362 U.S. 274 (1960), 34, Labor Board v. Drivers, Chauffeurs,

Docket Nº:No. 34
Citation:362 U.S. 274, 80 S.Ct. 706, 4 L.Ed.2d 710
Party Name:Labor Board v. Drivers, Chauffeurs,
Case Date:March 28, 1960
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 274

362 U.S. 274 (1960)

80 S.Ct. 706, 4 L.Ed.2d 710

Labor Board


Drivers, Chauffeurs,

No. 34

United States Supreme Court

March 28, 1960

Helpers, Local Union No. 639, International Brotherhood

of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen

and Helpers of America

Argued January 14, 1960




Peaceful picketing by a labor union, which does not represent a majority of the employees, to compel the employer to recognize the union as the exclusive bargaining agent of its employees, is not conduct of the union "to restrain or coerce" the employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed in § 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, and therefore such picketing is not an unfair labor practice under § 8(b)(1)(A) of the Act, as added by the Taft-Hartley Act. Pp. 275-292.

(a) Section 13 of the Act, as amended by the Taft-Hartley Act, is a command of Congress to the courts to resolve doubts and ambiguities in favor of an interpretation of § 8(b)(1)(A) which safeguards the right to strike as understood prior to passage of the Taft-Hartley Act. Pp. 281-282.

(b) Section 8(b)(l)(A) does not vest broad power in the Labor Board to sit in judgment upon, and to condemn, a minority union's resort to a specific economic weapon such as peaceful picketing. It is a limited grant of power to proceed against union tactics involving violence, intimidation and reprisal, or threats thereof -- conduct involving more than the general pressures implicit in economic strikes. Pp. 282-290.

(c) In the Taft-Hartley Act, Congress authorized the Board to regulate peaceful "recognitional" picketing only when it is employed to accomplish objectives specified in § 8(b)(4). P. 290.

107 U.S. App.D.C. 42, 274 F.2d 551, affirmed.

Page 275

BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question in this case is whether peaceful picketing by a union, which does not represent a majority of the employees, to compel immediate recognition as the employees' exclusive bargaining agent, is conduct of the union "to restrain or coerce" the employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed in § 7,1 and thus an unfair labor practice under § 8(b)(1)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended by the Taft-Hartley Act.2

Curtis Bros., Inc., has a retail store and a warehouse in Washington, D.C., in which it carries on a moving, warehousing and retail furniture business. In 1953, respondent Teamsters Local 639 was certified by the Labor Board, following a Board-conducted election, to be the exclusive representative of the [80 S.Ct. 708] Company's drivers, helpers, warehousemen and furniture finishers. However, when the Local called a strike over

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contract terms in February, 1954, only nine of 21 employees in the unit left their jobs and Curtis Bros. replaced the nine with new employees. The strike continued, but the Local gradually lost membership, and when, after a year, Curtis Bros. petitioned the Board to conduct another election, the Local wrote the Board that it did not claim to represent a majority of the employees. The Board nevertheless ordered another election, 114 N.L.R.B. 116, which was held in October, 1955, and the then employees of the unit voted 28 to one in favor of "no union."3

A month after the election, in November, 1955, the Local withdrew a picket line which had been maintained before the employees' entrance to the warehouse during the period from February, 1954. However, picketing at the customers' entrance to the retail store was continued, but limited to not more than two pickets at any time. The pickets were orderly at all times, and made no attempt to prevent anyone from entering the store. They simply patrolled before the entrance carrying signs reading on one side, "Curtis Bros. employs nonunion drivers, helpers, warehousemen and etc. Unfair to Teamsters Union No. 639 AFL," and, on the other side, "Teamsters Union No. 639 AFL wants employes of Curtis Bros. to join them to gain union wages, hours, and working conditions."

After this picketing continued for about six months, Curtis Bros. made it the subject of an unfair labor practice charge against the Local for alleged violation of § 8(b)(1)(A). A complaint issued which alleged, in substance, that the picketing was activity to "restrain or coerce" the employees in the exercise of § 7 rights, and

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thus an unfair labor practice under § 8(b)(1)(A), because it was "recognitional" picketing, that is, picketing designed to induce Curtis Bros. to recognize the Local as the exclusive bargaining agent for the employees, although the union did not represent a majority of the employees.

