391 U.S. 418 (1968), 796, National Labor Relations Board v. Industrial Union of

Docket Nº:No. 796
Citation:391 U.S. 418, 88 S.Ct. 1717, 20 L.Ed.2d 706
Party Name:National Labor Relations Board v. Industrial Union of
Case Date:May 27, 1968
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 418

391 U.S. 418 (1968)

88 S.Ct. 1717, 20 L.Ed.2d 706

National Labor Relations Board

v.

Industrial Union of

No. 796

United States Supreme Court

May 27, 1968

Marine & Shipbuilding Workers of America

Argued April 30, 1968

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Holder, a member of respondent unions, submitted charges to Local 22 that its president had violated the International's constitution. The local decided in its president's favor. Holder, without pursuing the intra-union appeals procedure contained in § 5 of the International's constitution, filed with the NLRB an unfair labor practice complaint claiming violation of § 8(b)(1)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act based on the same alleged violations of the president and charging that Local 22 had caused his employer to discriminate against him because he had engaged in "protected activity" with respect to his employment. While Holder's complaint was pending before the NLRB, Local 22 brought intra-union charges that Holder had violated § 5 of the International's constitution by filing the charge with the NLRB before exhausting his internal remedies, held a hearing, found Holder guilty, and expelled him from respondent unions. Holder then filed a second charge with the NLRB (the basis of this case), which found that respondent unions had violated § 8(b)(1)(A) by expelling Holder for filing the charge with the NLRB without having first exhausted intra-union procedures. The NLRB issued a remedial order. The Court of Appeals refused to enforce that order, relying on § 101(a)(4) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, which, while prohibiting a union from limiting a member's right to resort to a tribunal, provides that a member "may be required to exhaust reasonable hearing procedures" before doing so, "not to exceed a four-month lapse of time."

Held:

1. Holder's charge that he was discriminated against because he had engaged "in certain protected activity" constituted a sufficient allegation of impairment of § 7 rights. Pp. 421-422.

2. Where a union member's complaint of grievance does not concern an internal union matter, but, as in this case, touches a

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part of the public domain covered by the National Labor Relations Act, failure to resort to any intra-union grievance procedure before filing an unfair labor practice complaint with the NLRB is not ground for expulsion from the union. Pp. 422-425, 428.

3. Though § 101(a)(4) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act authorizes union hearing procedures for processing members' grievances, provided those procedures do not consume more than four months, a court or agency may consider whether a particular procedure is "reasonable" and entertain the complaint even though those procedures have not been "exhausted." Pp. 425-428.

379 F.2d 702, reversed.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

One Holder, a member of respondent unions, filed with the National Labor Relations Board an unfair labor practice charge, alleging that Local 22 had violated § 8(b)(1)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act,1 61

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Stat. 141, 29 U.S.C. § 158(b)(1)(A), by causing his employer to discriminate against him because he had engaged in protected activity with respect to his employment.2 The filing of this charge followed an accusation by Holder to Local 22 that its president had violated the constitution [88 S.Ct. 1720] of the International. The local decided in favor of its president, but Holder did not pursue the intra-union appeals procedure that was available to him, and filed the unfair labor practice charge instead, based on the same alleged violations by the president.

Section 5 of Article V of the constitution of the International Union, which was binding on Local 22, contained the following provision relative to grievances of union members:

Every member . . . considering himself . . . aggrieved by any action of this Union, the [General

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Executive Board], a National Officer, a Local or other subdivision of this Union shall exhaust all remedies and appeals within the Union, provided by this Constitution, before he shall resort to any court or other tribunal outside of the Union.

While Holder's charge was pending before the Board, Local 22 lodged a complaint in internal union proceedings against Holder alleging he had violated § 5 of Article V of the International's constitution by filing his charge with the Board before he had exhausted his internal remedies. After a hearing before Local 22, Holder was found guilty and expelled from both respondent unions. He then appealed to the General Executive Board of the International, which affirmed the local's action on October 7, 1964.

On October 28, 1964, Holder filed a second charge with the Board, claiming his expulsion for filing the first charge was unlawful. That charge is the basis of the instant case.

