STATE OF MAINE                                        MAINE LABOR RELATIONS BOARD
                                                      Case No. 78-22
WORKERS                      )
                Complainant  )
                             )                    DECISION AND ORDER
  v.                         )
TOWN OF OAKLAND              )
                Respondent   )
     This case comes to the Maine Labor Relations Board by way of a prohibited
practice complaint dated February 9, 1978 and filed on February 23, 1978 by
Steven J. Cullen, Organizer, Teamsters Local Union No. 48.  The Town of Oakland's
answer to this complaint was dated February 21, 1978, and filed February 23, 1978
by Eric S. Meserve, Town Manager.  A pre-hearing conference was held on the matter
on March 29, 1978, at 1:30 p.m. in Augusta, Maine, with Alternate Chairman Donald
W. Webber presiding.  As a result of this pre-hearing conference, Mr. Webber issued
on April 3, 1978 a Pre-Hearing Conference Memorandum and Order, the contents of
which are incorporated herein by reference.  A hearing on the case was held on
April 25, 1978 at 9:30 a.m. in Portland, Maine.  On May 2, 1978 the Maine Labor
Relations Board proceeded to deliberate on the case, Chairman Walter E. Corey
presiding, with Kenneth T. Winters, Alternate Employer Representative and Michael
Schoonjans, Employee Representative.
     Neither party has challenged the jurisdiction of the Maine Labor Relations
Board in this matter, and we conclude that this Board has jurisdiction to hear and
render a decision in this case as provided in 26 M.R.S.A.  968(5).
                                 FINDINGS OF FACT
     Upon review of the testimony given at the hearing as well as the Pre-Hearing
Conference Memorandum and the pleadings, the Board finds:
     1.  That Complainant Teamsters Local Union No. 48, State, County and
         Municipal Workers, hereinafter referred to as "Teamsters," is a
         public employee organization which at all times material herein
         was engaged in attempting to organize the employees of the Town
         of Oakland's Public Works Department, with the aim of becoming
         the collective bargaining agent for these employees as defined
         in 26 M.R.S.A.  962(2).


     2.  That the Town of Oakland, Maine, hereinafter referred to as
         "Town" or "Oakland," is a public employer as defined by 26
         M.R.S.A.  962(7), with Eric S. Meserve as Town Manager and
         with an address of Cascade Mill Road, Oakland, Maine 04962.
     3.  That at all times material herein, certain public employees
         of the Oakland Public Works Department were engaged in
         organizational activities with the aim of selecting a collective
         bargaining agent to represent the employees of the Oakland
         Public Works Department.
     4.  That on the evening of December 19, 1977, the first meeting 
         in the current organizational campaign was held in Oakland,
         attended by most of the employees of Oakland's Public Works
         Department and by an organizer for the Teamsters.
     5.  That on December 20, 1977, Oakland Town Manager Meserve called
         a meeting of all Public Works Department employees, except Road
         Foreman and Supervisor Jesse Brown, commencing at approximately
         12:30 p.m. in the Planning Board meeting room in Oakland's Town
         Office.  At the meeting, Mr. Meserve stated, among other things,
         that he had heard rumors that the Public Works Department employees
         were engaging in organizational activities; urged the employees to
         talk to other residents of Oakland who "knew about unions" before
         deciding whether to select a union; suggested that the Town Manager
         and Public Works Department employees had always been able to work
         out problems in the past; and stated that he would attempt to get
         the Town Council to give each of the Public Works Department em-
         ployees a 25 cent per hour raise.
     6.  That the meeting on December 20, 1977 was the third meeting held
         between Public Works Department employees and the Town Manager
         during the two years which Eric S. Meserve has served as Town
     7.  That on December 20, 1978, immediately following the meeting
         between the Town Manager and the Public Works Department employees,
         Public Works Department Road Foreman and Supervisor Jesse Brown told
         several Public Works Department employees that selecting a union would
         be a "big mistake" because unionization might result in the employees'
         salaries being reduced to the minimum wage and in loss of most of the
         employees' benefits.
     Complainant has charged that the Town of Oakland, through its representatives
and agents Eric S. Meserve and Jesse Brown, has intefered with, restrained or
coerced Oakland's Public Works Department employees in the exercise of their rights
under 26 M.R.S.A.  963, in violation of 26 M.R.S.A.  964(1)(A).  The Town admits
that Mr. Meserve and Mr. Brown made certain statements on December 20, 1977 to the
Public Works Department employees, but denies that these statements were made to
interfere, restrain or coerce the employees in the exercise of their rights.  As
discussed more fully below, we find that the statements by Messrs. Meserve and Brown
violated 26 M.R.S.A.  964(1)(A), and order an appropriate remedy.
     Turning first to the December 20, 1977 meeting between the Town Manager and
the employees, we find that certain of Mr. Meserve's statements during the meeting
constitute interference with the employees' protected freedom of choice regarding