The Trial Examiner recommended that the complaint be dismissed on the ground that the Local's peaceful picketing, even if "recognitional," was not conduct to "restrain or coerce." The Board, one member dissenting, disagreed, and entered a cease and desist order, 119 N.L.R.B. 232. On review at the instance of the Local, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, by a divided court, set aside the Board's order, holding that § 8(b)(1)(A) "is inapplicable to peaceful picketing, whether `organizational' or `recognitional' in nature. . . ." 107 U.S.App.D.C. 42, 43, 274 F.2d 551, 552.4 Because of the importance of the question in the administration of the Act, we granted certiorari. 359 U.S. 965.

After we granted certiorari, the Congress enacted the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, which, among other things, adds a new § 8(b)(7) to the National Labor Relations Act.5 It was stated

Page 278

by the Board [80 S.Ct. 709] on oral argument that, if this case arose under the 1959 Act, the Board might have proceeded against the Local under § 8(b)(7). This does not, however, relegate this litigation to the status of an unimportant controversy over the meaning of a statute which has been significantly changed. For the Board contends that new § 8(b)(7) does not displace § 8(b)(1)(A), but merely "supplements the power already conferred by Section 8(b)(1)(A)."6 It argues that the Board may

Page 279

proceed against peaceful "recognitional" picketing conducted by a minority union in more situations than are specified in § 8(b)(7) and without regard to the limitations of § 8(b)(7)(C).7

Basic to the right guaranteed to employees in § 7 to form, join or assist labor organizations is the right to [80 S.Ct. 710] engage in concerted activities to persuade other employees to join for their mutual aid and protection. Indeed, even before the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 47 Stat. 70, and the Wagner Act, 49 Stat. 449, this Court recognized a right in unions to "use all lawful propaganda to enlarge their membership." American Steel Foundries v. Tri-City Central Trades Council, 257 U.S. 184, 209. However, the Taft-Hartley Act added another right of employees also guaranteed protection, namely, the right to refrain from joining a

Page 280

union, except as that right might be affected by an agreement authorized in § 8(a)(3). Thus, tension exists between the two rights of employees protected by § 7 -- their right to form, join or assist labor organizations and their right to refrain from doing so. This tension is necessarily quite real when a union employs economic weapons to organize employees who do not want to join the union. The Board held here that peaceful picketing is not lawfully employed as an economic weapon to further self-organization if its objective is "recognitional." The Board stated:

Because the object of the Union's picketing in this case was to force the Company to commit an act prohibited by the statute itself [that is, to recognize and contract with the Local although it was not the chosen representative of a majority of the Curtis Bros. employees] and directly to deprive the employees of a right expressly guaranteed to them by the same Act, there is no occasion here to balance conflicting interests or rights.

119 N.L.R.B. 232, 238.8 It therefore found

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no justification for the threat to the employees' job security which was thought to be inherent in the economic pressure directed against the employer by the picketing. It was this threat which was said to taint peaceful picketing as unlawful conduct to "restrain or coerce" which the Board might forbid.

We first consider § 8(b)(1)(A) in the light of § 13, as amended, which provides, in substance, that the Taft-Hartley Act shall not be taken as restricting or expanding either the right to strike or the limitations or qualifications on that right, as these were understood prior to 1947, unless "specifically provided for" in the Act itself.9 The Wagner Act conferred upon the Board [80 S.Ct. 711] wide authority to protect strikers from employer retaliation. However, the Court and the Board fashioned the doctrine that the Board should deny reinstatement to strikers who engaged in strikes which were conducted in an unlawful manner or for an unlawful objective. See, for example, Southern S.S. Co. v. Labor Board, 316 U.S. 31; Labor Board v. Fansteel Metallurgical Corp., 306 U.S. 240; Labor Board v. Sands Mfg. Co., 306 U.S. 332; and American News Co., 55 N.L.R.B. 1302. These are the "limitations or qualifications" on the right to strike referred to in § 13.

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See S.Rep. No. 105, 80th Cong., 1st Sess. 28. The Board makes no claim that prior to 1947 it was authorized, because of any "limitation" or "qualification," to issue a cease and desist order against peaceful "recognitional" picketing; indeed the full protections of the Norris-LaGuardia Act extended to peaceful picketing by minority unions for recognition. See Fur Workers Union No. 21238 v. Fur...

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