341 U.S. 675 (1951), 393, National Labor Relations Board v. Denver Building &

Docket Nº:No. 393
Citation:341 U.S. 675, 71 S.Ct. 943, 95 L.Ed. 1284
Party Name:National Labor Relations Board v. Denver Building &
Case Date:June 04, 1951
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 675

341 U.S. 675 (1951)

71 S.Ct. 943, 95 L.Ed. 1284

National Labor Relations Board

v.

Denver Building &

No. 393

United States Supreme Court

June 4, 1951

Construction Trades Council

Argued February 27, 1951

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. A decision of a district court in a preliminary proceeding under § 10(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, that the activities complained of did not affect interstate commerce and were therefore not within the jurisdiction of the Board, was not res judicata of that issue in a proceeding on the merits under § 10(e) and (f). Pp. 681-683.

2. A subcontractor engaged by a general contractor to do the electrical work on a building being constructed purchased $86,560 of raw materials during the year, $55,745 of which were purchased outside the state. It performed no services outside the state, but shipped $5,000 of its products outside the state. It had expended $315 for labor and $350 for materials on the project when its services were terminated because of a strike. Both the National Labor Relations Board and the Court of Appeals found that the strike affected interstate commerce.

Held: this conclusion is sustained. Pp. 683-685.

(a) The fact that the instant building, after its completion, might be used only for local purposes does not alter the fact that its construction, as distinguished from its later use, affected interstate commerce. P. 684.

(b) The maxim de minimis non curat lex did not require the Board to refuse to take jurisdiction of the instant case. P. 685.

3. The National Labor Relations Board found that, by engaging in a strike an object of which was to force the general contractor on a construction project to terminate its contract with a subcontractor employing nonunion labor on the project, respondent labor organization committed an unfair labor practice within the meaning of § 8(b)(4)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947.

Held: this finding is sustained. Labor Board v. Rice Milling Co., ante p. 665, distinguished. Pp. 685-692.

(a) It was an object of the strike to force the contractor to terminate the contract of the electrical subcontractor. Pp. 687-689.

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(b) A strike with such an object is an unfair labor practice within the meaning of § 8(b)(4)(A), even though that may not be the sole object. Pp. 689-690.

(c) Section 8(c) safeguarding freedom of speech has no significant application to the picket's placard in this case, and does not immunize respondent's action against the specific provisions of § 8(b)(4)(A). See Electrical Workers v. Labor Board, post, p. 694. Pp. 690-691.

(d) The Board's findings on questions of fact in this field are conclusive when supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, and the Board's interpretation and application of the Act in doubtful situations are entitled to weight. Pp. 691-692.

(e) As applied in this case, the views of the Board conform with the dual congressional objective of preserving the right of labor organizations to bring pressure to bear on offending employers in primary labor disputes and of shielding unoffending employers and others from pressures in controversies not their own. P. 692.

87 U.S.App.D.C. 293, 186 F.2d 326, reversed.

The National Labor Relations Board found respondents guilty of an unfair labor practice within the meaning of § 8(b)(4)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, and ordered it to cease and desist. 82 N.L.R.B. 1195. The Court of Appeals denied enforcement. 87 U.S.App.D.C. 293, 186 F.2d 326. This Court granted certiorari. 340 U.S. 902. Reversed, p. 692.

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BURTON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

The principal question here is whether a labor organization committed an unfair labor practice, within the meaning of § 8(b)(4)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 449, 29 U.S.C. § 151, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947,1 by engaging in a strike an object of which was to force the general contractor on a construction project to terminate its contract with a certain subcontractor on that project. For the reasons hereafter stated, we hold that such an unfair labor practice was committed.

