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National Labor Relations Board v. Grossinger's

decided: February 1, 1967.


Lumbard, Chief Judge, Hays, and Feinberg, Circuit Judges.

Author: Hays

HAYS, Circuit Judge.

The National Labor Relations Board petitions for enforcement of an order based upon a finding of a violation by respondent of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1).*fn1

Respondent Grossinger's is a famous resort hotel in the Catskill Mountains about a mile and a half from Liberty, New York, a village of approximately 5,000 inhabitants.

The Hotel hires between 565 and 786 employees depending on the season of the year. It is open the year round.

Beginning in 1962 the Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union, Local 343, AFL-CIO, has sought to organize the employees of Grossinger's. The Board has determined that Grossinger's activities in resisting organization constitute interference, restraint and coercion within the meaning of Section 8(a)(1) of the statute.

There is ample evidence in the record to support the Board's finding that, during the period prior to an election for the selection of a bargaining representative, Grossinger's repeatedly promised its employees a variety of benefits. There had been some expressions of dissatisfaction because there was frequently a delay in the payment of tips for conventions held at the Hotel. Management promised the employees that this delay would be eliminated. Maids were assured that their schedules would be changed so that they would work a six-day week rather than a seven-day week during the summer season and that something would be done to meet their complaints about the extra time required by late checkouts. Certain grievances of the dishwashers were characterized as "meritorious" and corrections were promised. Management announced that a grievance committee would be set up. They said that they would look into the possibility of working out a medical benefit plan. In addition to these specific promises the employees were given general assurance of improvements they would be pleased with. We will enforce the Board's order in so far as it refers to unlawful promises of benefits. See N.L.R.B. v. Philamon Laboratories, 298 F.2d 176, 180-81 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 370 U.S. 919, 8 L. Ed. 2d 498, 82 S. Ct. 1555 (1962); N.L.R.B. v. Pyne Molding Corp., 226 F.2d 818, 820-21 (2d Cir. 1955).

On the other hand we are unable to find sufficient evidence to support the Board's finding that unlawful threats of reprisals were made. It is true that Management made several vague and general statements of pessimism about the future progress and growth of Grossinger's if the Union should win the election. These statements do not seem to us to be sufficiently definite to constitute threats. Moreover, the statements did not suggest that the Grossinger management would seek to bring about any of the unfortunate conditions which they feared might occur. Rather than threats the Management's statements seem to have been prophecies of a somewhat shadowy doom. We will modify the Board's order to eliminate the reference to threats of reprisals. See National Labor Relations Act, Section 8(c), 29 U.S.C. § 158(c); N.L.R.B. v. Lyman Printing Co., 356 F.2d 844, 845-46 (4th Cir. 1966).

There is support in the record for the Board's finding that Grossinger's sought to convince employees that union meetings were held under employer surveillance. Management publicly thanked employees for "making a lot of reports." An employee was told that Management knew that he had been going to all the meetings. We will enforce the Board's order in so far as it refers to leading employees to believe that there was employer surveillance of union meetings. See N.L.R.B. v. Gotham Shoe Mfg. Co., 359 F.2d 684, 685 (2d Cir. 1966), enforcing 149 N.L.R.B. 862 (1964).

The evidence as to unlawful employer interrogation of employees meets the "fairly severe standards" set forth in Bourne v. N.L.R.B., 332 F.2d 47, 48 (2d Cir. 1964). The interrogations took place against a background of hostility to the Union. Management sought information as to "what went on at the union meeting, what we did . . . who signed up for the union." Much of the questioning was done by the Management's principal spokesman in dealing with the organizational campaign. Employees were summoned from work for questioning and on one occasion there was a tape recorder in full view of the employee. The evidence supports the conclusion that the employee interrogation was coercive. We will enforce the Board's order in respect to employee interrogation. See Edward Fields, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., 325 F.2d 754, 758-59 (2d Cir. 1963).

The Board's finding that Grossinger's encouraged and solicited employees to withdraw their union affiliation is supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Management suggested to the employees that they withdraw, assisted them in the preparation of a petition and permitted the petition to be circulated for signatures on company time and property. We will enforce the Board's order in respect to the encouragement and solicitation of withdrawal from the Union. See Edward Fields, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., supra, 325 F.2d at 759-60.

The most bitterly contested portion of the Board's order is that which requires Grossinger's to allow nonemployee organizers access to employees residing on the Hotel premises. It is conceded that the Union requested such access for its representatives and that it was refused. The issue is whether the Board was acting within its statutory powers in ordering Grossinger's to permit Union organizers to come onto its property.

Grossinger's is located on a 468 acre tract and has about 600 guest rooms and more than 300 rooms for employees who live on the premises. About 60 percent of the employees or from 309 to 511, depending on the season, live on the premises. Resident employees usually eat all their meals at the Hotel. Many facilities, both recreational and service, are available on the Hotel premises and resident employees leave the Hotel only rarely for brief visits to the neighboring village of Liberty.

Employees who do not live on the premises live in nearby villages and go to work in taxis or private automobiles. About two-thirds of ...

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