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Bob Thomas was discharged after nineteen years as a plant maintenance engineer with Apollo Corporation. During that time he had received average, and sometimes below-average, annual performance appraisals. Thomas was known as something of a complainer and troublemaker, and he was highly critical of management. Prior to his termination, his attendance record for the previous five years had been very poor. However, Apollo Corporation had never enforced its attendance policy, and Thomas had never been disciplined for his attendance problems. In fact, until recently, Apollo management had been rather laid-back in its dealings with employees.
Apollo Corporation produces general component parts for the communications industry—an industry known for intense competitive pressures. To meet this competitive challenge, Jean Lipski, HR director, held a series of meetings with managers in which she instructed them to tighten up their supervisory relationship with employees. They were told to enforce HR policies strictly and to begin disciplinary action against employees not conforming to company policy. These changes did not sit well with employees, particularly Bob Thomas. On hearing of the new management approach, Thomas became irate and announced, “They can’t get away with this. I wrote the book around here.” But secretly Thomas believed his past conduct was catching up with him, and he became concerned about protecting his job.
One night after work, Thomas called a union organizer of the Brotherhood of Machine Engineers and asked that a union drive begin at Apollo. Within a week employees began handing out flyers announcing a union meeting. When Lipski heard of the organizing campaign and Thomas’s leadership in it, she decided to terminate his employment. Thomas’s termination paper read: “Discharged for poor work performance and unsatisfactory attendance.” Thomas was called into Lipski’s office and told of the discharge. After leaving her office, Thomas called the union organizer, and they both went to the regional office of the NLRB to file an unfair labor practice charge on Thomas’s behalf. The ULP alleged that he was fired for his support of the union and the organizing drive.
Jean Lipski had little experience with unions in general and no specific experience with union-organizing campaigns. Unfortunately for Lipski, the Brotherhood of Machine Engineers, Local 1463, began an organizing drive against Apollo on June 1. Although the union’s initial efforts were confined to passing out flyers about an organizational meeting, by June 10 it was obvious that employee support for the union had grown and union campaigning had greatly intensified. The question faced by Lipski was no longer “Should Apollo do something?” but rather “What should Apollo do?” It was obvious to Lipski that the union was committed to a full-fledged effort to unionize the company’s employees. Supervisors reported to her that union supporters were passing out authorization cards in order to petition the NLRB for a certification election.
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