321 U.S. 332 (1944), 67, J. I. Case Co. v. National Labor Relations Board

Docket Nº:No. 67
Citation:321 U.S. 332, 64 S.Ct. 576, 88 L.Ed. 762
Party Name:J. I. Case Co. v. National Labor Relations Board
Case Date:February 28, 1944
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 332

321 U.S. 332 (1944)

64 S.Ct. 576, 88 L.Ed. 762

J. I. Case Co.


National Labor Relations Board

No. 67

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 28, 1944

Argued January 3, 1944




1. In view of the continuing character of the obligation imposed on the employer by the order of the National Labor Relations Board, the subsequent expiration of the contracts in question and the employer's entry into a collective bargaining agreement did not render the case moot. P. 334.

2. That an employer has individual contracts of employment, covering wages, hours and working conditions, with a majority of his employees, which contracts were valid when made and are unexpired, does not preclude exercise by the employees of their right under the National Labor Relations Act to choose a representative for collective bargaining, nor warrant refusal by the employer to bargain with such representative in respect of terms covered by the individual contracts. P. 339.

The relation in general of individual contracts to collective bargaining is discussed.

3. The Board has no power to adjudicate the validity or effect of the contracts here in question, except as to their effect on matters within its jurisdiction. P. 340.

4. Since the desist order literally goes beyond what the Board intended, its language is modified accordingly. P. 341.

134 F.2d 70 modified and affirmed.

Certiorari, 320 U.S. 210, to review a decree which granted enforcement of an order of the National Labor Relations Board, 42 N.L.R.B. 85.

Page 333

JACKSON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

This cause was heard by the National Labor Relations Board on stipulated facts which, so far as concern present issues, are as follows:

The petitioner, J. I. Case Company, at its Rock Island, Illinois, plant, from 1937, offered each employee an individual contract of employment. The contracts were uniform, and for a term of one year. The Company agreed to furnish employment as steadily as conditions permitted, to pay a specified rate, which the Company might redetermine if the job changed, and to maintain certain hospital facilities. The employee agreed to accept the provisions, to serve faithfully and honestly for the term, to comply with factory rules, and that defective work should not be paid for. About 75% of the employees accepted and worked under these agreements.

According to the Board's stipulation and finding, the execution of the contracts was not a condition of employment, nor was the status of individual employees affected by reason of signing or failing to sign the contracts. It is not found or contended that the agreements were coerced, obtained by any unfair labor practice, or that they were not valid under the circumstances in which they were made.

While the individual contracts executed August 1, 1941, were in effect, a CIO union petitioned the Board for certification as the exclusive bargaining representative of the production and maintenance employees. On December 17, 1941, a hearing was held at which the Company urged the individual contracts as a bar to representation proceedings. The Board, however, directed an election, which was won by the union. The union was thereupon certified as the exclusive bargaining representative of the employees in question in respect to wages, hours, and other conditions of employment.

Page 334

The union then asked the Company to bargain. It refused, declaring that it could not deal with the union in any manner affecting rights and obligations under the individual contracts while they remained in effect. It offered to negotiate on matters which did not affect rights under the individual contracts, and said that, upon the expiration of the contracts, it would bargain as to all matters. Twice the Company sent circulars to its employees asserting the validity of the individual contracts and stating the position that it took before the Board in reference to them.

The Board held that the Company had refused to bargain collectively, in violation of § 8(5) of the National Labor Relations Act, and that the contracts had been utilized, by means of the circulars, to impede employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed by § 7 of the [64 S.Ct. 579] Act, with the result that the Company had engaged in unfair labor practices within the meaning of § 8(1) of the Act. It ordered the Company to cease and desist from giving effect to the contracts, from extending them or entering into new ones, from refusing to bargain and from interfering with the employees, and it required the Company to give notice accordingly and to bargain upon request.

The Circuit Court of Appeals, with modification not in issue here, granted an order of enforcement. The issues are unsettled ones...

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