330 U.S. 767 (1947), 55, Bethlehem Steel Co. v. New York State Labor Relations Board

Docket Nº:No. 55
Citation:330 U.S. 767, 67 S.Ct. 1026, 91 L.Ed. 1234
Party Name:Bethlehem Steel Co. v. New York State Labor Relations Board
Case Date:April 07, 1947
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 767

330 U.S. 767 (1947)

67 S.Ct. 1026, 91 L.Ed. 1234

Bethlehem Steel Co.


New York State Labor Relations Board

No. 55

United States Supreme Court

April 7, 1947

Argued December 16, 17, 1946



Where the National Labor Relations Board had asserted general jurisdiction over unions of foremen employed by industries subject to the National Labor Relations Act, but had refused to certify such unions as collective bargaining representatives on the ground that to do so at the time would obstruct, rather than further, effectuation of the purposes of the Act, certification of such unions by the New York State Labor Relations Board under a State Act similar to the National Act held invalid as in conflict with the National Labor Relations Act and the Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 771-777.

295 N.Y. 601, 607, 64 N.E.2d 350, 352, reversed.

No. 55. A New York state court issued an order to enforce a subpoena duces tecum issued by the New York State Labor Relations Board in a proceeding for the certification as a collective bargaining representative under the New York State Labor Relations Act of a union of foremen of an employer whose business was predominantly interstate. 9 C.C.H. Labor Cases (1945) ¶ 62, 611. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York affirmed. 269 A.D. 805, 56 N.Y.S.2d 195. The New York Court of Appeals affirmed. 295 N.Y. 601, 664, 64 N.E.2d 350, 65 N.E.2d 54. On appeal to this Court, reversed, p. 777.

No. 76. A New York state court dismissed a suit by an employer whose business was predominantly interstate for a declaratory judgment decreeing that the New York

Page 768

State Labor Relations Board was without jurisdiction to determine representation of its foremen and enjoining the Board from ordering the employer to bargain collectively with their union. 184 Misc. 47, 49 N.Y.S.2d 762. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York affirmed. 269 A.D. 805, 56 N.Y.S.2d 196. The Court of Appeals of New York affirmed. 295 N.Y. 607, 64 N.E.2d 352. On appeal to this Court, reversed and remanded, p. 777.

JACKSON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

[67 S.Ct. 1028] These appeals challenge the validity of the Labor Relations Act of the New York as applied to appellants to permit unionization of their foremen. Conflict is asserted between it and the National Labor Relations Act, and hence with the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

After enactment by Congress of the National Labor Relations Act, July 5, 1935, 49 Stat. 449, 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., New York adopted a State Labor Relations Act

Page 769

following the federal pattern. Laws of New York 1937, Chap. 443, 30 McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York, §§ 700-716. In the administrative boards they create, the procedures they establish, the unfair labor practices prohibited, the two statutes may be taken for present purposes to be the same. But, in provision for determination of units of representation for bargaining purposes, the two Acts are not identical. Their differences may be made plain by setting forth § 9(b) of the Federal Act, with that part which is omitted from the State Act in brackets and additions made by the State Act as amended, Laws of New York, 1942, Chap. 518, in italics:

The board shall decide in each case whether, in order to insure to employees the full benefit of their right to self-organization [and] to collective bargaining and otherwise to effectuate the policies of this act, the unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining shall be the employer unit, multiple employer unit, craft unit, plant unit, or [subdivision thereof] any other unit; provided, however, that in any case where the majority of employees of a particular craft shall so decide, the board shall designate such craft as a unit appropriate for the purpose of collective bargaining.

The procedures prescribed for the two boards for investigation, certification, and hearing on representation units and for their election are substantially the same except that the State law adds the following limitation not found in the Federal Act:

. . . provided, however, that the board shall not have authority to investigate any question or controversy between individuals or groups within the same labor organization or between labor organizations affiliated with the same parent labor organization.

Laws of New York, 1937, Chap. 443, as amended, Laws 1942, Chap. 518, 30 McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York § 705.3.

