Asociacion Hospital del Maestro, 485 (1995)

Docket Number:24-CA-05213
 
FREE EXCERPT

Asociacion Hospital del Maestro, Inc. and/or

Asociacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico and Unidad Laboral de Enfermeras(os) y Empleados de la Salud. Cases 24-CA-5213, 24-CA- 5275, 24-CA-5310, 24-CA-5426, 24-CA-6282, and 24-CA-6601

May 19, 1995

DECISION AND ORDER

BY CHAIRMAN GOULD AND MEMBERS STEPHENS AND BROWNING

On August 24, 1994, Administrative Law Judge Thomas R. Wilks issued the attached decision. The Respondents filed exceptions and a supporting brief, and the General Counsel filed an answering brief. The General Counsel filed cross-exceptions and a supporting brief, and the Respondents filed an answering brief.

The National Labor Relations Board has delegated its authority in this proceeding to a three-member panel.

The Board has considered the decision and the record in light of the exceptions, cross-exceptions,1

and briefs and has decided to affirm the judge's rul-

ings, findings,2 and conclusions3 and to adopt the recommended Order.

ORDER

The National Labor Relations Board adopts the recommended Order of the administrative law judge and orders that the Respondents, Asociacion Hospital Del Maestro, Inc. and Asociacion De Maestros De Puerto Rico, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, their officers, agents, successors, and assigns, shall take the action set forth in the Order.

Efrain Rivera-Vega, Esq.,1 Raymond E. Morales, Esq.,2

Angel A. Valencia Aponte, Esq.,3 and Harold E. Hopkins Jr., Esq., for the General Counsel.

Godwin Aldarondo Girard, Esq.,4 Roberto Vega Pacheco,

Esq., Luis A. Nunez Salgado, Esq., and Rafael Nadal Arcelay, Esq. (Cancio, Nadal & Rivera), of San Juan, Puerto Rico, for Respondent Asociacion Hospital del Maestro.

Heber E. Lugo Rigal, Esq.5 and Zaida Prieto, Esq. (Cancio,

Nadal and Rivera), of San Juan, Puerto Rico, for Respondent Asociacion de Maestros.

Pedro Baiges Chapel, Esq.6 and Radames Quinones Aponte, of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, for the Charging Party.

DECISION

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Prologue

THOMAS R. WILKS, Administrative Law Judge. This litigation of 7 years' duration will chronicle the tragic ongoing disintegration of a previously relatively stable bargaining relationship of some years' prior existence and one of the most protracted prosecutions of unfair labor practices I have ever encountered. The conflict and confrontation commenced between the Unidad Laboral de Enfermeras y Empleados de la Salud (the Union), and the Asociacion Hospital del Maestro, Inc. (Respondent Hospital or simply Hospital), some of whose employees, i.e., registered nurses (RNs), had been represented by the Union under a series of bargaining agreements, on the expiration of the last 3-year agreement on March 12, 1985. The attempt to negotiate a succeeding agreement in which the Hospital sought economic concessions and in which the Union demanded increased labor costs was the genesis for a series of unfair labor practices charges and complaints that began in 1985, and continued

1 The General Counsel cross-excepts to the judge's ruling not admitting into evidence G.C. Exh. 199, which is a two-page excerpt of the minutes of the board of directors' meeting of Asociacion Hospital Del Maestro, Inc. held on January 30, 1982. We have carefully examined that exhibit, which is in the rejected exhibits' file, and find that the General Counsel was not prejudiced by the judge's ruling. In addition, we make the following corrections to the judge's findings in response to the cross-exceptions of the General Counsel: (1) the Respondents' bargaining proposals did include a management-rights clause; (2) while the parties initially agreed to ''syndical leave'' for time spent in bargaining sessions by unit employees on the Union's negotiating team, it subsequently became clear that the parties had not had a meeting of the minds as to whether unit employees would be paid for ''syndical leave''; and (3) at the March 6, 1985 bargaining session, Union Negotiator Quinones did not say that the expired collective-bargaining agreement was the Union's proposal. These corrections do not affect the result in this case.

