309 U.S. 261 (1940), 342, Amalgamated Utility Workers v. Consolidated Edison Co.

Docket Nº:No. 342
Citation:309 U.S. 261, 60 S.Ct. 561, 84 L.Ed. 738
Party Name:Amalgamated Utility Workers v. Consolidated Edison Co.
Case Date:February 26, 1940
Court:United States Supreme Court

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309 U.S. 261 (1940)

60 S.Ct. 561, 84 L.Ed. 738

Amalgamated Utility Workers


Consolidated Edison Co.

No. 342

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 26, 1940

Argued January 31, 1940




Under the National Labor Relations Act, the authority to apply to the Circuit Court of Appeals to have an employer adjudged in contempt for failure to obey a decree enforcing an order of the National Labor Relations Board lies exclusively in the Board itself, acting as a public agency. A labor organization has no standing to make such an application in virtue of having filed the charges upon which the Board's proceedings were initiated. P. 269.

106 F.2d 991 affirmed.

Certiorari, 308 U.S. 541, to review the denial of an application for a contempt order.

HUGHES, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The National Labor Relations Board ordered the Consolidated Edison Company of New York and its affiliated companies to desist from certain labor practices

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found to be unfair and to take certain affirmative action. The Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Board's petition for enforcement of the order, and its decree, as modified, was affirmed by this Court. Consolidated Edison Co. v. Labor Board, 305 U.S. 197. Petitioner, Amalgamated Utility Workers, brought the present proceeding before the Circuit Court of Appeals to have the Consolidated Edison Company and its affiliated companies adjudged in contempt for failure to comply with certain requirements of the decree.

The Board, in response to the motion, asserted its willingness to participate in an investigation to ascertain whether acts in violation of the decree had been committed, and suggested that the court direct such investigation as might be deemed appropriate.

The Court of Appeals denied the application upon the ground that petitioner had "no standing to press a charge of civil contempt, if contempt has been committed." The court held that, under the National Labor Relations Act,

the Board is the proper party to apply to the court for an order of enforcement and to present to the court charges that the court's order has not been obeyed.

106 F.2d 991. In view of the importance of the question in relation to the proper administration of the National Labor Relations Act, we granted certiorari. 308 U.S. 541.

Petitioner contends that the National Labor Relations Act1 "creates private rights;" that the Act recognizes the rights of labor organizations, and that it gives the parties upon whom these rights are conferred status in the courts for their vindication. In support of its alleged standing, petitioner urges that, under its former name (United Electrical and Radio Workers of America), it filed with the National Labor Relations Board charges against the respondent companies, and that it was upon

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these charges that the Board issued its complaint and held the hearing which resulted in the order in question. Also, that petitioner was permitted to intervene in the proceedings before the Circuit Court of Appeals where the companies had moved to set aside the Board's order, and the Board had moved to enforce it, and that the petitioner had also been heard in this Court in the certiorari proceedings for review of the decree of enforcement.

Petitioner invokes the statement in Section 1 of the Act of "findings and policy," with respect to the effect of the denial by employers of the right of employees to organize and to bargain collectively, and in particular the provision of § 72 that

Employees shall have the right to self-organization, 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.

Neither this provision nor any other provision of the Act can properly be said to have "created" the right of self-organization or of collective bargaining through representatives of the employees' own choosing. In Labor Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 33-34, we observed that this right is a fundamental [60 S.Ct. 563] one; that employees "have as clear a right to organize and select their representatives for lawful purposes" as the employer has "to organize its business and select its own officers and agents;" that discrimination and coercion "to prevent the free exercise of the right of employees to self-organization and representation" was a proper subject for condemnation by competent legislative authority. We noted that "long ago"

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we had stated the reason for labor organizations -- that, through united action...

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