems which needed to be addressed and then promised to look into them. Perhaps, as her version on cross-examination indicates, he took a more affirmative role in asking for specific examples of the general need she had posed. But there is no evidence that he engaged in an unlawful effort to pry into union affairs or to extract from her the motives animating her stewardship. There is no suggestion whatever that he belittled or disparaged her representational functions, indicated that he disapproved of them or in any way sought to dissuade Purser from such work. On the contrary, he sought to allay her fears. /5/ If I understand the General Counsel's theory for this allegation, it is that Costner asked some questions unlawfully probing Purser's reasons for being a steward. So far as this record shows, he picked up on her examples of why a steward was needed in his Directorate, expressing (as one would hope he would) and, interest in such matters, and promising to look into them. That strikes me as a positive approach to labor relations, and something less than a remote shirt-tail cousin of classic interrogation into union activities. I similarly fail to understand the companion allegation that Costner violated Sec. 7116(a)(1) by "stating that certain questions would have to be answered before any steward could be released to perform union business." This allegation, as elaborated on brief, seems to be a hybrid derived from rather discrete types of classical labor law violations. An element pressed in argument is that Costner was thus keeping Purser's union activities under surveillance. This term, descriptive of spying on internal union affairs of no legitimate concern to the employer, such as union meetings or organizational activities, is of very questionable usefulness in the attempt to analyze the propriety of management efforts to monitor overt representational functions covered by official time. Aside from the fact that such activities are open and notorious and usually involve management, they are otherwise of direct concern to management, which has the duty rather than to mere right to guard against abuse of paid time. Another element seems to be that Respondent attempted to discourage Purser's exercise of her right to represent others by placing these constraints on her. But there is no evidence that any such effort focused on her. Costner laid down the rules in his Directorate, which embraced four stewards, and had in fact met on the day before this meeting with the Local President and other Union officials about this very subject. There is no evidence that application of the rule was limited to Purser. The contention that the rule was designed to restrict or prevent representational activity in any event flies in the face of contract provisions which clearly recognizes management's right to such information as is necessary to determine whether official time requested or used is reasonable, and even whether release itself is warranted after weighing the work needs of the moment against the representational need. At this point the argument imports another element: that of the unilateral change in a term and condition of employment established by practice inconsistent with a once-governing rule, regulation or contract. While the General Counsel did not seek to amend the Complaint and allege as unlawful the promulgation of the instruction to ask such questions of stewards, he nevertheless appears to argue that such question could not legally be asked because the contract provisions had been modified by a consistent practice of excusing stewards on no more than a bare assertion that they had union activities to perform, coupled with an estimate of the needed time. The General Counsel is right as to the practice in the Directorate, although the record is silent as to the unknown balance of the unit of recognition. We therefore do not know whether there was a consistent, prolonged and widespread practice which could change a declared policy or, arguably, amend a contract. In such circumstances the question whether Respondent was free to insist on answers to its question before it released stewards is one of contract interpretation, and there exists no background evidence to taint Respondent's imposition of the requirement on Purser. (5) The allegation that Supervisor Edwards, on June 2, unlawfully placed Purser in AWOL status for her attendance at an arbitration hearing. On this day, Purser was asked by President Earl to attend an arbitration hearing, both as an observer, to learn how such representation is provided, and as a stenographer, to make a record. /6/ Notwithstanding Costner's orders about questions to be asked of stewards, Purser simply told the acting supervisor substituting for Edwards that she was leaving for Union duties (or representational functions) and was asked no questions. She attended the arbitration hearing for about an hour and one half, when it broke for lunch until 1:00 p.m. Shortly before that hour she told Edwards she would be gone for about one hour, and returned to the hearing. Edwards likewise asked no questions. /7/ Purser then returned to the arbitration proceeding, which never developed into a hearing. (Rather she sat and talked to the arbitrator and his wife while the Union attorney and the management representative haggled in the hallway over a settlement). At about 2:00 p.m. Purser returned to work and was confronted by Edwards' demand that she choose between Annual Leave and Leave Without Pay. She responded that she was on official time and promptly arranged for Union President Earl and another official to plead her cause. Edwards remained adamant for reasons which are not clear on this record. On the following day, apparently having learned that Purser was also absent for the morning arbitration session, Edwards increased the charge to leave to 2 1/2 hours, and changed it from LWOP to Absent Without Leave. The latter change was made on instructions received from Costner. The very next day, two management representatives, the Union President, Vice-President, Chief Steward and Purser met before General Pedroli, the Commanding Officer, to discuss the validity of the charge to AWOL for attending the arbitration. /8/ President Earl said that Purser was present at the arbitration at his request. Management representative Walker replied that he could see no reason warranting Purser's attendance. A discussion of managements' right to question stewards ensued, with the Chief Steward opining that it was essential for the Union to have the untrammeled right to determine the identity and number of representatives necessary to carry out particular representational functions. While such contention may appear startling in the abstract, it is less than shocking where three Union representatives handled this issue before the General. When Walker