United States, Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (Respondent) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 26 (Charging Party/Union)
[ v59 p491 ]
59 FLRA No. 82
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
OF STATE, COUNTY,
AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES
DECISION AND ORDER
December 11, 2003
Before the Authority: Dale Cabaniss, Chairman, and
Carol Waller Pope and Tony Armendariz, Members
I. Statement of the Case
This unfair labor practice case is before the Authority on exceptions to the attached decision of the Administrative Law Judge (Judge) filed by the General Counsel and the Charging Party. The Respondent filed an opposition to the exceptions.
The complaint in this case alleged that the Respondent violated § 7116(a)(1), (5) and (8) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) by refusing to execute the collective bargaining agreement reached between the parties as required by § 7114(b)(5) of the Statute. The Judge concluded that the Respondent did not violate the Statute, as alleged, and dismissed the complaint.
Upon consideration of the Judge's decision and the entire record, we adopt the Judge's findings, conclusions, and recommended Order consistent with our discussion below.
II. Background and Judge's Decision
The facts, set forth in detail in the Judge's decision, are summarized here.
In May 2000, the parties finalized ground rules for negotiation of their initial collective bargaining agreement. At the hearing, the parties disputed whether the Respondent had notified the Union during ground rules negotiations that any collective bargaining agreement reached by the parties as a result of bargaining would need to be reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Specifically, the Union's Chief Negotiator testified that there was no mention of OMB during ground rules negotiations and the Respondent's Chief Negotiator testified that he had notified the Union's Chief Negotiator and the Union's International President that OMB would need to review and approve any collective bargaining agreement before it could become final.
The Union's witnesses also testified that, during initial bargaining sessions on the collective bargaining agreement, the Respondent's representatives did not mention OMB review and approval. [n1] The Respondent's witness contradicted the Union testimony and, in particular, indicated that although the Union's Chief Negotiator initially objected to such a review and approval process, he continued to bargain over the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Union witnesses also testified that when, in the fall of 2000, the Respondent first mentioned OMB, the role of OMB was limited to consultation between the Respondent and OMB during the period before which the Respondent offered its bargaining proposals.
The parties reached tentative agreement on most issues in December 2000, with pay and pay-related matters still outstanding. [n2] After a meeting between the parties' Chief Negotiators and the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Union's International President, the parties initialed a number of provisions concerning pay matters. The Union's witnesses testified that, during that meeting, the Respondent communicated that all that remained was the approval of the incoming Secretary of Transportation. Further bargaining took place concerning unresolved issues and the Union indicated that it would agree to the Respondent's proposals concerning those issues. The Union's witnesses testified that, at this point, the Respondent's representative informed them that OMB would need to review and approve the collective bargaining agreement before it would be final. [ v59 p492 ]
In subsequent correspondence with the Union, the Respondent's Chief Negotiator reaffirmed that the collective bargaining agreement would not be final until it had been approved by OMB. The Union consistently responded that OMB approval was not necessary. In May 2001, the Respondent notified the Union that OMB had disapproved the collective bargaining agreement. The Respondent also indicated that it was ready to resume negotiations. At the time of the hearing, the Respondent had not executed the agreement and the parties had not resumed bargaining.
B. Judge's Decision
The Judge credited the testimony of the Respondent's witnesses that, beginning in ground rules meetings with the Union prior to bargaining, and consistently thereafter, the Respondent had taken the position that any agreement reached by the parties would not be final until it had been reviewed and approved by OMB. The Judge found that, with full knowledge of the Respondent's position, the Union bargained with the Respondent and reached agreement "on all substantive issues." Judge's Decision at 29. The Judge also found that the Union had clearly and unmistakably waived its right to have fully authorized representatives of the Respondent at the bargaining table and that the parties had reached a "meeting of the minds" on all substantive issues pertaining to the collective bargaining agreement. Id.
Applying Authority precedent under § 7114(b)(5) of the Statute, e.g., IRS, Philadelphia Dist. Office, 22 FLRA 245 (1986) (IRS, Philadelphia Dist.), the Judge concluded that, since OMB did not approve the parties' agreement, the condition precedent to finality established by the Respondent had not been met. [n3] In the absence of a final agreement, according to the Judge, the Respondent had no obligation under § 7114(b)(5) to execute that agreement and, therefore, did not violate the Statute. The Judge found, in this connection, that the Union had "acquiesced" in the requirement for OMB approval as a precondition for the finality of the agreement. Judge's Decision at 29.
