Court: 2-member board could affirm ruling

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a decision by the National Labor Relations Board that a northern Indiana steel company must recognize a collective bargaining agreement between the union and the company.

In New Process Steel, L.P., v. National Labor Relations Board, Nos. 08-3517, 08-3518, 08-3709, and 08-3859, the 7th Circuit consolidated the separate appeals by New Process Steel and the National Labor Relations Board following the board's conclusion New Process and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, had enacted a valid collective bargaining agreement.

Union members had to vote on a new collective bargaining agreement with New Process. The parties mentioned the agreement needing to be ratified, but New Process never specified what that process should entail. Based on union bylaws, if a majority of employees didn't vote to approve the contract, the union would then take a vote to strike, in which a two-thirds vote was needed. If employees didn't vote to strike, then the union would accept the contract. That happened in this case, so union representatives told New Process they had an agreement and the collective bargaining agreement was executed.

New Process then decided it wanted to resume negotiations because of complaints it received regarding how the first agreement was accepted. The company also announced it was withdrawing its recognition from the union after receiving a decertification petition.

An administrative law judge found the company had to accept the union contract. The National Labor Relations Board affirmed and also ordered the company to deal with the union as the bargaining representative of the employees.

A key issue in the appeal is whether the board was able to affirm the decision of the ALJ because only two members of the five-member board voted. Statute allows a smaller, three-member panel to have authority to rule on issues, and also allows for two members to constitute a quorum if the third person is unavailable. Due to the expiration of term limits and board vacancies, the vote was made only by the two-person quorum.

The issue of whether the NLRB can proceed with the two-person quorum is pending in several circuits at this time, wrote Judge Joel Flaum. The plain meaning of the statute supports the board's delegation procedure and it had authority to hear the labor dispute in this case and to issue orders regarding the unfair labor practices claim and New Process' withdrawal of recognition of the union, wrote the judge.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the validity of the collective bargaining agreement. New Process argued the agreement was never ratified as they requested; however, the company never specified what ratification meant and the method to be used. The board's conclusion that New Process can't refuse to recognize the contract because the union didn't follow the company's definition of ratification has a reasonable basis in law. New Process can't insist on any particular method of ratification.

The appellate judges also dismissed New Process' argument that because they believed ratification meant one thing and the union believed it meant another method, there was no "meeting of the minds" and thus, no contract. But because the parties didn't negotiate the meaning of ratification or the method to use, the union was free to decide what method to employ.

Lastly, the 7th Circuit affirmed the board's order forcing New Process to recognize the union as the valid collective bargaining representative for the plant employees. Because the agreement was valid, the company couldn't withdraw recognition from the union.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues