20:0216(28)UC - Agriculture, Farmers Home Administration and NFFE -- 1985 FLRAdec UC



[ v20 p216 ]
20:0216(28)UC
The decision of the Authority follows:


20 FLRA No. 28

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
FARMERS HOME ADMINISTRATION
Activity 

and

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL 
EMPLOYEES, INDEPENDENT 
Labor Organization

                                            Case No. 3-UC-40006

                           DECISION AND ORDER

   On May 31, 1985, the Authority granted the application for review and
request for a stay of the Regional Director's Decision and Order on
Petition to Consolidate Units, filed by the Department of Agriculture,
Farmers Home Administration (Activity), in the above-named case.  In his
decision, the Regional Director found that the petitioned for
consolidated unit consisting of six bargaining units within the Activity
was appropriate for the purpose of exclusive recognition under the
Statute.  The Activity in its application contended, pursuant to section
2422.17(c)(1) and (4) of the Authority's Rules and Regulations, that the
Regional Director departed from Authority precedent, that his decision
on a substantial factual issue was clearly erroneous, and that such
error prejudicially affected its rights.  /1/ The Authority granted the
application for review in the present case on the basis that it appeared
to the Authority that a compelling reason exists for granting the
application for review pursuant to the provisions of section
2422.17(c)(1) of the Authority's Rules and Regulations.  The parties
were given 15 days to provide the Authority with any additional
information and arguments that might be relevant to the determination of
this case.  Both parties filed supplementary briefs with the Authority.

   The National Federation of Federal Employees, Independent (NFFE)
seeks to consolidate its six individual state office units of the
Activity.  /2/ NFFE contends that the proposed consolidated unit
satisfies the three criteria set forth in section 7112(a)(1) of the
Statute, /3/ i.e., that the employees in the proposed consolidated unit
share a clear and identifiable community of interest because of their
common mission and similar functional occupational undertakings and are
subject to similar personnel policies;  and that the proposed
consolidated unit would promote effective dealings and efficiency of
Activity operations by reducing negotiations from six separate units to
only one unit.  The Activity contends, however, that there is no clear
and identifiable community of interest among the employees in the
consolidated unit sought because each state office unit is autonomous
and operates in a highly decentralized manner.  Further, the Activity
contends that the proposed consolidated unit would not promote effective
dealings and efficiency of agency operations because it would require
the Activity to create a new administrative structure to conduct
dealings with NFFE as the representative of employees in such a unit.

   The Activity is a primary national subdivision of the U.S. Department
of Agriculture.  Its mission is to provide supervised credit assistance
through various loan and grant programs to rural Americans in order to
encourage and support family farm ownership and operation, provide
adequate housing, install needed community facilities, provide economic
support to farmers affected by disaster, and foster rural development.
The Activity consists of a headquarters office, a finance office and 46
state offices, each headed by a state director.  Each state director is
responsible for overseeing the Activity's employees in the state and for
administering the state loan program.  The state directors have a great
deal of autonomy in carrying out the day-to-day functions including
those relating to personnel and labor relations matters of their
offices, although the programs they administer are established by, and
overall policy is directed from, the Activity's National Headquarters.
Exclusive recognition exists at the state office level and the
negotiation and administration of individual collective bargaining
agreements have taken place at that level.

   The Activity employs approximately 10,936 persons of whom
approximately 2,618 are included in units of exclusive recognition.  /4/
The proposed consolidated unit includes the 6 state office units
exclusively represented by NFFE in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma,
Washington, Oregon and Montana, encompassing approximately 1,060
professional and nonprofessional employees.  Of the remaining 40 state
offices, 5 units are represented by AFGE while the employees in the 35
remaining state offices are not represented.

   In his Decision and Order on Petition to Consolidate Units, the
Regional Director found, pursuant to criteria established by the
Authority in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 15 FLRA
No. 107(1984);  Department of the Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, 8 FLRA
15(1982);  and Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C., 5 FLRA
646(1981), that the proposed consolidated unit conformed to the three
criteria set forth in section 7112(a)(1) of the Statute and therefore
was appropriate.

