Allied Chemical Alkali Workers of America, Local Union No v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, Chemical Division National Labor Relations Board v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, Chemical Division 8212 32, 70 8212 39, Nos. 70

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation404 U.S. 157,92 S.Ct. 383,30 L.Ed.2d 341
Decision Date08 December 1971
Docket NumberNos. 70
PartiesALLIED CHEMICAL & ALKALI WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL UNION NO. 1, Petitioner, v. PITTSBURGH PLATE GLASS COMPANY, CHEMICAL DIVISION, et al. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, Petitioner, v. PITTSBURGH PLATE GLASS COMPANY, CHEMICAL DIVISION, et al. —32, 70—39

404 U.S. 157
92 S.Ct. 383
30 L.Ed.2d 341
ALLIED CHEMICAL & ALKALI WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL UNION NO. 1, Petitioner,

v.

PITTSBURGH PLATE GLASS COMPANY, CHEMICAL DIVISION, et al. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, Petitioner, v. PITTSBURGH PLATE GLASS COMPANY, CHEMICAL DIVISION, et al.

Nos. 70—32, 70—39.
Argued Oct. 20, 1971.
Decided Dec. 8, 1971.

Syllabus

A labor organization that was the exclusive bargaining agent for employees 'working' on hourly pay rates at one of respondent Company's facilities had negotiated with the Company an employee health insurance plan in which retired employees participated. Upon enactment of Medicare the Union sought mid-term bargaining to renegotiate the insurance benefits for retired employees. The Company, maintaining that Medicare made the insurance program useless and that retirees' benefits were not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining, stated that it would offer each retiree a stated monthly amount toward supplemental Medicare coverage. When, despite Union objections, the Company made the offer, the Union filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB concluded that the Company was guilty of unfair labor practices in violation of §§ 8(a)(5) and (1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and issued a cease-and-desist order. The NLRB held that the benefits of already retired employees were a mandatory subject of bargaining as 'terms and conditions of employment' of the retirees themselves and, alternatively, of the active bargaining unit employees. It also held that the Company's 'establishment of a fixed, additional option in and of itself changed the negotiated plan of benefits' contrary to §§ 8(d) and 8(a)(5) of the Act. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit disagreed with the NLRB and refused to enforce its cease-and-desist order. Held:

1. Retirees' benefits are not, within the meaning of §§ 8(a)(5) and 8(d) of the NLRA, a mandatory subject of bargaining as 'terms and conditions of employment' of the retirees. Pp. 163—176.

Page 158

(a) The collective-bargaining obligation extends only to the 'terms and conditions of employment' of the employer's 'employees,' and the term 'employee' has its ordinary meaning, i.e., someone who works for another for hire, which excludes retirees. Pp. 165—171.

(b) The collective-bargaining obligation is limited to the 'terms and conditions of employment' of the 'employees' in the bargaining unit appropriate for the purpose of collective bargaining. Retirees were not members of the unit represented by the Union, because they were no longer 'working.' Nor could they be members, since they lack a substantial community of interests with the active employees in the unit. Pp. 171—175.

(c) Even if an industry practice of bargaining over retirees' rights exists, which is disputed, that cannot change the law and make into bargaining unit 'employees' those who are not. Pp. 175 176.

2. Retirees' benefits are not a mandatory subject of bargaining as 'terms and conditions of employment' of the active employees remaining in the bargaining unit, although their own future retirement plans are. Retirees' benefits do not 'vitally' affect the 'terms and conditions of employment' of current employees. The benefits that active workers may reap by including retired employees under the same health insurance contract as themselves are speculative and insubstantial at best. The relationship that the NLRB asserted exists between bargaining in behalf of retirees and the negotiation of active employees' retirement plans is equally too speculative a foundation on which to base an obligation to bargain. Pp. 176—182.

3. Even if the Company's offering the retirees an exchange for their withdrawal from the already negotiated health insurance plan was a unilateral mid-term 'modification' of the plan within the meaning of § 8(d) of the Act, which is disputed, it did not constitute an unfair labor practice, since it related to a permissive rather than a mandatory subject of bargaining. Pp. 183 188.

427 F.2d 936, affirmed.

Mortimer Riemer, Cleveland, Ohio, for petitioner Allied Chemical & Alkali Workers of America, Local Union No. 1.