made the point that the Union, as well as management should give notice of who would take part in an arbitration (or MSPB) proceeding, there was further discussion concerning the standards management would apply in treating such notification as a request for permission to attend. Finally, General Pedroli said that there should be further discussion between the parties in an effort to resolve their differences over the contract, and ruled that Purser's time would not be charged to AWOL. Again, I am at a loss to understand why this dispute over the appropriate use of official time should rise to the level of an unfair labor practice. If it was a sharp departure from a practice of permitting stewards to attend arbitration proceedings as on-the-job training in the discharge of representational responsibilities, or even simply as skilled stenographers capable of furnishing the Union with a verbatim transcript, there is no indication that Respondent's conduct was designed to frustrate Purser in the pursuit of her right to represent others. It was but another example of her persistent (if not obstinate) exercise of her right to attend to "representational" matters with no questions asked. When finally confronted with a reaction by her supervisor which contained the threat of discipline and a charge to leave, she protested. She immediately got representation by the Union president, as well as another official, before her supervisor, and got an audience before the Commanding General on the very next day. The General promptly reversed her first and second or third level supervisors on the leave issue. I find here not simply the absence of evidence of a design to interfere with her rights, but the presence of positive evidence that Respondent was more than hospitable to the Union and anxious to resolve the official time dispute. (6) The conduct of Leon Jones, Chief of the Technical Support Division, in allegedly interrogating Purser about the use of official time and making the statement to her that, "when you step in the line of fire you might get shot." This encounter occurred on June 16, in Jones' office. Jones was apparently her second level supervisor, superior to Edwards and subordinate to Costner, although his testimony indicates his Assistant Chief occupied the second level and he the third. Much is made of the issue whether Jones summoned Purser to his office and there uttered his words amid the trappings of power. It would presumably have been less intimidating had he taken the unusual step of journeying through two levels of supervision to her work site to have the conversation described below. I find this allegation most troublesome in terms of deciding precisely what happened and in what context. I find Jones a credible witness and also, am convinced that the versions of the incident related by each of them are in large measure true. Where they diverge, I tend to credit Purser because the incident was much more memorable to her. There is direct conflict regarding who initiated the meeting. Jones testified that Purser sought him out, being very anxious about being "caught between" the two institutions she served, and the prospect that faithful discharge of her duties as steward would damage her promotion prospects. She testified that she was called in and asked about her use of official time on the previous Thursday. I find that he did inquire about her time, but that much of the ensuing discussion had to do with her apprehensions, generally about the conflict with supervisors (and their lack of trust) generated by her Union role and specifically with her being caught in the dispute between managers determined to know about proposed use of official time and a Union which opposed answering any such inquiries. Even more particularly, she expressed her concern that he was planning to place her on AWOL again, reminding him that it was improper action on his part when he did so on June 3, which, she added, was not the first effort to intimidate her since she joined the Union and became a steward. Jones, who had already assured her that her duties as a steward would not hurt her career, responded that she should not take such actions as the AWOL incident as having been directed at her personally. She replied that she took it very personally when charged leave for attending an authorized representational function, adding that it constituted harassment. He then told her, "When you step in the line of fire, you might get shot." /9/ Such a statement is quite susceptible of the interpretation that Union representational activity is a dangerous enterprise. Divorced from its specific and immediate context, it could reasonably be given no other meaning. Here, they were generally discussing Purser's fears that managements' efforts to account for her use of official time, and her resistance, were causing conflict with her supervisors and threatened adversely to affect her performance appraisals and promotion potential. She did not dispute Jones' assertion that there was much discussion of her anxiety at being caught between an employer which insisted upon some accounting of official time forays and a Union which believed that management could not properly pry into the nature of representational duties. Nor is it denied that he sought to allay her fears, and to assure her that stewardship would not negatively affect her employment. By her own account, Jones' remark was a direct response to her charge that she had every reason to take personally (and perhaps, as harassing) his decision to place her on leave (as well as the prospect that he might do it again). The leave issue, of course, arose in connection with the dispute over the conditions in which official time could be used. His remark is therefore at least equally susceptible to a lawful interpretation: that her involvement in the dispute and her unwillingness to disclose the purpose of her representational missions placed her in the line of fire, vulnerable to the same consequences - a further charge of leave and a continuation of the pressures which attend her position and that conflict. I conclude that the remark was ambiguous, that it occurred in a discussion centered on conflict with supervisors arising from a dispute over the circumstances in which official time could properly be used, and that it stands alone as the only incident which even arguably indicates hostility to the Union as such. One cannot ignore the fact that Respondent appears to have been wholly cooperative in other respects, that no other steward appears to have encountered any difficulty, and that the alleged effort to discourage Union representational activity is based solely Respondent's insistence upon some measure of accountability in the official time process. It is difficult to attribute an illegal purpose to conduct with surrounds Respondent's discharge