participation in organizational activities.  Although we believe Mr. Meserve
called the meeting and spoke to the employees in good faith, activity which
interferes with employee participation in the organizational process cannot be
tolerated in the public sector.  As we stated at page 14 of our decision in Freeport
Police Benefit Assn. v. Town of Freeport (Case No. 74-18)(1974), "[t]he collective
bargaining process, including organizational activity, is a sensitive one.  A deli-
cate balance exists and it is imperative that outside influence is avoided."  We
believe that our decision in Freeport Police is relevant and should govern our
decision concerning Mr. Meserve's statements.
     Critical in reaching our finding regarding Mr. Meserve's statements are the
following facts:  1) the meeting occurred less than twenty-four hours after the
employees' first organizational meeting, 2) the meeting was not a regular event but
was instead an unusual occurrence in that during the two years Mr. Meserve has
served as Town Manager, only two meetings with the Public Works Department employees
had previously been held, and 3) the meeting was held in the Town Office, an unfamil-
iar and possibly intimidating setting for the employees.
     We believe these facts are critical because, taken together, they create an
atmosphere where statements by a town official may take on special meaning or sig-
nificance in the minds of the employees, who may be economically dependent upon the
official.  Statements which appear to be perfectly innocuous to the outside observer
may, in such situations, contain intimidating or coercive meanings or implications
to the employees.  Consequently, we must scrutinize each statement by the Town Mana-
ger to determine whether the statement contained an underlying meaning or implication
to the employees which interfered with, restrained or coerced the employees in the
exercise of their organizational rights.
     Testimony by Mr. Meserve and several Public Works Department employees at the
hearing indicated that in urging the employees to speak to Town residents about
unions, Mr. Meserve suggested that the employees talk to members of the Oakland
Police Department as well as to at least one other individual.  Testimony during
the hearing also showed that members of the Police Department had recently engaged
in organizational activity, but then decided to "back out" of selecting a union.  We
find that the employees reasonably construed Mr. Meserve's suggestion that the
employees talk to other public employees who recently rejected the idea of select-
ing a bargaining agent as an indirect attempt to discourage the Public Works Depart-
ment employees' participation in organizational activities.  We conclude that an
attempt to discourage such participation, even though made only by implication, con-
stitutes interference with the public employees' rights guaranteed in 26 M.R.S.A.
     Similarly, Mr. Meserve's assertion that the employees and Town Manager have
always been able to work their problems out was reasonably construed by the employees
as an insinuation that the Town Manager would no longer be willing to attempt to
resolve problems amiably if the employees persisted in their organizational activi-
ties.  In making the statement, Mr. Meserve cited as examples of amiable resolution
of employee problems two recent situations involving two employees who have been
active in the present organizational activities.  It is not surprising that these
two employees in particular understood Mr. Meserve's statement as a threat to make
their lot more difficult unless the organizational activity ceased.

     During the hearing, conflicting testimony was taken concerning whether 
Mr. Meserve promised at the meeting to get each employee a 25 cent per hour raise,
or whether he stated he would attempt to get the raise.  We find Mr. Meserve a
credible witness and therefore believe his testimony that he did not promise the
raise but merely stated he would attempt to persuade the Town Council to grant
the raise.  Nonetheless, three public employee witnesses testified that Mr. Meserve
promised the raise to them at the meeting.  Thus, it is clear that the employees
present at the meeting interpreted Mr. Meserve's remarks to mean that the raise
was certain to be approved.  We conclude that any promise of a wage increase
during an organizational campaign, whether stated openly or contained as a "hidden
promise" in an otherwise permissible statement, results in interference with the
employees' right to participate freely in the organizational process.  Consequently,
we find that Mr. Meserve's statement concerning the raise violated 26 M.R.S.A.
     As for Mr. Brown's statements, we find that his remarks resulted in a serious
violation of the employees' right to participate without coercion in organizational
activities.  Implicit in Mr. Brown's statements is the threat that the employees
would have their wages reduced and would lose most of their benefits if a union was
selected.  During the hearing, Mr. Brown testified that he was unaware when he made
the statements that the Public Works Department employees had commenced organiza-
tional activity, and that his decision to speak to the employees about unions, a
topic which Mr. Brown had never discussed with the employees before, arrived "out
of the clear blue sky."  However, we do not find Mr. Brown's testimony credible, as
his statements occurred subsequent to an employees' organizational meeting which was
attended by his son-in-law as well as other employees with whom Mr. Brown has daily
contact.  Moreover, testimony by two Public Works Department employees which tended
to corroborate certain points of Mr. Brown's testimony was impeached by Complainant's
Exhibit No. 1, a document describing Mr. Brown's statements which was signed by the
two testifying employees.
     We believe that threats of economic harm or retaliation directed to public
employees for engaging in organizational activities is reprehensible conduct which
must be strongly condemned.  Accordingly, we conclude that Mr. Brown's statements
resulted in a serious violation of 26 M.R.S.A.  964(1)(A).
     On the basis of the foregoing findings of fact and by virtue of and pursuant
to the powers granted to the Maine Labor Relations Board by Section 968 of the
Municipal Public Employees Labor Relations Act, it is ORDERED:
          That the Town of Oakland, its representatives and agents,
          cease and desist from engaging in any of the acts pro-
          hibited by 26 M.R.S.A.  964(1) and especially from

          interfering with, restraining or coercing employees
          in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in 26 M.R.S.A. 
Dated at Augusta, Maine, this 22nd day of May, 1978.
                                MAINE LABOR RELATIONS BOARD

                                Walter E.,Corey, Chairman
                                Kenneth T. Winters, Employer Representative

                                Michael Schoonjans, Employee Representative