Page 159

Norton J. Come, Washington, D.C., for petitioner National Labor Relations Board.

Guy Farmer, Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, mandatory subjects of collective bargaining include pension and insurance benefits for active employees,1 and an employer's mid-term unilateral modification of such benefits constitutes an unfair labor practice.2 This cause

Page 160

presents the question whether a mid-term unilateral modification that concerns, not the benefits of active employees, but the benefits of already retired employees also constitutes an unfair labor practice. The National Labor Relations Board, one member dissenting, held that changes in retired employees' retirement benefits are embraced by the bargaining obligation and that an employer's unilateral modification of them constitutes an unfair labor practice in violation of §§ 8(a)(5) and (1) of the Act. 177 N.L.R.B. 911 (1969).3 The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit disagreed and refused to enforce the Board's cease-and-desist order, 427 F.2d 936 (1970). We granted certiorari, 401 U.S. 907, 91 S.Ct. 867, 27 L.Ed.2d 804 (1971). We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

I

Since 1949, Local 1, Allied Chemical and Alkali Workers of America, has been the exclusive bargaining representative for the employees 'working' on hourly rates of pay at the Barberton, Ohio, facilities of respondent Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co.4 In 1950, the Union and the Company negotiated an employee group health insurance plan, in which, it was orally agreed, retired employees could participate by contributing the required

Page 161

premiums, to be deducted from their pension benefits. This program continued unchanged until 1962, except for an improvement unilaterally instituted by the Company in 1954 and another improvement negotiated in 1959.

In 1962 the Company agreed to contribute two dollars per month toward the cost of insurance premiums of employees who retired in the future and elected to participate in the medical plan. The parties also agreed at this time to make 65 the mandatory retirement age. In 1964 insurance benefits were again negotiated, and the Company agreed to increase its monthly contribution from two to four dollars, applicable to employees retiring after that date and also to pensioners who had retired since the effective date of the 1962 contract. It was agreed, however, that the Company might discontinue paying the two-dollar increase if Congress enacted a national health program.

In November 1965, Medicare, a national health program, was enacted, 79 Stat. 291, 42 U.S.C. § 1395 et seq. The 1964 contract was still in effect, and the Union sought mid-term bargaining to renegotiate insurance benefits for retired employees. The Company responded in March 1966 that, in its view, Medicare rendered the health insurance program useless because of a non-duplication-of-benefits provision in the Company's insurance policy, and stated, without negotiating any change, that it was planning to (a) reclaim the additional two-dollar monthly contribution as of the effective date of Medicare; (b) cancel the program for retirees; and (c) substitute the payment of the three-dollar monthly subscription fee for supplemental Medicare coverage for each retired employee.5

Page 162

The Union acknowledged that the Company had the contractual right to reduce its monthly contribution, but challenged its proposal unilaterally to substitute supplemental Medicare coverage for the negotiated health plan. The Company, as it had done during the 1959 negotiations without pressing the point, disputed the Union's right to bargain in behalf of retired employees, but advised the Union that upon further consideration it had decided not to terminate the health plan for pensioners. The Company stated instead that it would write each retired employee, offering to pay the supplemental Medicare premium if the employee would withdraw from the negotiated plan. Despite the Union's objections the Company did circulate its proposal to the retired employees, and 15 of 190 retirees elected to accept it. The Union thereupon filed unfair labor practice charges.

The Board held that although the Company was not required to engage in mid-term negotiations, the benefits of already retired employees could not be regarded as other than a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. The Board reasoned that 'retired employees are 'employees' within the meaning of the statute for the purposes of bargaining about changes in their retirement benefits * * *.' 177 N.L.R.B., at 912. Moreover, 'retirement status is a substantial connection to the bargaining unit, for it is the culmination and the product of years of employment.' Id., at 914. Alternatively, the Board considered 'bargaining about changes in retirement benefits for retired employees' as 'within the contemplation of the statute because of the interest which active employees have in this subject * * *.' Id., at 912. Apparently in support of both theories, the Board noted that '(b)argaining on benefits for workers already retired is an established aspect of current labor-management relations.' Id., at 916. The Board also held that the

Page 163

Company's 'establishment of a fixed, additional option in and of itself changed the negotiated plan of benefits' contrary to §§ 8(d) and 8(a)(5) of the Act. Id., at 918. Accordingly, the Company was ordered to cease and desist from refusing to bargain collectively about retirement benefits and from making unilateral adjustments in health insurance plans for retired employees without first negotiating in good faith with the...

