Case No. 79-35

                  Complainant,      )
  v.                                )
RONALD LABERGE, Chairperson,        )
and ERNEST W. HUGHES, Superintendent)
of Schools,                         )
                  Respondents.      )

     The Sabattus Teachers Association ("Association") filed this
prohibited practice complaint on November 8, 1978.  The Sabattus
School Committee, Ronald Laberge, and Ernest W. Hughes ("School
Committee") filed a response and motion to dismiss on November
29, 1978.  A pre-hearing conference was held on March 13, 1979 by
Alternate Chairman Donald W. Webber, who issued a Pre-Hearing
Conference Memorandum and Order on March 20, 1979, the contents
of which are incorporated herein by reference.

     The matter was heard by the Maine Labor Relations Board
("Board") on May 1, 1979, Chairman Edward Keith presiding, with
Michael Schoonjans, Employee Representative, and Paul D. Emery,
Employer Representative.  The Association was represented by
J. Donald Belleville and the Committee by Anthony J. Peverada,
Jr.  At the start of the hearing, the Association moved to amend
the complaint to include a separately-arising alleged prohibited
practice.  The motion was denied since it could be filed as a
separate complaint.  At the conclusion of the hearing the parties
waived argument and briefs and the Board proceeded to deliberate
over the case.


     No party has challenged the jurisdiction of the Board and we
conclude that the Board may hear and render a decision in this
case as provided in 26 M.R.S.A.  968(5).

                        FINDINGS OF FACT

     From the entire record in this case, the contentions of the
parties, and the observation of the witnesses and their demeanor,
the Board finds that:

          1.   Complainant Association is the duly recognized
               bargaining agent for the entire unit of certifi-
               cated teacher employees of the Sabattus School
               Committee, excluding the Superintendent and the
               Principal.  26 M.R.S.A.  962(2).  Respondent
               School Committee is the public employer of the
               teachers in this unit.  26 M.R.S.A.  962(7).


          2.   The Association and the School Committee were
               negotiating a collective bargaining agreement for
               the 1978-79 school year during a period prior to
               its execution on November 1, 1978.  The Associa-
               tion negotiating team included chief negotiator
               Rosemary Foster (the Association President), 
               Judith Doucette and others.  Foster had been on
               the negotiating team for 3 years; this was her
               first year as chief negotiator.  The School Com-
               mittee negotiating team included Superintendent
               Hughes, after his employment beginning July 1,
               1978, as chief negotiator.

          3.   An oral agreement was reached at a mediation ses-
               sion on October 17, 1978.  The mediator reduced
               the agreement to writing and mailed it to the
               parties for their signatures.  One pertinent sec-
               tion of the mediator's letter stated

                 "5.  Professional Management Periods
                        The administration and the teachers will
                      agree in writing to sit and talk about this
                      issue as a policy matter within an agreed-
                      to time schedule."

          4.   On October 31, 1978 President Foster and team
               member Doucette met with Superintendent Hughes in
               his office by appointment arranged by Foster. 
               Among other things Foster and Doucette intended to
               present to Hughes a written agreement for signa-
               ture which would satisfy them with respect to the
               agreement reached through the mediator regarding
               professional management periods.  Foster and
               Doucette wanted the agreement to be in writing
               prior to the meeting of the School Committee on
               the following evening, November 1, 1978, when the
               entire collective bargaining agreement was likely
               to be ratified by both parties and then executed. 
               The document proposed by the Association stated:

                 "A mutually agreeable time will be designated
                  for the superintendent, principal, and negoti-
                  ating team to meet to discuss management peri-
                  ods.  This will take place as soon as possible
                  after the signing of the master contract for
                  the 1978 1979 school year." 
               Signature lines for Hughes and Foster were included.

          5.   Superintendent Hughes would not sign the proposed
               document during the course of the meeting.  He was
               willing to sign some agreement but not the one
               proposed by Foster because the proposal appeared
               to be limited to the "negotiating team," to the
               exclusion of "teachers."