A complaint issued, and the Board found that the respondent unions had violated § 8(b)(1)(A) of the Act by expelling Holder for filing a charge with the Board without first having exhausted the intra-union procedures. 159 N.L.R.B. 1065. It issued a remedial order, which the Court of Appeals refused to enforce. 379 F.2d 702. The case is here on writ of certiorari. 389 U.S. 1034.

The important question is whether, consistent with the applicable federal statutes, a union may penalize one of its members for seeking the aid of the Board without exhausting all internal union remedies. There is a threshold question, however, concerning the adequacy of Holder's first or original charge to the Board against respondents. Holder charged discrimination practiced against him because, to use the words of the Regional Director as he paraphrased the charge in the complaint,

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Holder had engaged "in certain protected activity" of an unspecified nature "with respect to his employment." It is pointed out that § 8(b)(1)(A) protects only "the exercise of rights guaranteed by section 7";3 and that § 7 "says nothing about any right to file charges with the Board." 379 F.2d at 706. That, however, is not the issue. The charge by Holder that he was discriminated against because he had engaged "in certain protected activity" was a sufficient way to allege an impairment of § 7 rights. "The charge is not proof. It merely sets in motion the machinery of an inquiry." NLRB v. Indiana & Michigan Electric Co., 318 U.S. 9, 18. Moreover, no issue was raised before the Board concerning the nature of the "protected activity." The answer of respondents, insofar as the original charge is concerned, said only that the charge made by Holder to the Board was based upon precisely the same facts as those on which his internal union charges against the president of the Local had been based. We must, therefore, assume that the initial charge was one within the ambit of § 7, and so plainly within it that no party undertook to question it.

[88 S.Ct. 1721] The main issue in the case is whether Holder could be expelled for filing the charge with the Board without first having exhausted "all remedies and appeals within the Union"4 as provided in § 5 of Article V of the constitution, already quoted.

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Section 8(b)(1)(A) in its proviso5 preserves to a union "the right of a labor organization to prescribe its own rules with respect to the acquisition or retention of membership therein."

The Court of Appeals concluded that, while this proviso would not permit a union to expel a member because he filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union, it permits a rule which gives the union "a fair opportunity to correct its own wrong before the injured member should have recourse to the Board." 379 F.2d at 707.

We held in NLRB v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., 388 U.S. 175, that § 8(b)(1)(A) does not prevent a union from imposing fines on members who cross a picket line created to implement an authorized strike. The strike, we said, "is the ultimate weapon in labor's arsenal for achieving agreement upon its terms" and the power to fine or expel a strike-breaker "`is essential if the union is to be an effective bargaining agent.'" Id. at 181.

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Thus, § 8(b) (1)(A) assures a union freedom of self-regulation where its legitimate internal affairs are concerned. But where a union rule penalizes a member for filing an unfair labor practice charge with the Board, other considerations of public policy come into play.

Section 10(b) of the Act, 61 Stat. 146, 29 U.S.C. § 160(b), forbids issuance of a complaint based on conduct occurring more than six months prior to filing of the charge -- a provision promoting promptness. A proceeding by the Board is not to adjudicate private rights, but to effectuate a public policy. The Board cannot initiate its own proceedings; implementation of the Act is dependent "upon the initiative of individual persons." Nash v. Florida Industrial Comm'n, 389 U.S. 235, 238. The policy of keeping people "completely free from coercion," ibid., against making complaints to the Board is therefore important in the functioning of the Act as an organic whole. A restriction such as we find in § 5 of Article V of the International's constitution is contrary to that policy, as it is applied here. A healthy interplay of the forces governed [88 S.Ct. 1722] and protected by the Act means that there should be as great a freedom to ask the Board for relief as there is to petition any other department of government for a redress of grievances.6 Any coercion used to discourage, retard, or defeat that access is beyond the legitimate interests of a labor organization. That was the philosophy of the Board in the Skura case, Local 18, International Union of Operating Engineers, 148 N.L.R.B. 679, and we agree that the overriding public interest makes unimpeded access to the Board the only healthy...

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