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705 practice notes
  • Cnh Am. Llc v. Int'l Union, No. 09–2001.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • May 16, 2011
    ...were attempting to alter the retirees' vested benefits therein. Allied Chem. & Alkali Workers of Am. v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157, 181 n. 20, 92 S.Ct. 383, 30 L.Ed.2d 341 (1971); Meza v. Gen. Battery Corp., 908 F.2d 1262, 1271–72 (5th Cir.1990).Id. Because the need for the re......
  • N.L.R.B. v. South Cent. Bell Telephone Co., No. 81-4159
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • October 4, 1982
    ...but failed to give the plain language of the standard its ordinary meaning. Chemical & Alkali Workers v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157, 166, 92 S.Ct. 383, 390, 30 L.Ed.2d 341 (1971). We have also parted company with the Board's interpretation where it was "fundamentally inconsist......
  • Winnett v. Caterpillar, Inc., No. 3:06-CV-00235.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • May 16, 2007
    ...Terrell v. Dura Mech. Components, Inc., 934 F.Supp. 874, 881 (N.D.Ohio 1996)(citing Allied Chem. Workers v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157, 180, 92 S.Ct. 383, 30 L.Ed.2d 341 (1971)). As one court remarked: "It is unlikely that workers would leave a significant portion of their rem......
  • Brennan v. Gilles & Cotting, Inc., No. 73-2471
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • October 18, 1974
    ...of the other in the performance of the service.' Restat. Agency 2d, 2. See Chemical Workers Local No. 1 v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157, 168, 92 S.Ct. 383, 30 L.Ed.2d 341 (1971). The common law definition of employer was and is being evolved for the purpose of determining a supe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
702 cases
  • Cnh Am. Llc v. Int'l Union, No. 09–2001.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • May 16, 2011
    ...were attempting to alter the retirees' vested benefits therein. Allied Chem. & Alkali Workers of Am. v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157, 181 n. 20, 92 S.Ct. 383, 30 L.Ed.2d 341 (1971); Meza v. Gen. Battery Corp., 908 F.2d 1262, 1271–72 (5th Cir.1990).Id. Because the need for the re......
  • N.L.R.B. v. South Cent. Bell Telephone Co., No. 81-4159
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • October 4, 1982
    ...but failed to give the plain language of the standard its ordinary meaning. Chemical & Alkali Workers v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157, 166, 92 S.Ct. 383, 390, 30 L.Ed.2d 341 (1971). We have also parted company with the Board's interpretation where it was "fundamentally inconsist......
  • Winnett v. Caterpillar, Inc., No. 3:06-CV-00235.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • May 16, 2007
    ...Terrell v. Dura Mech. Components, Inc., 934 F.Supp. 874, 881 (N.D.Ohio 1996)(citing Allied Chem. Workers v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157, 180, 92 S.Ct. 383, 30 L.Ed.2d 341 (1971)). As one court remarked: "It is unlikely that workers would leave a significant portion of their rem......
  • Brennan v. Gilles & Cotting, Inc., No. 73-2471
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • October 18, 1974
    ...of the other in the performance of the service.' Restat. Agency 2d, 2. See Chemical Workers Local No. 1 v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157, 168, 92 S.Ct. 383, 30 L.Ed.2d 341 (1971). The common law definition of employer was and is being evolved for the purpose of determining a supe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • EMPLOYMENT LAW VIOLATIONS
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Nbr. 58-3, July 2021
    • July 1, 2021
    ...only those who work for another for hire.’” (citing Allied Chem. & Alkali Workers of America, Local 1 v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 404 U.S. 157, 166 (1971))). 291. 29 U.S.C. § 152(3), (11) (def‌ining “employee” and “supervisor” for purposes of National Labor Relations subchapter); see NLR......
  • Reforming Private Pensions
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 415-1, September 1974
    • September 1, 1974
    ...sion Fund Trust v Continental Illinois 19. Chemical Workers v Pittsburgh Plate National Bank, Dkt. No. 72 Civ 2551 (N.D. Glass Co., 30 L. Ed. 2d 341, 78 Ill. 1972); and the general discussion in 2974 (1971). Panel Discussion, "Conflicts of Interest and 20. Kroger Co., 164 N.L.R.B. 362 (1967......

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