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U.S. Federal Labor Relations Authority

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17:0304(42)CA - Justice, Marshals Service and International Council of Deputy Marshals Locals, AFGE Local 2827 -- 1985 FLRAdec CA

[ v17 p304 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:

 17 FLRA No. 42
 LOCAL 2827
 Charging Party
                                            Case No. 2-CA-40016
                            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 the
 Respondent filed an opposition to the General Counsel's exceptions.
    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.
    IT IS ORDERED that the complaint in Case No. 2-CA-40016 be, and it
 hereby is, dismissed.  
 Issued, Washington, D.C., March 21, 1985
                                       Henry B. Frazier III, Acting
                                       William J. McGinnis, Jr., Member
                                       FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY
 -------------------- ALJ$ DECISION FOLLOWS --------------------
                                       Case No. 2-CA-40016
    James G. Bennett, Esq.
    Ronald R. Frazee, Esq.
       For the Respondent
    Robert J. Fabii, Esq.
    Barbara S. Liggett, Esq.
       For the General Counsel
       Administrative Law Judge
                           Statement of the Case
    This case arose under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations
 Statute (herein called the Statute).  It is based on a first amended
 charge filed on November 22, 1983 by International Council of Deputy
 U.S. Marshals Locals, American Federation of Government Employees, Local
 2827, (herein called the Union) against the U.S. Department of Justice,
 U.S. Marshals Office (herein called the Respondent).
    A Complaint and Notice of Hearing was issued on December 28, 1983 by
 the Acting Regional Director for the Federal Labor Relations Authority,
 Region II.  The said Complaint alleged, in substance, that on or about
 October 3, 1983 Respondent suggested to employees they would be
 scrutinized more closely re their telephone usage and promptness in
 reporting for duty;  that such suggestion was made as a result of the
 Union President's exercise of protected activity - all in violation of
 Section 7116(a)(1) of the Statute.
    Respondent filed an Answer dated January 20, 1984 which denied the
 aforesaid allegations as well as the commission of any unfair labor
    A hearing was held before the undersigned on February 7, 1984 at
 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  All parties were represented thereat.  Each
 was afforded full opportunity to be heard, to adduce evidence, and to
 examine as well as cross-examine witnesses.  Thereafter briefs were
 filed which have been duly considered.  /1/
    Upon the entire record herein, from my observation of the witnesses
 and their demeanor, and from all of the testimony and evidence adduced
 at the hearing, I make following findings and conclusions:
                             Findings of Fact
    1.  At all times material herein, the American Federation of
 Government Employees, AFL-CIO, International Council of U.S. Marshals
 Service Locals has been, and still is, the exclusive bargaining
 representative of Respondent's nonprofessional employees worldwide,
 including intermittent and term deputies and excluding certain employees
 not relevant herein.
    2.  Both Respondent and American Federation of Government Employees,
 AFL-CIO, International Council of U.S. Marshals Service Locals are
 parties to a collective bargaining agreement.  The said agreement, by
 its terms, became effective on January 29, 1982 and remains in full
 force and effect thereafter for a three year period.
    3.  At all times material herein, American Federation of Government
 Employees, Local 2827 (herein called the Union) has acted as the agent
 of American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, International
 Council of U.S. Marshals Service Locals, regarding collective bargaining
 and other labor relations matters affecting employees at Respondent's
 Camden New Jersey location.
    4.  On September 3, 1983 Starlord Pickett, Acting President of the
 Union /2/ and a Deputy U.S. Marshal employed at the Camden, New Jersey
 Office, filed a step one grievance on behalf of the Union with Eugene
 Liss, U.S. Marshal for the District of New Jersey.  In this written
 grievance Pickett stated that Liss had made "various changes" in working
 conditions without notifying the Union or giving it an opportunity to
 negotiate the changes - all in violation of Article XXXI of the Master
 Agreement.  Pockett requested that Liss discuss this grievance as
 required under Article XXV of the said Agreement.
    5.  In a letter dated September 9, 1983 /3/ Liss wrote Pickett
 acknowledging receipt of the step one grievance.  The Marshal stated
 that the letter-grievance filed by Pickett did not set forth specifics
 and Liss had no idea of the Union's particular complaint.  Liss
 requested that Pickett mention specific contractual violative acts with
 attending dates.