2 The General Counsel has cross-excepted to some of the judge's credibility findings. The Board's established policy is not to overrule an administrative law judge's credibility resolutions unless the clear preponderance of all the relevant evidence convinces us that they are incorrect. Standard Dry Wall Products, 91 NLRB 544 (1950), enfd. 188 F.2d 363 (3d Cir. 1951). We have carefully examined the record and find no basis for reversing the findings. The General Counsel additionally cross-excepts to the judge's ''bitter and unfair remarks on and off the record.'' Our review of the record establishes that the judge did not engage in any conduct prejudicial to the case of the General Counsel.

In agreeing with the judge's finding that the Respondents' bargaining conduct did not violate Sec. 8(a)(5) of the Act, we have carefully reviewed the statements made at the Hospital's board of directors' meeting by President Velez on March 30, 1985, and find that those statements do not establish the General Counsel's contention that the Respondents had a plan to create a ''mock impasse.''

3 Par. 4 of the conclusions of law section of the judge's decision is modified to reflect his finding that the Respondents unlawfully granted unilateral increases to unit employees in August 1986 and May 1992.

1 Appeared at November 1986 hearing with Cocounsel Hopkins.

2 Appeared at May 1987 hearings with Cocounsel Hopkins.

3 Appeared with Cocounsel Hopkins in 1992-1993 hearings.

4 Withdrew and was replaced by Counsel Nunez subsequent to the 1987 proceedings.

5 Replaced by Counsel Zaida Prieto subsequent to 1987 proceedings.

6 Deceased subsequent to 1986 proceedings.

through 1992. In late 1986, the Asociacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico, known variously as the Teachers Association of Puerto Rico (Asociacion, Association, or Respondent Association), came to be involved as an alleged joint or single employer with the Hospital and coconspirator with it in a scheme to fraudulently misrepresent, in concessionary bargaining, the nature of the Hospital's financial situation. The Respondents are alleged to have engaged in a corporate shell game whereby, according to the General Counsel, Respondents joined in a ''vampire-parasite relationship'' to undermine the Union and to economically exploit the Hospital operation to the financial detriment of bargaining unit employees for the hidden monetary aggrandizement of the Association and the benefit of its teacher-members in the form of unreasonably cheap hospitalization benefits for the teachers. The General Counsel's theory of unlawful conduct rests essentially on alleged fraud, deception, economic coverup, refusal to disclose relevant requested information to the Union, creation of an artificial impasse, and unilateral changes of employment benefits thereafter, as well as other actions calculated to erode the Union's representational status both at and away from the bargaining table.

The General Counsel also comes very close to arguing alternatively in the brief that the motivation of greed, i.e., fixed intent to exploit the nurses' economic welfare, as pitiable as it was, for the benefit of the teachers even in the context of the Hospital's and the Association's own undenied general financial attrition, constitutes bad-faith collective bargaining. The heart of the dispute and the only issue involving a monetary remedial order, and the single factor preventing settlement of this litigation, is the alleged bargaining impasse and unilateral implementation of Respondent Hospital's economic offer on May 16 or June 1, 1985. The Respondents contend that because of the Union's own improper bargaining tactics involving an adamant attempt to fragment bargaining by refusing to even discuss economics until all noneconomic contractual items were agreed on, Respondent Hospital lawfully implemented its offer of economic concessions of a wage freeze and benefits reductions urgently sought to alleviate its financial distress on May 16, 1985, shortly after having reached impasse in collective bargaining. Contrary to the General Counsel's assertions, Respondents argue that the Union not only did not ask for economic justification for those concessions, but even refused to consider economic information proffered to it. Respondents deny a joint employer or single integrated enterprise relationship and deny the relevancy of requests for information as to that relationship which occurred for the first time long after the impasse and up to 1991. Respondents argue the existence of an arm's-length relationship between two independent albeit mutually cooperative entities whereby each derived benefits from special concessions to the other. There are allegations of subsequent unilateral changes in employment conditions consisting of salary raise increases and access rules to which Respondents argue that bargaining opportunity had been provided. Respondents argue that there had never been any fraudulent scheme as alleged by the General Counsel and that, in any event, not only the Hospital operation viewed by itself, but also the operation of the Association was impoverished. There are issues as to whether other requested information had been either produced or timely produced. Finally, there

is the issue of governmental laches in the prosecution of the case.

With the foregoing summarization of the issues thus explicated, the recitation of the detailed history of the pleadings thereafter will be more meaningful if done in the usual reverse order of narrative.

History of Pleadings

On August 9, 1985, the Union filed a charge against the...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP