301 U.S. 103 (1937), 365, Associated Press v. National Labor Relations Board

Docket Nº:No. 365
Citation:301 U.S. 103, 57 S.Ct. 650, 81 L.Ed. 953
Party Name:Associated Press v. National Labor Relations Board
Case Date:April 12, 1937
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 103

301 U.S. 103 (1937)

57 S.Ct. 650, 81 L.Ed. 953

Associated Press


National Labor Relations Board

No. 365

United States Supreme Court

April 12, 1937

Argued February 9, 10, 1937




1. Interstate communication of a business nature, whatever the means employed, is interstate commerce subject to regulation by Congress. P. 128.

2. The Associated Press, a nonprofitmaking corporation whose members are the owners of newspapers published for profit throughout the country, is engaged as their agency in exchanging news between those publications, using the telegraph and telephone and other means of communication, and in supplying them in like manner with domestic and foreign news collected by itself. Held engaged in interstate commerce within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act and Constitution, Art. I, § 8. P. 125.

3. This conclusion is unaffected by the facts that the Associated Press does not itself sell news or operate for profit, and that technically it retains title to the news during interstate transmission. P. 128.

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4. Provisions of the National Labor Relations Act empowering the National Labor Relations Board, in protection of intestate commerce, to require that employees discharged for union activities and advocacy of collective bargaining be restored to employment and their losses of pay made good held valid as applied to the Associated Press in the case of an employee whose duties were editorial, having to do with the preparation of news for transmission, rather than its actual transmission in interstate commerce. Virginian Ry. Co. v. System Federation No. 40, 300 U.S. 515; Texas & N.O. R. Co. v. Railway Clerks, 281 U.S. 548. P. 129.

5. The National Labor Relations Act, as so applied in this case, does not unconstitutionally abridge the freedom of the press. P. 130.

The Act does not compel the Associated Press to employ anyone, or to retain an incompetent editor, or one who fails faithfully to edit the news without bias. It does not interfere with the right to discharge any employee (including one who has been so reinstated by order of the Labor Board) for any cause deemed proper by the employer, save only the forbidden reasons of union activities and advocacy of collective bargaining.

6. The contentions that the National Labor Relations Act deprives petitioner of property without due process; that the order of the Board requiring restoration of lost pay deprives petitioner of the right to trial by jury, and that the Act is invalid on its face because it seeks to regulate both interstate and intrastate commerce are rejected upon the authority of Texas & N.O. R. Co. v. Railway Clerks, 281 U.S. 548, and Labor Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Cop., ante, p. 1. P. 133.

85 F.2d 56 affirmed.

Certiorari, 299 U.S. 532, to review a decree sustaining an order of the National Labor Relations Board. The case came before the court below on the Board's petition for enforcement of its order.

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ROBERTS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, we are to decide whether the National Labor Relations Act,1 as applied to the petitioner by an order of the National Labor Relations Board, exceeds the power of Congress to regulate commerce pursuant to article I, § 8, abridges the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment, and denies trial by jury in violation of the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution.

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In October, 1935, the petitioner discharged Morris Watson, an employee in its New York office. The American Newspaper Guild, a labor organization, filed a charge with the Board alleging that Watson's discharge was in violation of § 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which confers on employees the right to organize, to form, join, or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection; that the petitioner had engaged in unfair labor practices contrary to subsections (1) and (3) of § 8 by interfering with, restraining, or coercing Watson in the exercise of the rights guaranteed him by § 7, and by discriminating against him in [57 S.Ct. 652] respect of his tenure of employment and discouraging his membership in a labor organization. The Board served a complaint upon the petitioner charging unfair labor practices affecting commerce within the meaning of the statute. The petitioner answered, admitting Watson's discharge but denying that it was due to his joining or assisting the Guild or engaging in union activities, and denying, on constitutional grounds, the validity of the act and the jurisdiction of the Board.

At a hearing before a trial examiner, the petitioner appeared specially and moved to dismiss the complaint on constitutional grounds. The motion was overruled on all grounds except upon the question whether the proceeding was within the federal commerce power. Counsel thereupon withdrew from the hearing, and the matter was further heard without the participation of the petitioner or its counsel. After receiving voluminous evidence as to the character of the petitioner's business, the examiner overruled the contention that interstate commerce was not involved, and proceeded to hear the merits. At the close of the hearing, he recommended that an order be entered against the petitioner. Notice of the filing of this report

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and of hearing thereon by the Board was given the petitioner, but it failed to appear. Based upon the examiner's report, the Board made findings of fact, stated its conclusions of law, and entered an order that the Associated Press cease and desist from discouraging membership in the American Newspaper Guild or any other labor organization of its employees by discharging, threatening to discharge, or refusing to reinstate any of them for joining the Guild or any other labor organization of its employees, and from discriminating against any employee in respect of hire of tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment for joining the Guild or any other such organization, and from interfering with, restraining, or coercing its employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in § 7 of the Act. It further enjoined the Associated Press to offer Watson reinstatement to his former position without prejudice to any rights and privileges previously enjoyed by him; to make him whole for any loss of pay suffered by reason of his discharge; to post notices in its New York office stating it would cease and desist from the enjoined practices, and to keep such notices posted for thirty days.2

The petitioner refused to comply with the order, and the Board, pursuant to § 10(e) of the Act, petitioned the Circuit Court of Appeals for enforcement. The petitioner answered again setting up its contentions with respect to the constitutionality of the Act as applied to it. After argument, the court made a decree enforcing the order.3

In its answer to the Board's petition for enforcement, the petitioner did not challenge the Board's findings of fact, and no error is assigned in this Court to the action of the Circuit Court of Appeals in adopting them. We therefore accept as established that the Associated Press

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did not, as claimed in its answer before the Board, discharge Watson because of unsatisfactory service, but, on the contrary, as found by the Board, discharged him for his activities in connection with the Newspaper Guild. It follows that § 8, subsections (1) and (3), authorize the order and the only issues open here are those involving the power of Congress under the Constitution to empower the Board to make it in the circumstances.

First. Does the statute, as applied to the petitioner, exceed the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce? The solution of this issue depends upon the nature of the petitioner's activities and Watson's relation to them. The findings of the Board in this aspect are unchallenged, and the question becomes, therefore, solely one of law, to be answered in the light of the uncontradicted facts.

The Associated Press is a membership corporation under the laws of New York which does not operate for profit, but is a cooperative organization whose members are representatives of newspapers. It has about 1,350 members in the United States, and practically all the newspapers represented in its membership are conducted for profit. Its business is the collection of news from members and from other sources throughout the United States and foreign countries, and the compilation, formulation, and distribution thereof to its members. In the process, the news is prepared for members' use by editing, rewriting, selecting, or discarding the information received in [57 S.Ct. 653] whole or in part. The product is transmitted to member newspapers and also to foreign agencies pursuant to mutual exchange agreements. The service is not sold, but the entire cost is apportioned amongst the members by assessment.

Petitioner maintains its principal office in New York City, but has also division points scattered over the United

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States, each of which is charged with the duty of collecting information from a defined territory and preparing and distributing it to newspapers within the assigned area and to other division points for use within their respective areas. Each member newspaper forwards news deemed important to the divisional headquarters of its area. In addition, employees of the petitioner obtain news which is transmitted to the appropriate division headquarters to be edited and forwarded to members within...

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