339 U.S. 382 (1950), 10, American Communications Assn. v. Douds

Docket Nº:No. 10
Citation:339 U.S. 382, 70 S.Ct. 674, 94 L.Ed. 925
Party Name:American Communications Assn. v. Douds
Case Date:May 08, 1950
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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339 U.S. 382 (1950)

70 S.Ct. 674, 94 L.Ed. 925

American Communications Assn.

v.

Douds

No. 10

United States Supreme Court

May 8, 1950

Argued October 10-11, 1949

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Syllabus

Section 9(h) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, which imposes certain restrictions on, and denies the benefits of certain provisions of the National Labor Relations Act to, any labor organization the officers of which have not filed with the National Labor Relations Board the so-called "non-Commmist" affidavits prescribed by § 9(h), is valid under the Federal Constitution. Pp. 385-415.

1. One of the purposes of the Labor Management Relations Act was to remove the obstructions to the free flow of commerce resulting from "political strikes" instigated by Communists who had infiltrated the management of labor organizations and were subordinating legitimate trade union objectives to obstructive strikes when dictated by Communist Party leaders, often in support of the policies of a foreign government. Pp. 387-389.

2. Section 9(h) does not merely withhold from noncomplying unions benefits granted by the Government; it also imposes on them a number of restrictions which would not exist if the National Labor Relations Act had not been enacted. However, it does not prohibit persons who do not sign the prescribed affidavit from holding union office. Pp. 389-390.

3. The remedy provided by § 9(h) bears reasonable relation to the evil which it was designed to reach, since Congress might reasonably find that Communists, unlike members of other political parties, and persons who believe in the overthrow of the Government by force, unlike persons of other beliefs, represent a continuing danger of disruptive political strikes when they hold positions of union leadership. Pp. 390-393.

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4. Section 9(h) is designed to protect the public not against what Communists and others identified therein advocate or believe, but against what Congress has concluded they have done and are likely to do again, and the probable effects of the statute upon the free exercise of the right of speech and assembly must be weighed against the congressional determination that political strikes are evils of conduct which cause substantial harm to interstate commerce, and that Communists and others identified by § 9(h) pose continuing threats to that public interest when in positions of union leadership. Pp. 393-400.

5. In view of the complexity of the problem of political strikes and how to deal with their leaders, the public interest in the good faith exercise of the great powers entrusted by Congress to labor bargaining representatives under the National Labor Relations Act, the fact that § 9(h) touches only a relatively few persons who combine certain political affiliations or beliefs with the occupancy of positions of great power over the economy of the country, and the fact that injury to interstate commerce would be an accomplished fact before any sanctions could be applied, the legislative judgment that interstate commerce must be protected from a continuing threat of political strikes is a permissible one in this case. Pp. 400-406.

6. The belief identified in § 9(h) is a belief in the objective of overthrow by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods of the Government of the United States as it now exists under the Constitution and laws thereof. The sole effect of the statute upon one who holds such beliefs is that he may be forced to relinquish his position as a union leader. So construed, in the light of the circumstances surrounding the problem, § 9(h) does not unduly infringe freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Pp. 406-412.

7. Section 9(h) is not unconstitutionally vague; it does not violate the prohibition of Article I, § 9 of the Constitution against bills of attainder or ex post facto laws, and it does not require a "test oath" contrary to the provision of Article VI that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." Pp. 412-415.

79 F.Supp. 563, 170 F.2d 247, affirmed.

No. 10. Although the officers of appellant union had not filed with the National Labor Relations Board the affidavit prescribed by § 9(h) of the National Labor

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Relations Act, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, 61 Stat. 136, 146, 29 U.S.C. (Supp. III) §§ 141, 159(h), appellant, claiming hat the section was unconstitutional, sued to restrain the Board from holding a representation election in a bargaining unit in which appellant was the employee representative, until a hearing was granted to appellant. The three-judge district court dismissed the complaint. 79 F.Supp. 563. On appeal to this Court, affirmed, p. 415.

No. 13. On an unfair labor practice complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board by petitioner unions, the Board found that the employer had violated the National Labor Relations Act in refusing to bargain on the subject of pensions; but the Board postponed the effective date of its order compelling the employer to bargain, pending the unions' compliance with § 9(h). 77 N.L.R.B. 1. The Court of Appeals sustained the Board's action on both counts. 170 F.2d 247. This Court denied certiorari on the pension issue, 336 U.S. 960, but granted certiorari on an issue regarding the constitutionality of § 9(h). 335 U.S. 910. Affirmed, p. 415.

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VINSON, J., lead opinion

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

These cases present for decision the constitutionality of § 9(h) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947.1 This section, commonly referred to as the non-Communist affidavit provision, reads as follows:

No investigation shall be made by the [National Labor Relations] Board of any question affecting commerce concerning the representation of employees, raised by a labor organization under subsection (c) of this section, no petition under section 9(e)(1) shall be entertained, and no complaint shall be issued pursuant to a charge made by a labor organization under subsection (b) of section 10, unless there is on file with the Board an affidavit executed contemporaneously or within the preceding twelve-month period by each officer of such labor organization and the officers of any national or international labor organization of which it is an affiliate or

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constituent unit that he is not a member of the Communist Party or affiliated with such party, and that he does not believe in, and is not a member of or supports any organization that believes in or teaches, the overthrow of the United States Government by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods. The provisions of section 35 A of the Criminal Code shall be applicable in respect to such affidavits.

In No. 10, the constitutional issue was raised by a suit to restrain the Board from holding a representation election in a bargaining unit in which appellant union was the employee representative, without permitting its name to appear on the ballot, and, should the election be held, to restrain the Board from announcing the results or certifying the victor, until a hearing was granted to appellant. A hearing had been denied because of the noncompliance with [70 S.Ct. 678] § 9(h). The complaint alleged that this requirement was unconstitutional. Appellee's motion to dismiss the complaint was granted by the statutory three-judge court, 79 F.Supp. 563 (1948), with one judge dissenting. Since the constitutional issues were properly raised and substantial, we noted probable jurisdiction.

No. 13 is the outcome of an unfair labor practice complaint filed with the Board by petitioner unions. The Board found that Inland Steel Company had violated the Labor Relations Act in refusing to bargain on the subject of pensions. 77 N.L.R.B. 1 (1948). But the Board postponed the effective date of its order compelling the company to bargain, pending the unions' compliance with § 9(h). Both sides appealed: the company urged that the Act had been misinterpreted; the unions contended that § 9(h) was unconstitutional, and therefore an invalid condition of a Board order. When the court below upheld the Board on both counts, 170 F.2d 247 (1948), with one judge dissenting as to § 9(h), both sides filed petitions for certiorari. We denied the petition pertain

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ing to the pension issue, 336 U.S. 960 (1949), but granted the petition directed at the affidavit requirement, 335 U.S. 910 (1949), because of the manifest importance of the constitutional issues involved.

The constitutional justification for the National Labor Relations Act was the power of Congress to protect interstate commerce by removing obstructions to the free flow of commerce. National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 (1937). That Act was designed to remove obstructions caused by strikes and other forms of industrial unrest, which Congress found were attributable to the inequality of bargaining power between unorganized employees and their employers. It did so by strengthening employee groups, by restraining certain employer practices, and by encouraging the processes of collective bargaining.

When the Labor Management Relations Act was passed twelve years later, it was the view of Congress that additional impediments to the free flow of commerce made amendment of the original Act desirable. It was stated in the findings and declaration of policy that:

Experience has further demonstrated that certain practices by some labor organizations, their officers, and members have...

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