421 U.S. 616 (1975), 73-1256, Connell Constr. Co., Inc. v. Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union

Docket Nº:No. 73-1256
Citation:421 U.S. 616, 95 S.Ct. 1830, 44 L.Ed.2d 418
Party Name:Connell Constr. Co., Inc. v. Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union
Case Date:June 02, 1975
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 616

421 U.S. 616 (1975)

95 S.Ct. 1830, 44 L.Ed.2d 418

Connell Constr. Co., Inc.

v.

Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union

No. 73-1256

United States Supreme Court

June 2, 1975

No. 100, United Association of Journeymen & Apprentices

of the Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry of

the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO

Argued November 19, 1974

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondent union, representing the plumbing and mechanical trades in Dallas, was a party to a multiemployer collective bargaining agreement with a mechanical contractors association. The agreement contained a "most favored nation" clause, by which the union agreed that, if it granted a more favorable contract to any other employer, it would extend the same terms to all association members. Respondent picketed petitioner, a general building contractor which subcontracted all plumbing and mechanical work and had no employees respondent wished to represent, to secure a contract whereby petitioner agreed to subcontract such work only to firms that had a current contract with respondent. Petitioner signed under protest and, claiming that the agreement violated §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and state antitrust laws, brought suit against respondent seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. By the time this case went to trial, respondent had secured identical agreements from other general contractors and was selectively picketing those who resisted. The District Court held (1) that the subcontracting agreement was exempt from federal antitrust laws because it was authorized by the first proviso in § 8(e) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which exempts jobsite contracting agreements in the construction industry from the statutory ban on secondary agreements requiring employers to cease doing business with other persons, and (2) that federal labor legislation preempted the State's antitrust laws. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held:

1. Respondent union's agreement with petitioner is not entitled to the nonstatutory exemption from the federal antitrust laws

Page 617

recognized in Meat Cutters v. Jewel Tea Co., 381 U.S. 676, because it imposed direct restraints on competition among subcontractors that would not have resulted from the elimination of competition based on differences in wages and working conditions. Pp. 621-626.

(a) The agreement indiscriminately excluded nonunion subcontractors from a portion of the market, even if their competitive advantages were derived from efficient operating methods, rather than substandard wages and working conditions. P. 623.

(b) The "most-favored nation" clause in the multiemployer bargaining agreement, by insuring that no union subcontractor would have a competitive advantage on any matters covered by the agreement, gave respondent's agreements with petitioner and other general contractors the effect of creating a sheltered market for union subcontractors in that portion of the subcontracting market [95 S.Ct. 1833] controlled by signatory general contractors. Pp. 623-624.

(c) Since the agreement did not simply prohibit subcontracting to any nonunion firm, but to any firm that did not have a contract with respondent, it gave the union complete control over subcontract work offered by general contractors that had signed the agreement and empowered the union to exclude certain subcontractors from that portion of the market by refusing to deal with them. Pp. 624-625.

2. The first proviso to § 8(e) of the NLRA does not shelter the challenged agreement from the federal antitrust laws, since that proviso was not intended to authorize subcontracting agreements that are neither within the context of a collective bargaining relationship nor limited to any particular jobsite. Here respondent, which has never sought to represent petitioner's employees or bargain with petitioner on their behalf, makes no claim to be protecting those employees from working with nonunion men; the agreement was not limited to any particular jobsite; and respondent concededly sought the agreement solely as a means of pressuring Dallas mechanical subcontractors to recognize it as their employees' representative. Pp. 626-633.

3. There is no indication that Congress in the Taft-Hartley amendments or later meant to make NLRA remedies for "hot cargo" agreements exclusive, thus precluding liability for such agreements under the antitrust acts. Pp. 633-634.

4. The agreement is not subject to the state antitrust laws, the use of which to regulate union activities in aid of union organization

Page 618

would risk substantial conflict with policies central to federal labor law. Pp. 635-637.

5. Whether the subcontracting agreement violated the Sherman Act, an issue not fully briefed or argued in this Court, must be decided on remand. P. 637.

483 F.2d 1154, reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 638. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 638.

POWELL, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The building trades union in this case supported its efforts to organize mechanical subcontractors by picketing certain general contractors, including petitioner. The union's sole objective was to compel the general contractors to agree that, in letting subcontracts for mechanical work, they would deal only with firms that were

Page 619

parties to the union's current collective bargaining agreement. The union disclaimed any interest in representing the general contractors' employees. In this case, the picketing succeeded, and petitioner seeks to annul the resulting agreement as an illegal restraint on competition under federal and state law. The union claims immunity from federal antitrust statutes, and argues that federal labor regulation preempts state law.

I

Local 100 is the bargaining representative for workers in the plumbing and mechanical trades in Dallas. When this litigation began, it was party to a multiemployer bargaining agreement with the Mechanical Contractors Association of Dallas, a group of about 75 mechanical contractors. That contract contained a "most favored nation" clause by which the union agreed that, if it granted a more favorable contract to any other employer, it would extend the same terms to all members of the Association.

Connell Construction Co. is a general building contractor in Dallas. It obtains jobs by competitive bidding and subcontracts all plumbing and mechanical work. Connell has followed a policy of awarding these subcontracts on the basis of competitive bids, and it has done business with both union and nonunion subcontractors. Connell's employees are represented by various building [95 S.Ct. 1834] trade unions. Local 100 has never sought to represent them or to bargain with Connell on their behalf.

In November, 1970, Local 100 asked Connell to agree that it would subcontract mechanical work only to firms that had a current contract with the union. It demanded that Connell sign the following agreement:

WHEREAS, the contractor and the union are engaged in the construction industry, and

Page 620

WHEREAS, the contractor and the union desire to make an agreement applying in the event of subcontracting in accordance with Section 8(e) of the Labor-Management Relations Act;

WHEREAS, it is understood that, by this agreement, the contractor does not grant, nor does the union seek, recognition as the collective bargaining representative of any employees of the signatory contractor; and

WHEREAS, it is further understood that the subcontracting limitation provided herein applies only to mechanical work which the contractor does not perform with his own employees, but uniformly subcontracts to other firms;

THEREFORE, the contractor and the union mutually agree with respect to work falling within the scope of this agreement that is to be done at the site of construction, alteration, painting or repair of any building, structure, or other works, that [if] the contractor should contract or subcontract any of the aforesaid work falling within the normal trade jurisdiction of the union, said contractor shall contract or subcontract such work only to firms that are parties to an executed, current collective bargaining agreement with Local Union 100 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry.

When Connell refused to sign this agreement, Local 100 stationed a single picket at one of Connell's major construction sites. About 150 workers walked off the job, and construction halted. Connell filed suit in state court to enjoin the picketing as a violation of Texas antitrust laws. Local 100 removed the case to federal court. Connell then signed the subcontracting agreement under protest. It amended its complaint to claim that the

Page 621

agreement violated §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, 26 Stat. 209, as amended, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 2, and was therefore invalid. Connell sought a declaration to this effect and an injunction against any further efforts to force it to sign such an agreement.

By the time the case went to trial, Local 100 had submitted identical agreements to a number of other general contractors in Dallas. Five others had signed, and the union was waging a selective picketing campaign against those who resisted.

The District Court held that the subcontracting agreement was exempt from federal antitrust laws because it was authorized by the construction industry proviso to § 8(e) of the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 452, as added, 73 Stat. 543, 29 U.S.C. § 158(e). The court also held that federal labor legislation preempted the State's antitrust laws. 78...

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