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I generally agree with the decision and the balancing of interests it attempted to accomplish. On one hand the employer may in fact have documents or information that are proprietary and/or in need of protection of misuse. On the other hand the union needs various documents and information to adequately represent the interests of its membership. The converse of this is, of course, that management may become overly protective of documents and information and the union may abuse its right to request such information for the purpose of baiting management into an unfair labor practice. Thus, relevance of the information sought should be the guide to the requirement for production along with the prejudice the release of information may cause management. The decision is also remarkable for the premise that it ordered the parties to essentially come up with their own agreement on balancing these interests.
Ultimately, the Board in this matter reached a middle of the road decision, which one wonders if the parties could not have reached this compromise had they wished to reach an agreement. It agreed with management that some of the union’s requests may be overbroad and not designed to capture information for purposes of bargaining or grievance arbitration. On the other hand, it also found that health and safety information is paramount in the employment relationship and cannot truly be questioned as relevant. However, in citing to the Supreme Court’s Detroit Edison case, it found that a policy of accommodation may be necessary, even where the information is clearly relevant to collective bargaining because to otherwise reveal such information intact may cause the employer harm – in this case breach of employee privacy. Thus, it came to what may be considered an equitable decision to allow the parties to work out a disclosure of the information absent identifying the health information of the particular employee.