File 2: ALJ's Decision
[ v58 p627 ]
Office of Administrative Law Judges
HEADQUARTERS, 96th AIR BASE WING
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, FLORIDA
EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1897
Case Nos. AT-CA-00659
Steven Sherwood, Esquire
Captain Donald E. Witmyer
For the Respondent
Mr. William McAnelly
For the Charging Party
Richard S. Jones, Esquire
On Brief: Paige A. Sanderson, Esquire
For the General Counsel
Before: WILLIAM B. DEVANEY
Administrative Law Judge
Statement of the Case
This proceeding, under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, Chapter 71 of Title 5 of the United States Code, 5 U.S.C. § 7101, et seq. [n1] , and the Rules and Regulations issued thereunder, 5 C.F.R. § 2423.1, et seq., concerns whether, Respondent violated § 16(a)(1) and (5) of the Statute when it refused to bargain on the impact and implementation of its addition of a supervisory position -- Flightline Expediter -- in the chain command of the Air Reserve Technical Civilian Employees.
This case was initiated by a charge filed on June 1, 2000, (G.C. Exh. 1(a)). The Complaint and Notice of Hearing issued on February 15, 2001 (G.C. Exh. 1(e)) and set the hearing for May 12, 2001. [n2] On March 13, 2001, Respondent filed a Motion for Partial Dismissal Leading to Complete Dismissal (G.C. Exh. 1(l)) which subsequently was denied. (G.C. Exh. 1(q)).
A hearing was held on May 3, 2001, in Shalimar, Florida, before the undersigned. All parties were represented at the hearing, were afforded full opportunity to be heard, to introduce evidence bearing on the issues involved, and were afforded the opportunity to present oral argument which all parties declined. At the conclusion of the hearing, Respondent moved for summary judgment. I withheld action on the motion, pending submission of post-hearing briefs. [n3] June 4, 2001, was set for the filing of briefs. General Counsel and Respondent each timely submitted an excellent brief, received on or before June 7, 2001, which have been carefully considered. Upon the basis of the entire record [n4] , I make the following findings and conclusions:
1. Employees at Eglin AFB are covered by a nationwide collective bargaining agreement (master agreement) between Council 214, American Federation of Government Employees (Council 214) and the Air Force Material Command (Tr. 72). The American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1897 (hereinafter, "Union") is the bargaining agent for Council 214 for all employees at Eglin AFB (id.).
2. The main organization at Eglin AFB is the Air Armament Center (Tr. 73; Res. Exh. 1). The 96th Air Base Wing is a subordinate entity within the Air Armament Center(Tr. 73). Also at Eglin AFB are various tenant organizations which are not within the organizational [ v58 p628 ] scope of the Air Armament Center. Bargaining unit members in tenant organizations are covered by the master agreement, and the 96th Air Base Wing provides labor relations support for all of Eglin AFB, including tenant organizations (Tr. 11).
3. The 919th Special Operations Wing (919th), an Air Force Reserve unit, is a tenant organization at Eglin AFB, located at Duke Field, a part of the Eglin AFB complex (Tr. 70). Bargaining unit members in the 919th include aircraft mechanic crew chiefs. Each crew chief is assigned a specific airplane for which he is responsible for its maintenance and pre-flight inspections (Tr. 53, 56, 103-04). Crew chiefs have the authority to "sign off" on documents certifying that the plane is flight worthy and that maintenance has been done in accordance with technical orders (Tr. 54).
4. Prior to April 2000, crew chiefs worked on their assigned aircraft unless called to assist on other aircraft. Decisions to call crew chiefs off their assigned aircraft were normally made by the shop chief, the crew chiefs' first line supervisor (Tr. 87-88, 94). When the shop chief was otherwise occupied, one of the crew chiefs would assume the responsibility for determining when and where personnel should be pulled from their assigned aircraft (Tr. 121). Although crew chiefs were "not often" called from their assigned air craft (Tr. 96), the frequency of such occurrences increased when flying schedules were heavy (Tr. 105).
5. Sometime around February 2000, the number of active duty military personnel increased at Duke Field (Tr. 94). Coincident with the influx of active duty personnel, the flying activity of the planes serviced by the crew chiefs increased (Tr. 115). The increased flying activity led to greater maintenance requirements (id.).
6. On April 7, 2000, Charles Boehm, maintenance superintendent and a management official in the 919th, met with the crew chiefs and reviewed a recently issued Maintenance Instruction Letter (Instruction) (Tr. 57). The Instruction was issued by Major Reginald Stroud, Maintenance Commander of the 919th (G.C. Exh. 2). The Union received no advance notice of the meeting nor had it been provided a copy of the Instruction (Tr. 56). Paragraph 5 of the Instruction provided for the installation of an "expediter." The expediter has responsibility for assigning work to crew chiefs based on workload and mission. According to the Instruction, crew chiefs would work their assigned aircraft "only when workload and mission allows" (G.C. Exh. 2). At the meeting, the crew chiefs expressed their disapproval of the creation of the expediter position and one crew chief walked out of the meeting (Tr. 58). Nonetheless, the Instruction, including the implementation of the expediter position, went into effect on or about that date (Tr. 67-68).
7. By memorandum dated April 19, 2000, addressed to Major Stroud with a copy furnished to Eglin's Labor Relations Officer (LRO), the Union requested to bargain over the Instruction (G.C. Exh. 3, Tr. 61. Neither Major Stroud nor the LRO responded to the union's request and bargaining never took place (Tr. 61).