          6.   The School Committee met the following evening,
               November 1, 1978, but would not ratify the con-
               tract without an insubstantial language change. 
               Hughes had told Foster in his office that he want-
               ed this change but that he did not want to bother
               to try to change it.  The School Committee, howev-
               er, wanted the change.  Consequently, the Associa-
               tion had to vote again to ratify the slightly
               altered contract; this was done and the contract
               was executed.

          7.   Foster's, Doucette's and Hughes's versions of the
               October 31, 1978 meeting are each somewhat differ-
               ent although they are quite compatible in their
               major respects.  However, Foster and Doucette on
               the one hand, and Hughes on the other  hand, drew
               different conclusions and made different charac-
               terizations of what was said during the meeting. 
               Foster portrayed the meeting as if she merely
               explained her position but that Hughes got angry,
               was pounding the table, and was making "personal"
               attacks against her before she became antagonis-
               tic.  Hughes, in contrast, portrayed the meeting
               as if he simply explained his position, but that
               then Foster became obviously


               annoyed and started pressuring him.  It was at
               that point, he explained, that he began criticiz-
               ing Foster's performance and effectiveness as a
               chief negotiator, in a slightly raised voice.  He
               did not challenge her performance as a teacher.

          8.   Doucette, who did not speak at the meeting, char-
               acterized the discussion as an "argument" twice. 
               She did not indicate that Hughes was pounding on
               the table and she revealed that she clearly under-
               stood that Hughes's criticism of Foster was di-
               rected solely at her in her capacity as chief
               negotiator, that it was, in Hughes's terms, "part
               of the territory."  We find this testimony reli-
               able.  Foster also understood this.  She testified
               that Hughes agreed with her that Hughes would deal
               with any chief negotiator in the same fashion.

          9.   As the meeting concluded, there was small talk and
               then the two teachers left.  There is contrasting
               testimony over whether or not Foster started to
               cry in the outer offices of the Superintendent's
               area.  She may have cried; two office workers who
               observed her leave did not notice it.  In any
               event, Foster apparently cried outside the build-
               ing.  She then drove herself to a friend's house
               where she cried uncontrollably which was for her
               out of character.

         10.   At the School Committee meeting on November 1,
               1978, the Committee, not Hughes, decided to make
               the minor language change referred to above.  When
               the altered contract was presented to Foster, she
               balked at signing it.  She testified that Hughes
               then said:  "These are the things that I find

         11.   Both Foster and Doucette testified that they and
               some other teachers were "reluctant" to return to
               Hughes's office.

         12.   There was also testimony that the Association was
               having great difficulty filling vacant offices;
               the chief negotiator slot was the only vacancy
               identified.  The vacancy, however, is not a cur-
               rent one:  a Mr. Witheroff is the current chief
               negotiator for the Association for the 1979-80
               contract.  The vacancy therefore relates to the
               1980-81 contract, for which bargaining is not

         13.   Doucette and Foster thought it was unreasonable
               for Hughes not to sign the proposed agreement re-
               garding  management periods when presented to him
               in his office. Doucette thought that a written
               agreement on this issue had to be reached before
               ratification of the collective bargaining agree-
               ment.  She testified that if her understanding was
               not correct, then she would not find it unreason-
               able for Hughes to have refused to execute the
               proposed letter.

         14.   All witnesses stated that Hughes had made no
               threats or any anti-union comments at any time.


     The Association charges that Superintendent Hughes's conduct
on October 31 was belittling, insulting and demeaning and that it
reduced Chief Negotiator Foster to crying.  It also charges that
Hughes continued such harassment of Foster at the School Commit-
tee meeting the next night.  Thus, it is claimed, the School
Committee has violated 26 M.R.S.A.  964(1)(A) by interfering and
coercing employees in their protected rights and 26 M.R.S.A.
 964(1)(C) by interfering with the existence or administration
of the Association.

