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 SOUTH BEND, Ind., Jan. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Attorneys for Electromation Inc. have filed an appeal from the recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision which found that joint labor-management committees established by the Elkhart, Ind., company are in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Kathleen Brickley and Brian Martin of the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg filed the appeal Dec. 28 with the 7th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals.
 The Electromation case has been followed with great interest by legal, business management and industrial relations professionals, who hoped that the NLRB's decision would provide guidelines regarding how labor-management cooperative efforts should be structured to avoid running afoul of the Act's prohibition against company-dominated unions. However, in its Dec. 17 decision, the Board ruled narrowly on the particular facts of the Electromation case and offered no practical guidance as to what type of joint participation committee efforts would be found lawful.
 Attorney Brickley, who had argued the case on behalf of Electromation before the NLRB, expressed disappointment with the Board's ruling. "We had hoped for a victory, and that the Board would adopt a more flexible reading of the Act to allow management to work directly with employees if the employees so choose," she said.
 "We had further hoped that the Board would provide management with practical guidance as to how to set up and maintain lawful joint participation committees in a non-union setting. However, the Board failed to do this," Brickley continued.
 Daniel Rudy, attorney with Barnes & Thornburg who also represented Electromation, commented: "The three separate concurring opinions create considerable uncertainty as to what lies ahead for the broad range of joint participation programs existing in American industry. I think it's fair to say that we will see more litigation on this issue in the future."
 Joint participation committees and other forms of employee participation networks are based upon philosophies used successfully by the Japanese and other nations. Called by names like "work teams," "quality circles," and "quality of work life," such networks have been established in 80 percent of Fortune 1000 companies. The Electromation case was viewed as a threat to the concept of employee involvement programs, which many see as U.S. industry's best route to greater competitiveness.
 The case began in late 1988 when Electromation (ETM), a manufacturer of small electric and electronic components and at that time a non-union shop, set up five "action committees" after receiving a petition signed by 68 employees asking management to reconsider its unilateral decision to tighten an attendance bonus program and to give an end-of-year bonus in lieu of a wage increase.
 Management suggested the ideas be developed through the use of joint management-employee committees. Within one month after the committees were formed, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1049 requested recognition. Pending the election, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge on the basis that the committees violated the National Labor Relations Act. After losing the election, the union filed objections to the employer's conduct on the same basis.
 On April 5, 1990, NLRB Administrative Law Judge George F. McInerny found that the labor-management committees established by ETM were indeed labor organizations as defined by Section 2 (5) of the National Labor Relations Act, and that ETM had unlawfully dominated the committees by establishing them, defining their membership and providing support. The Board affirmed Judge McInerny's decision in its Dec. 17, 1992, decision.
 In concluding that management dominated and supported the committees in violation of the Act, the Board noted that management: originated the idea of creating the committees; drafted the written purposes and goals of the committees; set the rule that an employee could serve on only one committee; and appointed a management representative to facilitate discussions. Accordingly, the majority held that "Electromation dominated the action committees in their formation and administration and unlawfully supported them."
 The Board's majority opinion emphasized that the violation was based on the particular facts of the case and that it was not determining generally that labor-management cooperation committees, operating under other circumstances, would necessarily be found unlawful. "Nevertheless, as one Board member noted, Board cases finding such programs to be permissible are few in number," attorney Brickley said.
 "It is our position that Section 8 (a)(2) can and should be interpreted to accommodate such employee participation programs," she continued. "Apparently, the Board has decided to defer such tasks to Congress and the courts."
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 /NOTE: The law firm of Barnes & Thornburg has offices in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Elkhart, Ind., and in Washington, D.C. CONTACT: Barbara Duncanson of Villing & Company, 219-277-0215, for Barnes & Thornburg/

CO: Electromation Inc.; Barnes & Thornburg ST: Indiana IN: SU:

DH -- DE028 -- 1847 01/05/93 15:22 EST
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Date:Jan 5, 1993
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