The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the National Labor Relations Board was wrong to rule that the Brooklyn-based Italian bakery Stella D’oro had committed unfair labor practices against its workers’ union.
The decision is an ironic coda to a long-running fight between the union and bakery. After the NLRB issued its 2009 ruling, the private equity firm that owned the bakery closed it down and moved production to Ohio.
The case had turned on whether management had wrongly withheld a copy of its financial statement from the union. The company had shown the document to contract negotiators but refused to give them a copy, citing confidentiality.
Because the financial statement was not essential to the company’s arguments, it did not commit an unfair labor practice by refusing to give the union its statement, the 2nd Circuit ruled.
The union failed to take advantage of “multiple” opportunities to review the financial statement, suggesting it had used the request for the report merely as a negotiating tactic, the appeals court said.
The court’s conclusion negated all of the NLRB’s ruling, including its declaration that the impasse was unfair.
“Unfortunately the decision is, I suppose, academic,” said [Mark] Jacoby, who also represented the company in the appeal, because [Stella D'oro owner] Brynwood sold the cookie maker and closed the factory after the company reinstated the workers [due to the NLRB ruling].
“If the employees had had the opinion of the 2nd Circuit when they were at the bargaining table, we might have had a better chance of a contract.”
While Stella D’oro is now in the hands of a new owner, Brynwood will still benefit from Thursday’s ruling, Jacoby said, as it will not have to compensate workers with more than $1 million in backpay.