III. Positions of the Parties
A. General Counsel's Exceptions
The General Counsel contends that the Union did not waive its rights under the Statute. Specifically, the General Counsel notes that: (1) there was no written agreement between the parties concerning OMB review and approval; (2) the Union continually objected to such approval; and (3) the Union's decision to continue bargaining even after the Respondent announced that any agreement reached would not be final until OMB had approved it did not amount to acquiescence in that precondition to finality. The General Counsel maintains that because the Respondent's representatives claimed to be authorized to bargain for the Respondent, the parties' agreement was final and the Respondent violated the Statute by failing to execute that agreement.
B. Union's Exceptions
The Union contends that the Judge erred by failing to consider all of the "undisputed" evidence in the record, including evidence that OMB did not, in fact, disapprove the parties' agreement and that some prior agreements between the Agency and other unions had not been submitted to OMB for review. Union's Exceptions at 15. Specifically, the Union contends that the Judge ignored Union witness testimony that: (1) the Respondent's Chief Negotiator testified that he had full negotiating authority; (2) the Union refused to agree to OMB review and approval; (3) the Union only agreed to review and approval by the incoming Secretary of Transportation. The Union also contends that the Judge failed to properly apply the law as to waiver of its right under the Statute to bargain with authorized representatives of the Respondent. The Union asserts that because the Judge found that the parties had reached agreement on all matters, the Judge should have found that the Respondent violated the Statute by failing to execute that agreement.
C. Respondent's Opposition
The Respondent contends that the Judge properly considered all the evidence presented and made appropriate findings of fact based on that evidence. The Respondent also contends that the Judge properly applied the law regarding waiver of rights under the Statute. Specifically, the Respondent notes the Judge's finding that the Union continued to bargain and reached agreement with the Respondent despite being on notice that any such agreement would be subject to review and approval by OMB and despite the Union's requests that the Respondent have authorized representatives at the bargaining table. The Respondent also claims that it had [ v59 p493 ] no obligation to execute the parties' agreement because there had been no meeting of the minds between the parties with respect to that agreement.
IV. Analysis and Conclusions
We conclude that the Judge properly dismissed the complaint. The evidence in the record supports the Judge's finding that the Union acquiesced in the requirement for OMB approval. Consequently, we do not address whether the Judge failed to properly apply the law of waiver with respect to the Union's rights under the Statute.
We find no merit in the Union's contention that the Judge failed to consider relevant evidence. The Judge considered, but specifically did not credit, testimony to the effect that the Respondent had not notified the Union concerning its intent to submit any agreement reached to OMB for approval. Thus, the Union has not shown that the Judge failed to consider relevant evidence. Moreover, contrary to the Union's argument, the Judge considered testimony concerning approval by the incoming Secretary of Transportation. As to the claim that the Judge failed to consider evidence that OMB did not, in fact, disapprove the agreement, we find that the Judge is not required to comment on every piece of evidence presented to her, particularly where, as here, there is substantial evidence in the record supporting the Judge's finding that OMB disapproved the agreement. See, e.g., Transcript at 500 (undisputed testimony of Respondent's Chief Negotiator that he was present when OMB disapproved the agreement). See also State of Wyoming v. Alexander, 971 F.2d 531, 538 (10th Cir. 1992) (where evidence provides cumulative support for decision, failure to comment on every piece of evidence is not fatal). Finally, contrary to the Union's argument that the Judge failed to consider evidence regarding this issue, we find that the Judge explicitly relied on the Respondent's submission of prior agreements with other unions that were submitted to OMB for approval.
The Judge credited the testimony of Respondent's witnesses that the Union had been notified that the Respondent intended to submit any agreement reached between the parties to OMB for approval and found that the Respondent had clearly made that position known before and during its negotiations with the Union. She further found that the Union, by continuing to negotiate with the Respondent in the face of that position, had acquiesced to that precondition for finality of the agreement. We agree with the Judge that, in light of these findings, OMB's ultimate disapproval of the agreement meant that the agreement was not final and that absent such finality, the Respondent was under no obligation to execute the agreement. See IRS, Philadelphia Dist., 22 FLRA at 257-58 (management notified union that alternative work schedules (AWS) agreement must be part of entire agreement, so failure to sign separate AWS agreement not an unfair labor practice). In light of this analysis, we do not address the parties' contentions concerning whether the Judge er