   Based on established precedent, however, as applicable to the
particular circumstances of this case, the Authority disagrees with the
Regional Director's Decision and Order on Petition to Consolidate Units.
 Section 7112(a)(1) of the Statute requires any unit found appropriate
to conform to the three criteria established by that section-- a clear
and identifiable community of interest among the employees in the unit,
and the promotion of effective dealings with, and the efficiency of the
operations of, the agency involved.  The Authority further notes that
these criteria are applicable as well to unit consolidation proceedings
pursuant to section 7112(d) of the Statute.  /5/ With regard to the
community of interest criterion, the Authority has indicated that it
will consider the degree of commonality and integration of the mission
and function of the components involved;  the distribution of the
employees involved throughout the organizational and geographic
components of the agency;  the degree of similarity of the occupational
undertakings of the employees in the proposed unit;  and the focus and
scope of personnel and labor relations authority and functions.
Department of the Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, supra.  In U.S. Army Training
and Doctrine Command, 11 FLRA 105(1983), U.S. Army Materiel Development
and Readiness Command, 11 FLRA 156(1983), Department of Transportation,
Washington, D.C., supra, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development, supra, the Authority concluded that the employees in the
proposed consolidated units did not share a clear and identifiable
community of interest in that, among other reasons, the bargaining units
sought to be consolidated were not widely distributed throughout the
Activity's organizational or geographic structure, the employees in the
petitioned for units were widely dispersed, there was a minimal amount
of interchange between the units, and there had been a delegation of
significant authority and discretion to the various regional
administrators and area managers in personnel and labor relations
matters.  In considering the foregoing and applying the above analysis
to the facts of the present case, the Authority notes that the proposed
unit covers only 6 of the Activity's 46 state offices, of which the
employees in 35 have no exclusive representative, and covers
geographically only two widely separated areas serviced by the Activity;
 the proposed unit, limited to employees at only 6 of the Activity's
components, includes less than 10% of the Activity's employees;  the
state directors have significant autonomy in personnel and labor
relations matters and handle day-to-day problems that arise in these
areas;  and the level of exclusive recognition has existed and
negotiation and administration of individual collective bargaining
agreements have taken place at the state office level.

   Based on the above, the Authority finds that the petitioned for
consolidated unit would not insure a clear and identifiable community of
interest among the employees involved.  In reaching a determination
contrary to the Regional Director in this regard, the Authority notes:
(1) the Regional Director's reliance on the fact that the proposed unit
contained 45% of the represented employees of the Activity, while in
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Authority
considered the employee complement of the proposed unit in comparison to
the entire employee complement of the Activity;  (2) the Regional
Director's finding that the employees of the proposed consolidated unit
were not widely dispersed but were located in two groups of three
contiguous states each, where in fact these two groups of employees are
separated by a substantial distance and are not well distributed
throughout the Activity;  /6/ and (3) the Regional Director's reliance
on the fact that the overall responsibility for the Activity's
labor-management relations was centralized in the Activity's National
Headquarters, where basic personnel and labor relations procedures were
promulgated, while not giving sufficient weight to the fact that the
level of exclusive recognition has existed effectively at the state
office level, that the meaningful negotiation and administration of
individual collective bargaining agreements had taken place there, and
that the state directors do not have significant autonomy in personnel
and labor relations matters and handle day-to-day problems that arise in
these areas.

   With respect to the other two criteria established by section
7112(a)(1) of the Statute, the Authority finds that it would not promote
effective dealings to require the Activity to negotiate concerning one
consolidated unit encompassing employees in 6 states rather than the
current 6 units, noting particularly that present negotiation and
administration of collective bargaining agreements take place at the
state office level and consolidation thus would require bargaining at
the national Activity level or the creation of a new administrative
structure between the state and national levels to conduct dealings with
the exclusive representative of the proposed unit.  In the Authority's
view, it would not promote effective dealings in the instant case to
require higher level negotiations for a unit consisting of only 6 of the
Activity's 46 state offices.  The record further indicates that while
the overall responsibility for the Activity's labor-management relations
is centralized in the Activity's National Headquarters, the Activity has
delegated significant authority such as hiring, negotiation and
administration of collective bargaining agreements and handling of
grievances to the state office directors in order to handle the
day-to-day problems regarding personnel and labor relations matters.
Based on the above, the Authority concludes that effective dealings with
the Activity, and the efficiency of Activity operations, would not be
promoted by the proposed consolidated unit.  /7/

   Accordingly, the Authority concludes that the employees sought to be
consolidated by the petitioner herein do not share a clear and
identifiable community of interest and that the proposed consolidated
unit would not promote effective dealing and efficiency of Activity
operations.  Consequently, the Authority finds that the proposed
consolidated unit consisting of 6 states office units exclusively
represented by NFFE is not appropriate and that the petition to
consolidate those units must be dismissed.