Page 770

The two boards have at times pursued inconsistent policies in applying their respective Acts to petitions of foremen as a class to organize bargaining units thereunder. The State Board has in these cases recognized that right; the National Board for a time recognized it. Union Collieries Coal Co., 41 N.L.R.B. 961; Godchaux Sugars, Inc., 44 N.L.R.B. 874. Later, there was a period when, for policy reasons but without renouncing jurisdiction, it refused to approve foremen organization units. Maryland Drydock Co., 49 N.L.R.B. 733; Boeing Aircraft Co., 51 N.L.R.B. 67; General Motors Corp., 51 N.L.R.B. 457. Now, again, it supports their right to unionize. Packard Motor Car Co., 61 N.L.R.B. 4, 64 N.L.R.B. 1212; L. A. Young Spring & Wire Corp., 65 N.L.R.B. 298. The foremen of these appellants, at a time when their desire to organize was frustrated by the policy of the National Board, filed applications with the State Board. It entertained their petitions, and its policy permitted them as a class to become a bargaining unit. Both employers, by different methods adequate under State law to raise the question, challenged the constitutionality of the State Act as so applied to them. Their contentions ultimately were considered and rejected by the New York Court of Appeals, and its decisions sustaining state power over the matter were brought here by appeals.

Both of these labor controversies arose in manufacturing plants located in New York, where the companies employ large staffs of foremen to supervise a much larger force of labor. But both concerns have such a relation to interstate commerce that, for the reasons stated in Labor Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp, 301 U.S. 1, federal power reaches their labor relations. On this basis, the National [67 S.Ct. 1029] Board has exercised power to certify bargaining agents for units of employees

Page 771

other than foremen of both companies. Matter of Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation, Case No. III-R-411, N.L.R.B. June 29, 1942; Matter of Bethlehem Steel Corp. and CIO, 30 N.L.R.B. 1006, 32 N.L.R.B. 264, 1941 (production and maintenance employees); Matter of Bethlehem Steel Corp. and A.F. of L., 47 N.L.R.B. 1330, 1943 (plant protection employees); Matter of Bethlehem Steel Corporation and CIO, 52 N.L.R.B. 1217, 1943 (employees in order department); Matter of Bethlehem Steel Co. and A.F. of L., 55 N.L.R.B. 658, 1944 (fire department employees). The companies contend that the National Board's jurisdiction over their labor relations is exclusive of state power; the State contends, on the contrary, that, while federal power over the subject is paramount, it is not exclusive, and, in such a case as we have here, until the federal power is actually exercised as to the particular employees, State power may be exercised.

At the time the courts of the New York were considering this issue, the question whether the Federal Act would authorize or permit unionization of foremen was in controversy, and was unsettled until our decision in Packard Motor Car Co. v. NLRB, 330 U.S. 485. Whatever constitutional issue may have been presented by earlier phases of the evolution of the federal policy in relation to that of the State, the question now is whether, Congress having undertaken to deal with the relationship between these companies and their foremen, the State is prevented from doing so. Congress has not seen fit to lay down even the most general of guides to construction of the Act, as it sometimes does, by saying that its regulation either shall or shall not exclude state action. Cf. Securities Act of 1933, § 18, 48 Stat. 85, 15 U.S.C. § 77r; Securities Exchange Act of 1934, § 28, 48 Stat. 903, 15 U.S.C. § 78bb; United States Warehouse

Page 772

Act, § 29, before and after 1931 amendment, 39 Stat. 490, 46 Sta . 1465, 7 U.S.C. § 269. Our question is primarily one of the construction to be put on the Federal Act. It long has been the rule that exclusion of state action may be implied from the nature of the legislation and the subject matter, although express declaration of such result is wanting. Napier v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 272 U.S. 605.

In determining whether exclusion of state power will or will not be implied, we well may consider the respective relation of federal and state power to the general subject matter as illustrated by the case in hand. These companies are authorized to do business in New York State, they operate large manufacturing plants in that state, they draw their labor supply from its residents, and the impact of industrial strife in their plants is immediately felt by state police, welfare, and other departments. Their labor relations are primarily of interest to the state, are within its competence legally and practically to regulate, and, until recently, were left entirely to state control. Thus, the subject matter is not so "intimately blended and intertwined with responsibilities of the national government" that its nature alone raises an inference of exclusion. Cf. Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52, 66.

Indeed, the subject matter is one reachable, and one which Congress has reached, under the federal commerce power not because it is interstate...

To continue reading