     The School Committee denied these allegations and moved to
dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim as a matter of


     We conclude that the motion to dismiss is denied.  The
complaint is also dismissed on the merits.

     The motion is dismissed because it is conceivable that on
some state of facts conduct by a chief negotiator that insults,
demeans, and harasses the counterpart negotiator and team could
violate the Act.  It is certainly not established in this case,

     There is no evidence that a desire to discourage protected
activity was a motivating factor in Superintendent Hughes's
conduct.  While proof of an unlawful motive is not critical to a
violation of  964(1)(A), in its absence, the test is then
whether the conduct, "it may reasonably be said, tends to inter-
fere with the free exercise of employee rights."  See, Teamsters
Local Union No. 48 v. Town of Oakland, MLRB No. 78-30 (1978) at
page 3.

     While it is plain that Foster and Doucette felt insulted and
harassed, we cannot agree that Hughes's conduct could reasonably
be said to interfere with the bargaining rights of the teachers.

     First, we conclude that Foster and Doucette were too sensi-
tive to criticism.  Negotiations are tension-filled situations by
nature.  In this context, the perception of the collective bar-
gaining adversary as unreasonable is not uncommon.  In addition,
criticism of the adversary's personal bargaining style, although
perhaps inartful, is also not rare.  Thus, an even temper and a
thick skin are probably practical prerequisites to successful

     Second, it is clear that Foster and Doucette thought from
the outset that Hughes's conduct at the October 31 meeting
regarding the letter was unreasonable.  We disagree.  His posi-
tion concerning the exclusion of "teachers" from the proposed
discussion was a legitimate one.  Moreover, we see no requirement
that a written agreement had to be reached on this issue prior to
contract ratification.[fn]1

     Lastly, even if we were to agree that Hughes's conduct was
insulting and demeaning as the Association claims it was, we
would not necessarily conclude that it was a violation of the Act
given some of the other facts of this case.  For example, al-
though Foster and Hughes may have had poor personal chemistry, we
must note that the management period issue was subsequently
resolved and that the Association's chief negotiator on the
successful contract is having no similar difficulties with Super-
intendent Hughes.

     The conduct of the Superintendent on November 1, 1978 cannot
be considered harassment and also does not violate the Act.

     A violation of  964(1)(C), the other claim of the Associa-
tion, requires a direct attempt to interfere with the
Association's formation, e.g., Pine Tree Council 74, AFSCME v.
City Manager of Augusta, PELRB No. 73-09 (1973) (interference by
employer with organizational activities of employees), its
     1 The public employer of course has the duty to meet and
consult with regard to nonmandatory subjects of bargaining which
are matters of educational policy.  26 M.R.S.A.  965(1)(C).


e.g., Local 1458, Council 74 (AFSCME) v. City Council of Augusta,
PELRB No. 74-09 (1974) (employer assisting employee file decerti-
fication petition), or its administration, e.g., Kent Corp., 212
NLRB No. 88, 87 LRRM 1730 (1974) (employer attempted to influence
selection of employee representatives).

     The evidence establishes no attempt to influence any of the
Association's functions or administration.  Rather, it establish-
es only that there is a prospective vacancy in the chief negotia-
tor position for the 1980-81 collective bargaining agreement. 
The reluctance of some teachers to visit the Superintendent's
office was not concretely connected to the administration or
functioning of the Association other than perhaps as an explana-
tion for the prospective chief negotiator vacancy.

     This does not amount to employer interference with the
administration of the Association, however.  It is not a direct
effect, there is no improper motive established, and the effect
is only speculative in any event.

     We therefore conclude that the complaint must be dismissed. 

Dated at Augusta, Maine, this 21st day of June, 1979.

                                   MAINE LABOR RELATIONS BOARD

                                   Edward H. Keith

                                   Michael Schoonjans
                                   Employee Representative

                                   Paul D. Emery
                                   Employer Representative