                                  ORDER

   IT IS ORDERED that the petition in Case No. 3-UC-40006 be, and it
hereby is, dismissed.

   Issued, Washington, D.C., September 20, 1985

                                      (s) HENRY B. FRAZIER III
                                      Henry B. Frazier III, Acting
                                      Chairman
                                      (s) WILLIAM J. MCGINNIS JR.
                                      William J. McGinnis, Jr., Member
                                      FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY






--------------- FOOTNOTES$ ---------------


   /1/ Section 2422.17(c) provides:

         (c) The Authority may grant an application for review only
      where it appears that compelling reasons exist therefor.
      Accordingly, an application for review may be granted only upon
      one or more of the following grounds:

         (1) That a substantial question of law or policy is raised
      because of (i) the absence of, or (ii) a departure from, Authority
      precedent;

                                 * * * *

         (4) That the Regional Director's decision on a substantial
      factual issue is clearly erroneous and such error prejudicially
      affects the rights of a party.


   /2/ NFFE represented a unit of all nonprofessional employees in the
State of Tennessee, which was not included in the units sought to be
consolidated herein.  The Activity filed a petition asserting a good
faith doubt that NFFE continued to represent a majority of employees in
that unit, in Case No. 34-RA-500001.  On November 30, 1984, NFFE Local
97 filed a disclaimer of interest in continuing to exclusively represent
the 231 employees in such unit.

   A description of the units sought to be consolidated is set forth
below.

         1.  Included:  All professional and non-professional employees
      of the Farmers Home Administration located in the State of Oregon.

         Excluded:  Management officials, supervisors, guards and
      employees described in 5 U.S.C. 7112(b)(2), (3), (4), (6) and (7).

         2.  Included:  All non-supervisory, non-professional General
      Schedule employees employed by and under the direction of the U.S.
      Department of Agriculture, Farmers Home Administration, Oklahoma
      State Office.

         Excluded:  Management officials, supervisors, guards, employees
      engaged in Federal personnel work in other than a purely clerical
      capacity, and professional employees.

         3.  Included:  All professional and non-professional employees,
      full and part-time, of the Farmers Home Administration under the
      direction of the State Director of Arkansas.

         Excluded:  All management officials, temporary employees,
      employees engaged in Federal personnel work in other than a purely
      clerical capacity and supervisors and guards, as defined in
      Executive Order 11491.

         4.  Included:  All non-supervisory GS employees of USDA--
      Farmers Home Administration in (the) State of Texas including
      professional employees.

         Excluded:  Supervisors, management officials, employees engaged
      in Federal personnel work (in) other than a purely clerical
      capacity, (and) guards.

         5.  Included:  All professional and non-professional GS and WG
      employees employed by the Farmers Home Administration in the State
      of Washington.

         Excluded:  Management officials, supervisors, employees engaged
      in Federal personnel work except those in a purely clerical
      capacity, guards, casuals and intermittent employees and seasonal
      employees who have no reasonable expectancy of reemployment.

         6.  Included:  All employees with continuing appointments,
      including professionals, of the Montana Farmers Home
      Administration.

         Excluded:  Management officials, supervisors, and personnel
      workers in other than a clerical capacity.


   /3/ Section 7112(a)(1) provides:

         Section 7112.  Determination of appropriate units for labor
      organization representation

         (a)(1) The Authority shall determine the appropriateness of any
      unit.  The Authority shall determine in each case whether, in
      order to ensure employees the fullest freedom in exercising the
      rights guaranteed under this chapter, the appropriate unit should
      be established on an agency, plant, installation, functional, or
      other basis and shall determine any unit to be an appropriate unit
      only if the determination will ensure a clear and identifiable
      community of interest among the employees in the unit and will
      promote effective dealings with, and efficiency of the operations
      of, the agency involved.


   /4/ Of the 2,618 represented employees, approximately 1,