1. Preliminary Issues
As a threshold matter, Respondent contends that the complaint should be dismissed because:(1) the complaint misidentifies the proper respondent and (2) the unilateral change specified in the complaint did not concern conditions of employment of bargaining unit employees. For the reasons that follow, I find that neither of these contentions merit dismissal of the complaint.
a. General Principles
Both contentions seek to dismiss the complaint based on what are essentially pleading errors by the General Counsel. However, the Authority has long held that it does not judge a complaint on rigid pleading requirements. OLAM Southwest Air Defense Sector (TAC), Point Arena Air Force Station, Point Arena, California, 51 FLRA 797, 807 (1996). Rather, the Authority will consider matters not specified in the complaint, if those matters are fully and fairly litigated. Id. at 808; see also, Bureau of Prisons, Office of Internal Affairs, Washington, D.C. and Phoenix Ariz., 52 FLRA 421, 429 (1996) (Bureau of Prisons) (Where a complaint is silent or ambiguous about specific issues that are later raised at hearing, the Authority may consider and dispose of those issues if they are fully and fairly litigated). The test of full and fair litigation is "whether the respondent knew what conduct was at issue and had a fair opportunity to present a defense." United States Dep't of Labor, Washington, D.C., 51 FLRA 462, 467 (1995). Fairness requires that any "doubts about due process be resolved in favor of the respondent." Bureau of Prisons, 52 FLRA at 431. The Authority has recently stated that these "due process" principles are the appropriate framework to resolve questions concerning the identity of a respondent. United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Correctional Institution, Forest City, Arkansas, 57 FLRA No. 175 (May 24, 2002), slip op. at 5. [ v58 p629 ]
b. Identity of the Proper Respondent
Respondent contends that the conduct alleged to be violative of the Statute was not committed by the named Respondent, Eglin AFB, 96th Air Base Wing, but rather was committed by management officials in the 919th, a tenant organization outside the organizational authority of the 96th Air Base Wing. However, for the reasons below, I find that the Respondent is identified with sufficient clarity.
The complaint names "Headquarters, 96th Air Base Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida" as the Respondent. According to Counsel for the Respondent, "the General Counsel has simply got the wrong party," because the 96th Air Base Wing is not responsible for the conduct alleged as violative of the Statute (Tr. 10). According to Respondent, the alleged misconduct was performed by management officials in the 919th, an organizational entity, wholly independent of the 96th Air Base Wing. At the beginning of the hearing, General Counsel first noted that the matter was discussed and clarified at the pre-hearing conference (Tr. 10), and that Respondent amended its prehearing disclosure to include the relevant management officials as witnesses. General Counsel further stated that its intent was to identify Eglin Air Force Base as an entity because the bargaining unit encompasses the entire base (Tr. 11). Lastly, General Counsel stated that it named the 96th Air Wing because it provides labor relations support for the entire base (id.).
I find that through the course of litigation, Respondent and its counsel knew what was at issue and who the responsible parties were. Accordingly, the Authority may consider whether management officials of the 919th violated the Statute by their conduct. I note particularly that Respondent has not contended that there was confusion regarding what management officials were alleged to have violated the Statute, or that it was unable to present a proper defense. [n5] Rather, Respondent's claim is simply that the General Counsel got it wrong on the face of the complaint. As noted above, the Authority has consistently held that it will not dismiss a complaint for technical failures in a complaint when the matter has been fully and fairly litigated.
c. Sufficiency of Allegations Contained in the Complaint
Respondent argues that because the unilateral change, as stated in the complaint, does not concern the conditions of employment of bargaining unit employees, there was no obligation to bargain over the matter. [n6] In that regard, the complaint alleges that the Respondent violated the Statute when it "added the position of Flightline Expediter to the chain of command of the Air Reserve Technician Civilian Employees" (G.C. Exh. 1(e)¶ 11(a)). If the addition of the expediter position was the sole basis of the General Counsel's case, then I would agree that the case should be dismissed because the staffing of supervisory positions does not concern conditions of employment of bargaining unit employees. [n7] See Veterans Admin. and Veterans Admin. Medical Ctr., Lyons, N.J., 24 FLRA 64, 68 (1986) reversed on other grounds, sub nom. AFGE, Local 1012, AFL-CIO v. FLRA, 841 F.2d 1165 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (procedures for filling supervisory positions do not concern conditions of employment of bargaining unit members). However, as made clear at the hearing, General Counsel's theory of the case was not that the addition of the expediter changed conditions of employment, but rather that the duties and responsibilities of the bargaining unit employees (crew chiefs) had been modified (Tr. 14-15, 28-29).
As discussed above, where a complaint is silent or ambiguous about specific issues that are later raised at hearing, the Authority may consider and dispose of those issues if they are fully and fairly litigated. Bureau of Prisons, 52 FLRA at 429. The extent to which the crew chief's duties and responsibilities were changed was fully and fairly litigated. Not only did General Counsel make the theory of the case clear in his opening remarks, but the witnesses testified at length about their duties. I again take note of the fact that Respondent does not argue to the contrary, nor does it make any claim of prejudice or inability to present a defense. In that regard, Respondent specifically addressed the question of whether there had been a change in the duties and responsibility of the crew chiefs (Respondent Br. 8, 10-11) and those arguments have formed the basis of my decision on the merits.
2. There Was No Change in Conditions of Employment
As a threshold requirement to finding a violation, it must be established that Respondent changed conditions of employment of bargaining unit employees. United States Immigrati