    6.  By letter dated September 19 Pickett filed a step two grievance,
 addressed to Liss, wherein he enumerated the changes unilaterally
 instituted by the Marshal.  These changes did not include, or make
 mention of, the usage of FTS telephones by employees in the Camden
 office, or the charging of leave to a Camden employee if he returned
 late from lunch or reported late to work.  /4/
    7.  Several days after September 19 Liss called Leon Cunningham,
 Supervisory Deputy Marshal at Camden, New Jersey.  The Marshal notified
 Cunningham he would be in Camden on October 4.  He also told the
 supervisor to have Pickett available to discuss a grievance which the
 Union official filed against Liss.  /5/
    8.  On October 4 Marshal Liss visited the Camden office and conferred
 for a short time with Pickett.  Both individuals discussed the matters
 mentioned in the step two grievance letter.  No reference was made by
 either person as to the usage of FTS telephones by Camden employees, or
 the charging of leave to Camden employees if they returned late from
 lunch or reported late to work.
    9.  Following the conversation with Pickett, and on the same day,
 Liss conferred with Cunningham.  The Marshal testified he was concerned
 about the usage of telephones at Camden;  that it was difficult to
 communicate between headquarters and Trenton due to the fact that the
 Camden phones were continually in use.  Liss told Cunningham that the
 excessive usage was difficult to understand since there was not much
 warranty work being undertaken;  that the public, as well as some
 attorneys, complained they couldn't communicate with the Camden office.
 Liss told the supervisor to "get tough with his phones" and to supervise
 them.  The Marshal also advised Cunningham that the latter could
 interrupt a lengthy phone conversation to ascertain if it was official
 business being discussed.  The reference was made by Liss, during their
 discussion, as to charging leave if employees reported late to work or
 after lunch.  Liss did not mention that Pickett had filed a grievance or
 refer to it.
    10.  On October 6, Cunningham called a meeting of his deputies.  /6/
 Attending thereat were Pickett, William Gunning, Barry Frost, and Boston
 Bennett - all deputies attached to the Camden office.  The supervisor
 stated /7/ that there had been complaints regarding the operation of the
 office;  that someone gave information to the Marshal that the Camden
 office was being run in a loose manner.  He also referred to having met
 with Liss on the previous day;  that the Marshal had met with one of the
 deputies, but the name of the deputy was not mentioned.  Cunningham
 mentioned that while the office was being run satisfactorily, certain
 rules needed to be enforced and it was necessary to tighten procedures.
 He indicated that warrant files should be kept accessible in the event a
 deputy was not on hand;  that the deputies should observe the chain of
 command and advise him if they want to talk to the Marshal.  Cunningham
 referred to the fact that the hours were from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and
 if a deputy reported late he would have to take leave.  The supervisor
 commented he came in at 8:30 and was not asking the deputies to do
 anything unusual.  He mentioned that one-half hour was allotted for
 lunch and if a deputy exceeded that time, he must put in a leave slip.
 Cunningham also told the deputies that phones must be used only for
 official business;  that the calls should be kept short and limited to
 about three minutes.  He suggested that it may be necessary to monitor
 phone calls where the usage is excessive.  /8/
    11.  The record reflects that subsequent to the meeting on October 5
 Cunningham monitored some of the phone calls in the Camden office, and
 that this practice has continued.
    General Counsel maintains that, based on the statements made by
 Supervisor Cunningham to the deputies on October 5, Respondent violated
 Section 7116(a)(1) of the Statute.  It is contended that the supervisor
 suggested to the employees he intended to restrict the use of
 telephones, as well as charge the deputies leave if late for work or
 upon returning from lunch, because Pickett had met with Marshal Liss re
 a grievance filed by the union official.
    Management is proscribed, under Section 7116(a)(1) from interfering
 with, restraining, or coercing its employees in the exercise of rights
 assured by the Statute.  It is quite clear that included within such
 protective activity is the filing of grievances.  See United States
 Department of Interior, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Controller for the
 Virgin Islands, 11 FLRA No. 91.  In determining whether statements by
 management re the filing of grievances by employees tends to interfere
 with such protected activity, certain standards must be considered.
 Thus, it does not suffice to consider subjective perceptions or
 reactions by employees.  By the same token, the intent of the employer
 is not the test in deciding whether statements constitute interference.
 The decisive factor is whether, under the circumstances, an employee may
 reasonably infer intimidation or coercion based on management's remarks.
  The essential query is whether such statements tended to interfere,
 coerce or restrain employees.  Federal Mediation and Conciliation
 Service, 9 FLRA No. 3.
    Careful consideration of the record herein convinces me that,
 contrary to General Counsel's assertions, Cunningham did not suggest to
 the deputies on October 5 that he was instituting changes because
 Pickett had filed a grievance or met with Marshal Liss in respect a
 thereto.  While it is true that the supervisor knew that Deputy Pickett
 had filed a grievance and had met with Liss on October 4, the record
 does not support a reasonable inference that Cunningham announced there
 would be closer scrutinizing of working conditions based on Pickett's
 activities in that regard.  Despite the artful and well expressed
 urgings of the General Counsel, I am constrained to conclude that the
 deputies could not reasonably draw such an inference.
