[ v20 p216 ]
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 1,815 are in 11 bargaining units covering 11 state office units, of which 6 are represented by NFFE and 5 are represented by various locals of the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (AFGE). Approximately 803 employees are in a unit represented by AFGE located at the national finance office. The finance office employees perform different tasks, have a different mission and function and are under a different chain of command than employees in the state office units. /5/ Section 7112(d) provides as follows: (d) Two or more units which are in an agency and for which a labor organization is the exclusive representative may, upon petition by the agency or labor organization, be consolidated with or without an election into a single larger unit if the Authority considers the larger unit to be appropriate. The Authority shall certify the labor organization as the exclusive representative of the new larger unit. /6/ Compare Department of the Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, supra, where the Authority found in granting the consolidation petition that the employees of the proposed unit were sufficiently well distributed throughout the organizational elements of the Activity and that their geographic distribution sufficiently reflected that of the Activity so as to constitute a meaningful consolidated unit. /7/ Department of Defense, U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers, 5 FLRA 677(1981).