RIVERA-VEGA v. CONAGRA, INC. (1995) •
FACTS: Employer asserts that the employer can't afford additional labor costs. Company says that they can't be competitive with the other ConAgra subsidiaries. The company gives the union a complete proposal for a new agreement. The new agreement would cut wages from approx. $17 an hour to $11 an hour. The final figure was $2 less than competitors. Company says can't be competitive without these drastic cuts. Union unhappy and wants to see the company's books to determine if there really is a financial crisis. The company isn't alleging inability to pay workers or some sort of financial crisis - the company just says it can't remain competitive. The union and the employer bargain to an impasse and the Employer goes back to the original offer and threatens to lock out the employees. However, the union wants to still negotiate. Employer says no and locks out and then lays off 40 employees. At the same time, Employer continues operations by bringing in employees from other ConAgra companies. Then ConAgra pays the new employees more than the former employees and then hires permanent replacements - these wages are lower than what they wanted to pay their former union employees. So there is a two-tiered system. ConAgra replacements get more $ and permanent replacements get less $ than former union workers.
Issues regarding the duty to bargain in good faith:
1. Duty to bargain in good faith requires both parties to participate actively in negotiations so as to indicate a present intention to agree. Although the parties do not actually have to agree on anything.
a. Look at the total conduct of the Employer to determine whether the Employer bargained in good faith.
b. Delaying tactics, unreasonable bargaining demands, unilateral changes to the contract, efforts to bypass the union, failure to designate an agent with sufficient bargaining authority, withdrawal of positions already agreed upon, arbitrary schedule of meetings.
c. Court here finds that Employer did not make an unreasonable demand because the union had contracts with other Employer's with lower wages and Employer did not modify some of its proposals. A hard bargain, therefore, does not mean a refusal to bargain.
2. Does the Employer have to provide the union with financial information when the Employer has an "inability to pay" not when the Employer claims an "inability to compete."
a. Here, the Employer was claiming an inability to compete, but the inability to compete would cause them to go out of business, which would in tern be an inability to pay. Thus, the Employer must give union its financial information.
3. Was there a bargaining to impasse?
a. Rule: If one party remains willing to move toward an agreement, there is no valid impasse. If there is no valid impasse, the Employer cannot make unilateral changes to the contract.
4. The Lock-Out
a. Rule: An Employer who does a lockout with the purpose of making the Employees accept the Employer's unfair labor practices, as opposed to a lockout with the purpose of negotiating, then Employer cannot hire temporary Employees (if they hire temporary Employees, then it's a violation of 8(a)(3))
b. Here, because the previous unilateral modification was an unfair labor practice and the lockout's purpose was to put pressure on the Employees to accept that unilateral modification, then Employer cannot hire temporary Employees.
5. Since the Employer here was a subsidiary of Conagra, do they both share the management of Employees?
a. Do the independent entities share or codetermine negotiations? If yes, then they are joint Employers and are both responsible for the unfair labor practice.