    While it is true that Cunningham knew that Liss met with Pickett on
 October 4 re a grievance, the complaints lodged by the union official
 therein pertained to conduct - or the lack thereof - by Liss as Marshal
 and head of the New Jersey District.  There was no accusation or
 criticism leveled by Pickett against his immediate supervisor.  Further,
 Liss made no reference to the specifics of the grievance, nor was he
 unduly critical of the Camden office, when he spoke to Cunningham on
 October 4.  The Marshal did not upbraid the supervisor in any severe
 manner but was concerned about the excessive use of the telephones by
 the deputies.  In respect to the latter, he directed that Cunningham
 take some action to restrict such usage.  Under the circumstances, it is
 difficult to abide by General Counsel's theory that the supervisor
 informed the men there would be closer scrutinizing because of Pickett's
 grievance.  Although it does not avail one to speculate re the motive
 for Cunningham's actions, it seems reasonable to conclude, based on the
 record herein, that he was tightening the reins pursuant to the command
 of Marshal Liss on the previous day.  None of the evidence supports a
 conclusion that Cunningham did become stringent in enforcing the rules
 as a result of Pickett's activity.
    In meeting with the deputies on October 5, the supervisor made no
 reference to Pickett on his filing a grievance which in anyway reflected
 adversely upon the Camden office.  No adverse inference may be properly
 drawn against Respondent based on Pickett's testimony that Cunningham
 looked at him during the meeting.  The deputies who testified herein
 attest to the fact that Cunningham spoke to all of them and did not
 direct his remarks to anyone person.  No reference was made to any union
 or protected activity on the part of Pickett or other employee.  The
 state of the record persuades me that the supervisor of the deputies was
 sensitive to the criticism expressed by Liss;  that he sought to respond
 thereto by limiting the usage of phones, and also insisted there be no
 tardiness after lunch breaks or upon reporting for work - all of which
 constituted adherence to proper procedures.
    In sum, I conclude that Cunningham's remarks to the deputies on
 October 5 contained no coercive statements and no threats of
 interference with their protected rights under the Statute.  Moreover,
 the record herein does not, in my opinion, warrant the inference that
 the supervisor's comments on October 5 - including his insistence upon
 limited usage of the telephones and reporting on time for work or upon
 returning from lunch - were made as a result of Pickett's filing a
 grievance with the Marshal concerning other working conditions.  Having
 concluded that Cunningham's statements on October 5 did not tend to
 interfere, restrain or coerce the deputies, I conclude Respondent did
 not violate Section 7116(a)(1) of the Statute as alleged.  Accordingly,
 it is recommended that the complaint be dismissed in its entirety.
                                       WILLIAM NAIMARK
                                       Administrative Law Judge
 Dated:  November 15, 1984
          Washington, D.C.
 --------------- FOOTNOTES$ ---------------
    /1/ Subsequent to the hearing the General Counsel filed with the
 undersigned a Motion to Correct Transcript.  No objection having been
 interposed thereto, and it appearing that the corrections are proper,
 the motion is granted.  The transcript is hereby corrected as reflected
 in the Appendix which is annexed to this decision.
    /2/ Pickett also served as Regional Vice-President of the
 International Council of U.S. Marshals and as regional representative
 for the national union.
    /3/ Unless otherwise indicated, all dates hereinafter mentioned occur
 in 1983.
    /4/ There were 9 alleged changes by Liss of which Pickett complained.
  They included such items as:  rotating Newark Deputies but not others;
 changing method of transporting prisoners which affected overtime for
 Trenton and Camden Deputies;  changing mileage calculations to detriment
 of Trenton Deputies;  reprisal against a union official for seeking to
 file a grievance.
    /5/ Pickett testified he always sent a copy to Cunningham of any
 correspondence to Liss.  Thus it is contended the supervisor was aware
 of Pickett's grievance.  On the state of the record, and in view of
 Cunningham's denial that he received the grievance, there is
 insufficient proof that the specifics of the grievance were known to the
    /6/ Those in attendance at this meeting testified to different
 versions of what was said thereat.  The findings herein represent the
 credited version of remarks by Cunningham.
    /7/ Record facts reflect Cunningham calls periodic staff meetings,
 and that he has held 3 or 4 meetings with his deputies during the past
 18 months.
    /8/ Although Pickett testified Cunningham looked at him during the
 meeting, other deputies testified that the supervisor's remarks were
 directed at all in attendance.