324 U.S. 793 (1945), 226, Republic Aviation Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board

Docket Nº:No. 226
Citation:324 U.S. 793, 65 S.Ct. 982, 89 L.Ed. 1372
Party Name:Republic Aviation Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board
Case Date:April 23, 1945
Court:United States Supreme Court

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324 U.S. 793 (1945)

65 S.Ct. 982, 89 L.Ed. 1372

Republic Aviation Corp.


National Labor Relations Board

No. 226

United States Supreme Court

April 23, 1945

Argued January 10, 1945




1. The National Labor Relations Board was warranted in these cases in finding unfair labor practices, violative of § 8 of the National Labor Relations Act, in the employer's (1) enforcement of a "no solicitation" rule against the solicitation of union membership by employees on company property during lunch hour; (2) discharge of employees for wearing union "shop steward" buttons in the plant, though at a time when a majority of the employees had not designated any collective bargaining representative; and (3) enforcement of a general "no-distribution" rule against distribution of union literature or circulars by employees on their own time though on parking lots owned by the company and adjacent to the plant. Pp. 795, 803.

2. As an administrative agency with power after hearings to determine on the evidence in adversary proceedings whether violations of statutory commands have occurred, the Labor Board, within the limits of its inquiry, may infer from proven facts such conclusions as reasonably may be based on the facts proven. P. 800.

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3. It was reasonable for the Labor Board to adopt a presumption of invalidity of a company rule forbidding union solicitation by employees on company property outside of working hours in the absence of evidence that special circumstances make the rule necessary in order to maintain production or discipline. P. 803.

4. The discharge of an employee for violation of a company rule against solicitation, which rule was invalid as applied to the union solicitation in which the employee engaged on his own time, was discriminatory within the meaning of § 8(3) of the Act in that it discouraged membership in a labor union, notwithstanding that the rule was enforced impartially against all solicitors. P. 805.

12 F.2d 193 affirmed. 143 F.2d 67 reversed.

Certiorari, 323 U.S. 688, 698, to review, in No. 226, a decree granting enforcement of an order of the National Labor Relations Board, and, in No. 452, a judgment setting aside an order of the Board.

REED, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

In the Republic Aviation Corporation case, the employer, a large and rapidly growing military aircraft manufacturer, adopted, well before any union activity at the plant, a general rule against soliciting which read as follows:

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Soliciting of any type cannot be permitted in the factory or offices.

The Republic plant was located in a built-up section of Suffolk County, New York. An employee persisted after being warned of the rule in soliciting union membership in the plant by passing out application cards to employees on his own time during lunch periods. The employee was discharged for infraction of the rule and, as the National Labor Relations Board found, without discrimination on the part of the employer toward union activity.

Three other employees were discharged for wearing UAW-CIO union steward buttons in the plant after being requested to remove the insignia. The union was at that time active in seeking to organize the plant. The reason which the employer gave for the request was that, as the union was not then the duly designated representative of the employees, the wearing of the steward buttons in the plant indicated an acknowledgment by the management of the authority of the stewards to represent the employees in dealing with the management, and might impinge upon the employer's policy of strict neutrality in union matters, and might interfere with the existing grievance system of the corporation.

The Board was of the view that wearing union steward buttons by employees did not carry any implication of recognition of that union by the employer where, as here, there was no competing labor organization in the plant. The discharges of the stewards, however, were found not to be motivated by opposition to the particular union, or, we deduce, to unionism.

The Board determined that the promulgation and enforcement of the "no solicitation" rule violated Section 8(1) of the National Labor Relations Act as it interfered with, restrained and coerced employees in their rights under Section 7, and discriminated against the discharged employee

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under Section 8(3).1 It determined also that the discharge of the stewards violated Section 8(1) and 8(3). As a consequence of its conclusions as to the solicitation and the wearing of the insignia, the Board entered the usual cease and desist order and directed the reinstatement of the discharged employees with back pay and also the rescission of "the rule against solicitation in so far as it prohibits union activity and solicitation on company property during the employees' own time." 51 N.L.R.B. 1186, 1189. The Circuit Court of Appeals [65 S.Ct. 985] for the Second Circuit affirmed, 142 F.2d 193, and we granted certiorari, 323 U.S. 688, because of conflict with the decisions of other circuits.2 In the case of Le Tourneau Company of Georgia, two employees were suspended two days each for distributing union literature or circulars on the employees' own time on company owned and policed parking lots, adjacent to the company's fenced in plant, in violation of a longstanding and strictly enforced rule, adopted prior to union organization activity about the premises, which read as follows:

In the future, no Merchants, Concern, Company or Individual

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or Individuals will be permitted to distribute, post, or otherwise circulate handbills or posters, or any literature of any description on Company property without first securing permission from the Personnel Department.

The rule was adopted to control littering and petty pilfering from parked autos by distributors. The Board determined that there was no union bias or discrimination by the company in enforcing the rule.

The company's plant for the manufacture of earth moving machinery and other products for the war is in the country on a six thousand acre tract. The plant is bisected by one public road and built along another. There is one hundred feet of company-owned land for parking or other use between the highways and the employee entrances to the fenced enclosures where the work is done, so that contact on public ways or on non-company property with employees at or about the establishment is limited to those employees, less than 800 out of 2100, who are likely to walk across the public highway near the plant on their way to work, or to those employees who will stop their private automobiles, buses or other conveyances on the public roads for communications. The employees' dwellings are widely scattered.

The Board found that the application of the rule to the distribution of union literature by the employees on company property which resulted in the lay-offs was an unfair labor practice under Section 8(1) and 8(3). Cease and desist and rule rescission orders, with directions to pay the employees for their lost time, followed. 54 N.L.R.B. 1253. The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the Board, 143 F.2d 67, and we granted certiorari because of conflict with the Republic case. 3 23 U.S. 688.

These cases bring here for review the action of the National Labor Relations Board in working out an adjustment between the undisputed right of self-organization

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assured to employees under the Wagner Act and the equally undisputed right of employers to maintain discipline in their establishments. Like so many others, these rights are not unlimited in the sense that they can be exercised without regard to any duty which the existence of rights in others may place upon employer or employee . Opportunity to organize and proper discipline are both essential elements in a balanced society.

The Wagner Act did not undertake the impossible task of specifying in precise and unmistakable language each incident which would constitute an unfair labor practice. On the contrary, that Act left to the Board the work of applying the Act's general prohibitory language in the light of the infinite combinations of events which might be charged as violative of its terms. Thus, a "rigid scheme of remedies" is avoided, and administrative flexibility within appropriate statutory limitations obtained to accomplish the dominant purpose of the legislation. Phelps Dodge Corporation v. Labor Board, 313 U.S. 177, 194. So far as we are here concerned, that purpose is the right of employes to organize for mutual aid without employer interference. This is the principle of labor relations which the Board is to foster.

The gravamen of the objection of both Republic and Le Tourneau to the Board's orders is that they rest on a policy formulated without due administrative procedure. To be more specific, it is that the Board cannot substitute its knowledge of industrial relations for substantive evidence. The contention is that there must be evidence [65 S.Ct. 986] before the Board to show that the rules and orders of the employers interfered with and discouraged union organization in the circumstances and situation of each company. Neither in the Republic nor the Le Tourneau case can it properly be said that there was evidence or a finding that the plant's physical location made solicitation away from company property ineffective to reach prospective union

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members. Neither of these is like a mining or lumber camp, where the employees pass their rest as well as their work time on the employer's premises, so that union organization must proceed upon the employer's premises or be seriously handicapped.3

The National Labor Relations Act creates a system for the organization of labor with emphasis on collective...

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