of its responsibility to police the use of official time, in the absence of evidence strongly tending to buttress such an allegation. I am persuaded that General Counsel has not here met the burden of establishing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Jones unlawfully threatened Purser. (7) The conduct of Edwards, on August 20, in asking Purser whether she knew she enjoyed special consideration status for a promotion and, if so, whether she thought such status was warranted. At this time Purser was under consideration for a promotion. The Office of Civilian Personnel had inadvertently failed to consider her for a vacancy in January of 1982, and had therefore placed her name (and that of one Mary Jones) on a special register. This action permitted management to consider and to select either of them before resorting to the regular merit promotion register, but did not require a preference. A list of questions to be asked those interviewed was drawn up by Edwards and submitted to Jones. Jones considered it inadequate, and supplemented it with further questions, including those at issue. Each was asked whether she knew she was on a special consideration register, and if so, whether and why she believed she warranted such consideration. Edwards, who was instructed to ask such questions by Jones, testified that he asked out of curiosity - that he did not know the reason for such status. Jones, who testified the questions were designed to give notice of special consideration status, stated that they were "more or less standardized questions . . . (he) . . . would expect any supervisor to ask." General Counsel contends these questions were, in the light of Respondent's earlier conduct, and of the fact that such status was already known to Purser and her supervisors, so as to give the questions no legitimate purpose, a further effort to harass Purser by suggesting she would not be automatically given special consideration. (Purser was not in fact selected, although that is not alleged as a violation). If, as I cannot determine on this record, the question was "nonsensical" as General Counsel asserts, it was equally nonsensical to put it to Mary Jones, and I am required to conclude that Mary Jones was subjected to equivalent treatment not out of valid purpose or innocent mistake, but to provide cover for a scheme to intimidate Purser. This approach, coupled with the presently irrelevant but soundly documented evidence of Purser's excellent work might argue that her nonselection violated Sec. 7116(a)(2), but standing alone it seems a slim reed indeed on which to construct a veiled threat. Without the support of a finding that Purser was otherwise the victim of a campaign of steady illegal harassment, this allegation is based on weak suspicion at best. Recommendation Having concluded that none of the allegations is supported by a preponderance of the evidence, I recommend that the Complaint be dismissed in its entirety. JOHN H. FENTON Chief Administrative Law Judge Dated: December 1, 1983 Washington, D.C. --------------- FOOTNOTES$ --------------- /1A/ See e.g., Department of the Air Force, Air Force Logistics Command, Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, 10 FLRA 88 (1982); Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, 9 FLRA 199 (1982); and Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital, Columbia, Missouri, 8 FLRA 42 (1982). /1/ Jt. Exh. 2, at page 4. The Master Agreement provided for official time, as well as travel and per diem in defined circumstances. /2/ Costner specifically identified as abuse the use of multiple Union representatives where only one was required. /3/ Article VII, Section 4 of the Local Agreement (Jt. Exh. 1, page 10) provides that the "President or his designated representative shall be invited by the Employee "to the weekly staff meetings." /4/ Purser gave a number of versions of this exchange. Thus, on cross-examination Purser related the matter in a manner which made Costner appear to be more intrusive. Thus, after observing the perceived need for a steward, she says that Costner asked her what was happening in the Directorate . . . that we need a steward? Why do you think we need a steward, . . . ? What kinds of things are going on . . . like, (she said) he didn't know." In her memorandum prepared that day to record the incident she stated: "I went to Mr. Costner's office today, at his request, to discuss my position as a Union steward. I explained to him my reasons for becoming a steward; he listened patiently and told me he would check into the things I had told him." This makes it sound like he reacted courteously, so as not to suggest he was uninterested in the matters of concern to her. /5/ As her memorandum of that conversation says, when his insistence that answers to his questions would be a prerequisite to release was met with her insistence that such question should neither be asked by management nor answered by stewards, "(w)e parted with the understanding that each of us would do what we had to concerning union representational duties." /6/ Undenied hearsay establishes that the practice was to permit observers. /7/ I do not credit Edwards' claim that he asked her the three questions, denied her request and suffered her defiance until she returned. Having chosen to credit Purser, there of course exists no basis in this record for Respondent's subsequent action. The sense of those events is that Edwards would not disclose to Costner that he failed to determine the nature of her representational work, i.e., to be a stenographer/observer. /8/ I refer to those numbers, and the quick response to this controversy by the Commanding General, because they are in my judgement further evidence that Respondent is accommodating rather than hostile to the Union. It is interesting to note also that on May 21 Edwards had refused Purser permission to attend a Union stewards' meeting, and was apparently promptly called into Costner's office and reversed. While this incident was drawn out on General Counsel's examination of Edwards it was, unsurprisingly, not alleged as a violation. But it is additional evidence respecting an issue which is at the bottom of this proceeding: was Costner really directly engaged in "surveillance" of Purser's union activities, or was he, in fact, doing so indirectly by rather closely monitoring Edwards' compliance with his instructions regarding the use and misuse of official time? /9/ Jones denies making this statement. However, his own version, while less graphic, is to the same effect. Thus, he said that he was trying to tell her she would get along better with the supervisors if he would be more relaxed and confident in her dealings with them, and that he told her that people who are "prone to continually seek out conflicts . . . get a reputation of stepping in the line of fire."