In September, 1947, Doose & Lintner was the general contractor for the construction of a commercial building in Denver, Colorado. It awarded a subcontract for electrical work on the building, in an estimated amount of $2,300, to Gould & Preisner, a firm which, for 20 years, had employed nonunion workmen on construction work in that city. The latter's employees proved to be the only nonunion workmen on the project. Those of the general contractor and of the other subcontractors were members of unions affiliated with the respondent Denver Building and Construction Trades Council (here called the Council).

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In November, a representative of one of those unions told Gould that he did not see how the job could progress with Gould's nonunion men on it. Gould insisted that they would complete the electrical work unless bodily put off. The representative replied that the situation would be difficult for both Gould & Preisner and Doose & Lintner.

January 8, 1948, the Council's Board of Business Agents instructed the Council's representative "to place a picket on the job stating that the job was unfair" to it.2 In keeping with the Council's practice,3 each affiliate was notified of that decision. That notice was a signal in the nature of [71 S.Ct. 947] an order to the members of the affiliated unions to leave the job and remain away until otherwise

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ordered. Representatives of the Council and each of the respondent unions visited the project and reminded the contractor that Gould & Preisner employed nonunion workmen, and said that union men could not work on the job with nonunion men. They further advised that, if Gould & Preisner's men did work on the job, the Council and its affiliates would put a picket on it to notify their members that nonunion men were working on it and that the job was unfair. All parties stood their ground.

January 9, the Council posted a picket at the project carrying a placard stating "This Job Unfair to Denver Building and Construction Trades Council."4 He was paid by the Council, and his picketing continued from January 9 through January 22. During that time, the only persons who reported for work were the nonunion electricians of Gould & Preisner. January 22, before Gould & Preisner had completed its subcontract, the general contractor notified it to get off the job so that Doose & Lintner could continue with the project. January 23, the Council removed its picket, and, shortly thereafter, the union employees resumed work on the project. Gould & Preisner protested this treatment, but its workmen were denied entrance to the job.

On charges filed by Gould & Preisner, the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board issued the complaint in this case against the Council and the

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respondent unions.5 It alleged that they had engaged in a strike or had caused strike action to be taken on the project by employees of the general contractor and of other subcontractors, an object of which was to force the general contractor to cease doing business with Gould & Preisner on that project.

Between the Board's receipt of the charges and the filing of the complaint based upon them, the Regional Director of the Board petitioned the United States District Court for the District of Colorado for injunctive relief.6 That petition was dismissed on the jurisdictional ground that the activities complained of did not affect interstate commerce. Sperry v. Denver Building & Const. Trades Council, 77 F.Supp. 321. Such action will be discussed later under the heading of res judicata. Hearings were held by the Board's trial examiner on the merits of the complaint. The Board adopted its examiner's findings, conclusions, and recommendations, with minor additions and modifications not here material. It attached the examiner's intermediate report to its decision and ordered respondents to cease and desist from engaging in the activities charged. 82 N.L.R.B. 1195. Respondents petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for a review under § 10(f).7 The Board answered, and asked for enforcement of its order. That court held, with one judge dissenting, that

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the conduct complained of affected interstate commerce sufficiently to give the Board jurisdiction [71 S.Ct. 948] over it, but the court unanimously set aside the order of the Board, and said:

Convinced that the action in the circumstances of this case is primary, and not secondary, we are obliged to refuse to enforce the order based on § 8(b)(4)(A).

87 U.S.App.D.C. 293, 304, 186 F.2d 326, 337. The Board claimed a conflict between that conclusion and the reasoning of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in No. 108, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Labor Board, 181 F.2d 34, and of that for the Sixth Circuit in No. 85, Labor Board v. Local 74, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, 181 F.2d 126. We granted certiorari in each case, 340 U.S. 902-903, and all were argued with No. 313, Labor Board v. International Rice Milling Co., ante, p. 665.8 In another companion case, No. 387, United Brotherhood of Carpenters v. Labor Board, decided by the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, 184 F.2d 60, certiorari has been denied this day, 341 U.S. 947.

I. Res Judicata. -- Respondents not only attack the...

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