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Hooks v. Aim Aerospace Sumner, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

February 13, 2018

RONALD K. HOOKS, Regional Director of the Nineteenth Region of the National Labor Relations Board, for and on behalf of NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, Petitioner,
v.
AIM AEROSPACE SUMNER, INC., Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on the petition for preliminary injunctive relief of Petitioner Ronald K. Hooks, Regional Director of the Nineteenth Region of the National Labor Relations Board, for and on behalf of National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) (Dkt. 1). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the petition and the remainder of the file and hereby denies the petition for the reasons stated herein.

         I. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On December 21, 2017, the NLRB filed the instant petition seeking preliminary relief. Dkt. 1. The NLRB alleges that Respondent AIM Aerospace Sumner, Inc. (“AIM”) engaged in unfair labor practices leading to a decertification petition and withdrawal of recognition of the International Association of Machinists, District 751 (“Union”) as the exclusive bargaining agent for some of AIM's employees. The NLRB submitted evidence in support of the allegations that AIM (1) blamed the union for the inability to provide union employees with a pay raise, (2) assisted the efforts of employee Lori Ann Downs-Haynes (“Downs-Haynes”) in her efforts to collect signatures on a decertification petition by transferring her to different work areas to contact other employees, (3) failed to reprimand or prevent Downs-Haynes from collecting signatures or promoting the decertification efforts during work hours, and (4) rewarding Downs-Haynes with a promotion and raise two days after submitting the petition to the company. See Dkt. 2 at 9-15. The alleged unlawful activities began in the spring of 2017. The signatures were gathered between June 28 and July 18, 2017. Dawn-Haynes submitted the petition to AIM on July 21, 2017. AIM determined that 142 employee signatures were valid, out of a bargaining unit of 272, and, on July 24, 2017, notified the Union that it was withdrawing recognition immediately based on 142 signatures, which was a majority of the employees.

         On January 15, 2018, AIM responded to the petition. Dkt. 13. AIM contends that the NLRB conducted a flawed investigation into the alleged unfair labor practices and filed the administrative complaint based solely on affidavits obtained from Union stewards and supporters.

         On January 19, 2018, NLRB replied. Dkt. 28. On February 7, 2018, the Court held a hearing on the petition.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Section 10(j) permits a district court to grant relief “it deems just and proper.” 29 U.S.C. § 160(j). “To decide whether granting a request for interim relief under Section 10(j) is ‘just and proper, ' district courts consider the traditional equitable criteria used in deciding whether to grant a preliminary injunction.” McDermott v. Ampersand Publ'g, LLC, 593 F.3d 950, 957 (9th Cir. 2010). Thus, when the NLRB seeks § 10(j) relief, it “must establish that [it] is likely to succeed on the merits, that [it] is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in [its] favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). “‘[S]erious questions going to the merits' and a balance of hardships that tips sharply towards the [NLRB] can support issuance of a preliminary injunction, so long as the [NLRB] also shows that there is a likelihood of irreparable harm and that the injunction is in the public interest.” Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1135 (9th Cir. 2011).

         In all cases, however, the NLRB “must establish that irreparable harm is likely, not just possible, in order to obtain a preliminary injunction.” Id. at 1131. “[T]he court must evaluate the traditional equitable criteria through the prism of the underlying purpose of section 10(j), which is to protect the integrity of the collective bargaining process and to preserve the [NLRB's] remedial power.” Scott v. Stephen Dunn & Assocs., 241 F.3d 652, 661 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted), abrogated on other grounds as recognized by McDermott, 593 F.3d at 957.

         A. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

         In the Ninth Circuit, the NLRB “in a § 10(j) proceeding ‘can make a threshold showing of likelihood of success by producing some evidence to support the unfair labor practice charge, together with an arguable legal theory.'” Frankl v. HTH Corp., 650 F.3d 1334, 1356 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Miller v. Cal. Pac. Med. Ctr., 19 F.3d 449, 460 (9th Cir.1994) (en banc)).

         In this case, the NLRB's legal theory is that the Union's loss of support was caused by AIM's unfair labor practices. A union generally “enjoys a presumption that its majority representative status continues.” Bryan Mem'l Hosp. v. NLRB, 814 F.2d 1259, 1262 (8th Cir. 1987). This “presumption can only be rebutted by a good faith belief of the employer, based on objective factors, that the union has lost its majority status.” NLRB v. Am. Linen Supply Co., 945 F.2d 1428, 1433 (8th Cir. 1991). The “employer is not permitted, however, to rely on a union's loss of majority support caused by the employer's own unfair labor practices.” Radisson Plaza Minneapolis v. NLRB, 987 F.2d 1376, 1383 (8th Cir. 1993). To determine “whether a causal relationship exists between the unremedied unfair labor practices and the subsequent expression of employee disaffection with an incumbent union, ” the Board considers factors including:

(1) the length of time between the unfair labor practices and the withdrawal of recognition; (2) the nature of the violations, including the possibility of a detrimental or lasting effect on employees; (3) the tendency of the violations to cause employee disaffection; and (4) the effect of the unlawful conduct on employees' morale, organizational activities, and membership in the union.

In Re Miller Waste Mills, Inc., 334 N.L.R.B. 466, 468 (2001), enforced, 315 F.3d 951 (8th ...


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