Nielsen Lithographing Company v. NLRB

854 F.2d 1063 (7th Cir. 1988)


P claimed during wage negotiations with its workers' union that it had to reduce wages and benefits to remain competitive. The union asked to let its accountants examine the books and other records-financial statements, tax returns, records of compensation paid managerial and supervisory personnel -- that would substantiate the claim. P refused and the union struck, and later filed charges with D. D held that P's refusal to open its books was an unfair labor practice and ordered P to cease the practice and rehire the workers who had struck and whom P had fired. In NLRB v. Truitt Mfg. Co. the Supreme Court held that it is an unfair labor practice for an employer who claims to be financially incapable of paying a wage increase requested by a union to refuse to let the union see the employer's books for purposes of verifying its claim. P never claimed that it was unable to pay the existing scale of wages and benefits. P wanted to bring its wages into line with the wages paid by competitors to whom it was losing sales. D concedes that if this is all P said, there was no duty to open its books to the union. D found that P had done more than express a desire for lower costs and higher profits; that it had said the wage cuts were necessary if the company was to remain competitive and reverse a trend of losing business to lower-cost competitors. D held that this statement was sufficient under Truitt to create a duty of substantiation. Right after D ruled in favor of the union NLRB v. Harvstone Mfg. Corp. was decided against D. Harvstone was a case just like P's. The court held that predictions that a business will falter-even that it will close-are 'nothing more than truisms,' and do not trigger the duty of disclosure under Truitt, a duty that we deemed limited to inability to pay during 'the term [ordinarily three years] of the new collective bargaining agreement' being negotiated. In P's case, D relied on the Harvstone case. P asked for reconsideration but the D refused. P appealed.