15:0987(183)CA - Navy, Norfolk Naval Base and AFGE Local 2225 -- 1984 FLRAdec CA



[ v15 p987 ]
15:0987(183)CA
The decision of the Authority follows:


 15 FLRA No. 183
 
 DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY
 NORFOLK NAVAL BASE
 Respondent
 
 and
 
 AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT
 EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 2225
 Charging Party
 
                                            Case No. 43-CA-2095
 
                            DECISION AND ORDER
 
    This matter is before the Authority pursuant to the Regional
 Director's "Order Transferring Case to the Federal Labor Relations
 Authority" in accordance with section 2429.1(a) of the Authority's Rules
 and Regulations.
 
    Upon consideration of the entire record, including the stipulation of
 facts, accompanying exhibits, and the parties' contentions, the
 Authority finds:
 
    It is alleged that the Respondent, Norfolk Naval Base, violated
 section 7116(a)(1) of the Statute /1/ when its Security Department
 engaged in the surveillance of employees by taking notes of employees
 while they were engaged in lawful informational picketing on behalf of
 the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, Local 2225
 (AFGE).  It is alleged that such acts interfered with, restrained and
 coerced employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed by the Statute.
 
    The employees in question are employed by the Naval Air Station,
 Norfolk, Virginia, a tenant activity of the Respondent.  As a host
 activity, the Respondent provides, inter alia, a broad range of
 customary police services for the entire Norfolk Naval Base and the
 adjacent Naval Air Station.  Included among the routine duties of the
 police is the investigation of reported picketing of the Naval Base.
 /2/ Picketing in support of various causes or in protest of various
 matters such as national defense policies, the presence of nuclear
 warships at the Naval Base, and labor disputes between private
 contractors and contract personnel occurs relatively often at the base.
 
    Investigation by the police of picketing is usually carried out in
 the following manner:  A police officer of the Respondent goes to the
 picketing site and observes the picketing to determine whether it is on
 or off Federal government property;  is peaceful or violent;  or is
 interfering with entrance to or egress from the Naval Base.  The
 investigating officer also usually notes the messages, if any, contained
 on the picket signs, and reports his findings to the Security Division.
 Information so gathered is routinely referred to appropriate officials
 of the concerned Naval activity for appropriate action, if any.
 
    Between October 20, and October 28, 1981, employees of the Naval Air
 Station engaged in lawful informational picketing on behalf of the AFGE.
  It is stipulated that the Respondent was aware of the nature and object
 of the AFGE's protest and was also aware of a written inquiry by the
 AFGE regarding whether the Respondent had designated areas for
 picketing.  However, the AFGE did not specifically notify the Respondent
 that it would be picketing, or identify the place and time of such
 picketing.  On or about October 24, 1981, a uniformed police officer of
 the Respondent's Security Division parked a marked police vehicle
 adjacent to the picketing employees, got out of the vehicle, approached
 the picketing employees, produced a notebook, and proceeded to write
 notes in the notebook while observing the picketing.  When asked by the
 picketing employees what he was noting, the police officer replied that
 he was copying the message on the picket signs.  The stipulated record
 contains no evidence that the police officer could or did identify any
 of the picketing employees.  When completed the note taking, the officer
 got back into his vehicle and left the area.  The police officer was
 present at the picketing site for approximately 5 to 10 minutes.
 
    The General Counsel argues that by the above-noted acts of its agent,
 the Respondent violated section 7116(a)(1) of the Statute because such
 acts constituted illegal surveillance of employees exercising their
 rights under the Statute.  The General Counsel further contends that
 such surveillance tends to intimidate employees in exercising their
 rights under the Statute regardless of the Respondent's intentions.  The
 Respondent argues that the actions of its security officer were not
 illegal, but merely amounted to a routine investigation based on
 standard operating procedures to assess the circumstances of the
 picketing involved.
 
    Informational picketing by its very nature is public and intended to
 be observed.  It is designed to draw attention to the union's message
 and to give employees a chance to publicly demonstrate their support for
 the position stated on the picket signs.  Thus, observation by
 management is to be expected, and unless under the circumstances
 management's actions accompanying its observation would reasonably tend
 to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of this
 right, there can be no finding that the Statute has been violated.  The
 Authority concludes that Respondent's actions herein, involving the
 described investigation by a security officer, were not such as would
 reasonably tend to inhibit employees in the exercise of their protected
 rights, and therefore shall order that the complaint alleging a
 violation of section 7116(a)(1) of the Statute be dismissed.  See Bureau
 of Engraving and Printing, 15 FLRA No. 182 (1984).
 
                                   ORDER
 
    IT