[ v15 p987 ]
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 IS ORDERED that the complaint in Case No. 43-CA-2095 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 --------------- FOOTNOTES$ --------------- /1/ Section 7116(a)(1) provides: Sec. 7116. Unfair labor practices (a) For the purpose of this chapter, it shall be an unfair labor practice for an agency-- (1) to interfere with, restrain, or coerce an employee in the exercise by the employee of any right under this chapter(.) /2/ Other police services include investigation of criminal activities and the parties stipulate that employees of the Naval Base and the Naval Air Station in the past have received discipline as a result of information gathered during police investigations.