351 U.S. 105 (1956), National Labor Relations Board v. Babcock & Wilcox Co.

Citation:351 U.S. 105, 76 S.Ct. 679, 100 L.Ed. 975
Party Name:National Labor Relations Board v. Babcock & Wilcox Co.
Case Date:April 30, 1956
Court:United States Supreme Court

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351 U.S. 105 (1956)

76 S.Ct. 679, 100 L.Ed. 975

National Labor Relations Board


Babcock & Wilcox Co.

United States Supreme Court

April 30, 1956




In the circumstances of these cases, the nondiscriminatory refusal of the employers to permit distribution of union literature by nonemployee union organizers on company-owned parking lots did not unreasonably impede their employees' right to self-organization in violation of § 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, because the locations of the plants and of the living quarters of the employees did not place the employees beyond the reach of reasonable efforts of the unions to communicate with them by other means. Pp. 106-114.

(a) An employer may validly post his property against nonemployee distribution of union literature if reasonable efforts by the union through other available channels of communication will enable it to reach the employees with its message and if the employer's notice or order does not discriminate against the union by allowing other distribution. P. 112.

(b) Republic Aviation Corp. v. Labor Board, 324 U.S. 793, distinguished. Pp. 112-113.

(c) The Act requires only that the employer refrain from interference, discrimination, restraint or coercion in the employees' exercise of their own rights. It does not require that the employer permit the use of its facilities for organization when other means are readily available. Pp. 113-114.

222 F.2d 316, affirmed.

222 F.2d 858, affirmed.

222 F.2d 543, reversed.

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REED, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

In each of these cases, the employer refused to permit distribution of union literature by nonemployee union organizers on company-owned parking lots. The National Labor Relations Board, in separate and unrelated proceedings, found in each case that it was unreasonably difficult for the union organizer to reach the employees off company property, and held that, in refusing the unions access to parking lots, the employers had unreasonably impeded their employees' right to self organization in violation of § 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act. Babcock & Wilcox Co., 109 NLRB 485, 494; Ranco, Inc., id., 998, 1007, and Scamprufe, Inc., id., 24, 32.

The plant involved in No. 250, Labor Board v. Babcock & Wilcox Co., is a company engaged in the manufacture of tubular products such as boilers and accessories, located on a 100-acre tract about one mile from a community of 21,000 people. Approximately 400 of the 500 employees live in that town, and the remainder live within a 30-mile radius. More than 90 of them drive to work in private

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automobiles and park on a company lot that adjoins the fenced in plant area. The parking lot is reached only by a driveway 100 yards long which is entirely on company property excepting for a public right-of-way that extends 31 feet from the metal of the highway to the plant's property. Thus, the only public place in the immediate vicinity of the plant area at which leaflets can be effectively distributed to employees is that place where this driveway crosses the public right-of-way. Because of the traffic conditions at that place, the Board found it practically impossible for union organizers to distribute leaflets safely to employees in motors as they enter or leave the lot. The Board noted that the company's policy on such distribution had not discriminated against labor organizations, and that other means of communication, such as the mail and telephones, as well as the homes of the workers, were open to the union.1 The employer justified its refusal to allow distribution of literature [76 S.Ct. 682] on company property on the ground that it had maintained a consistent policy of refusing access to all kinds of pamphleteering, and that such distribution of leaflets would litter its property.

The Board found that the parking lot and the walkway from it to the gatehouse, where employees punched in for work, were the only "safe and practicable" places for distribution of union literature. The Board viewed the

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place of work as so much more effective a place for communication of information that it held the employer guilty of an unfair labor practice for refusing limited access to company property to union organizers. It therefore ordered the employer to rescind its no-distribution order for the parking lot and walkway, subject to reasonable and nondiscriminating regulations

in the interest of plant efficiency and discipline, but not as to deny access to union representatives for the purpose of effecting such distribution.

109 NLRB at 486.

The Board petitioned the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for enforcement. That court refused enforcement on the ground the statute did not authorize the Board to impose a servitude on the employer's property where no employee was involved. Labor Board v. Babcock & Wilcox Co., 222 F.2d 316.

The conditions and circumstances involved in No. 251, Labor Board v. Scamprufe, Inc., and No. 422, Ranco, Inc. v. Labor Board, are not materially different, except that Scamprufe involves a plant employing approximately 200 persons, and, in the Ranco case, it appears that union organizers had a better opportunity to pass out literature off company property. The Board likewise ordered these employers to allow union organizers limited access to company lots. The orders were in substantially similar form as that in the Babcock & Wilcox case. Enforcement of the orders was sought in the Courts of Appeals. The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in No. 251, Labor Board v. Scamprufe, Inc., 222 F.2d 858, refused enforcement on the ground that a nonemployee can justify his presence on company property only "as it bears a cogent relationship to the exercise of the employees' guaranteed right of self-organization." These

solicitors were therefore strangers to the right of self-organization, absent a showing of nonaccessibility amounting to a handicap to self-organization.

Id. at 861. The Court of Appeals

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for the Sixth Circuit in No. 422 granted enforcement. Labor Board v. Ranco, Inc., 222 F.2d 543. The per curiam opinion depended upon its decision in Labor Board v. Monarch Tool Co., 210 F.2d 183, a case in which only employees were involved; Labor Board v. Lake Superior Lumber Corporation, 167 F.2d 147, an isolated lumber camp case, and our Republic Aviation Corp. v. Labor Board, 324 U.S. 793. It apparently considered, as held in the Monarch Tool case, supra, at 186, that the attitude of the employer in the Ranco case was an "unreasonable impediment to the freedom of communication essential to the exercise of its employees' rights to self-organization." Because of the conflicting decisions on a recurring phase of enforcement of the National Labor Relations Act, we granted certiorari. 350 U.S. 818, 894.

In each of these cases, the Board found that the employer violated § 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, 61 [76 S.Ct. 683] Stat. 140, making it an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed in § 7 of that Act. The pertinent language of the two sections appears below.2 These holdings were placed on the Labor Board's determination in LeTourneau Company of Georgia, 54 NLRB 1253. In the LeTourneau case, the Board balanced the conflicting interests of employees to receive information on self-organization on the company's property from fellow employees during nonworking time,

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with the employer's right to control the use of his property, and found the former more essential in the circumstances of that case.3 Recognizing that the employer could restrict employees'...

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