409 U.S. 213 (1972), 71-711, National Labor Relations Board v. Granite State Joint Board,

Docket Nº:No. 71-711
Citation:409 U.S. 213, 93 S.Ct. 385, 34 L.Ed.2d 422
Party Name:National Labor Relations Board v. Granite State Joint Board,
Case Date:December 07, 1972
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 213

409 U.S. 213 (1972)

93 S.Ct. 385, 34 L.Ed.2d 422

National Labor Relations Board


Granite State Joint Board,

No. 71-711

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 7, 1972

Textile Workers Union of America, Local 1029, AFL-CIO

Argued November 13, 1972




Where neither the Union-employer contract nor the Union's constitution or bylaws defined or limited the circumstances under which a member could resign from the Union, it was an unfair labor practice for the Union to fine employees who had been Union members in good standing but who had resigned during a lawful strike authorized by the members and thereafter returned to work during that strike. Pp. 215-218.

446 F.2d 369, reversed.

DOUGLAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHAL, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 218. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 218.

Page 214

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent is a union that had a collective bargaining agreement with an employer which contained a "maintenance of membership" clause providing that members were, as a condition of employment, to remain in good standing "as to payment of dues" for the duration of the contract. Neither the contract nor the Union's constitution or bylaws contained any provision defining or limiting the circumstances under which a member could resign. A few days before the collective agreement expired, the Union membership voted to strike if no agreement was reached by a given date. No agreement was reached in the specified period, so the strike and attendant picketing commenced. Shortly thereafter, the Union held a meeting at which the membership resolved that any member aiding or abetting the employer during the strike would be subject to a $2,000 fine.

About six weeks later, two members sent the Union their letters of resignation. Six months or more later, 29 other members resigned. These 31 employees returned to work.

The Union gave them notice that charges had been made against them and that, on given dates, the Union would hold trials. None of the 31 employees appeared on the dates prescribed, but the trials nonetheless took place even in the absence of the employees and fines were imposed on all.1 Suits were filed by the Union to collect the fines. But the outcome was not determined because the employees filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Union.

Page 215

The unfair labor practice charged was that the Union restrained or coerced the employees "in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7."2 See § 8(b)(1) of the Act.3 The Board ruled that the Union had violated § 8(b)(1). 187 N.L.R.B. 636. The Court of Appeals denied enforcement of the Board's order. 446 F.2d 369. The case is here on certiorari, 405 U.S. 987.

We held in NLRB v. Alls-Chalmers Mfg. Co., 388 U.S. 175, that a union did not violate § 8(b)(1) by fining members who went to work during a lawful strike authorized by the membership and by suing to collect the fines. The Court reviewed at length in that opinion the legislative history of §§ 7 and 8(b)(1), and concluded by a close majority vote that the disciplinary measures taken by the union against its members on those facts were within the ambit of the union's control over its internal affairs. But the sanctions allowed were against those who "enjoyed full union membership." Id. at 196.

Yet when a member lawfully resigns from the union, its power over him ends. We noted in Scofield v. NLRB,

Page 216

394 U.S. 423, 429, that if a union rule

invades or frustrates an overriding policy of the labor laws, the rule may not be enforced, even by fine or expulsion, without violating § 8(b)(1).

On the facts, we held that Scofield, where fines were imposed on members by the union, fell within the ambit of Allis-Chalmers. But we drew the line between permissible and impermissible union action against members as follows:

. . . § 8(b)(1) leaves a union free to enforce a properly adopted rule which reflects a legitimate union interest, impairs no policy Congress has imbedded in the labor laws, and is reasonably enforced against union members who are free to leave the union and escape the rule.

Id. at 430.

Under § 7 of the Act, the employees have "the right to refrain from any or all" concerted activities relating to collective bargaining or mutual aid and protection, as well as the right to join a union and participate in those concerted activities. We have here no problem of construing a union's constitution or bylaws defining or limiting the circumstances under which a member may resign from the union.4 We have, therefore, only to apply the law which normally is reflected in our free institutions -- the right of the individual to join or to resign from associations as he sees fit, "subject, of course to any financial obligations due and owing" the group with which he was associated. Communications Workers v. NLRB, 215 F.2d 835, 838.

Page 217

The Scofield case indicates that the power of the union over the member is certainly no greater than the union-member contract. Where a member lawfully resigns from a union and thereafter engages in conduct which the union rule proscribes, the union commits an unfair labor practice when it seeks enforcement of fines for that conduct. That is to say, when there is a lawful dissolution of a union-member relation, the union has no...

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