McClatchy Newspapers, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

131 F.3d 1026 (1997)

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McClatchy Newspapers, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
131 F.3d 1026 (1997)

Facts

Publishing conglomerate McClatchy Newspapers, Inc. (McClatchy) (defendant) unilaterally implemented a proposal to give workers at two of its newspapers discretionary merit-based raises after negotiations with the union over the proposal reached impasse. The Northern California Newspaper Guild, Local 52 (the guild) represented employees at the Sacramento Bee and Modesto Bee. The most recent collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) covering Sacramento employees set pay rates through wage scales with discretionary merit raises. Once employees reached the maximum salary for a job classification, McClatchy gave only merit-based raises and retained full discretion over amounts and timing. McClatchy wanted to move to an entirely discretionary merit-based system, while the guild wanted to eliminate the merit system. The parties bargained in good faith but deadlocked over wage terms. After reaching impasse, McClatchy asserted it was implementing its final offer and began granting employees raises without consulting the guild. The guild filed an unfair-labor-practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging McClatchy violated its duty to bargain over wages. Meanwhile, McClatchy reached another impasse with the guild over a similar proposal for Modesto Bee staff. Again after impasse, McClatchy implemented its final offer and gave some employees raises, and the guild filed unfair-labor-practice charges. The NLRB considered the Sacramento case first, found McClatchy could not implement its final offer over the guild’s objection, and petitioned the appellate court for enforcement of its order. The appellate court remanded, suggesting the NLRB craft a limited exception to the implementation-after-impasse doctrine because bypassing the union setting wage rates was a “decollectivization of bargaining.” The NLRB essentially adopted that suggestion, creating an exception to the doctrine because allowing employers to unilaterally change wages after impasse would impede collective bargaining. The NLRB explicitly limited its holding to cases in which employers refused to provide definable objective procedures or criteria for determining merit and decided the Modesto case the same way. McClatchy appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Silberman, J.)

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