American Federation of Labor v. National Labor Relations Board

Decision Date02 January 1940
Docket NumberNo. 70,70
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Joseph A. Padway, of Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Mr. Charles Fahy, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question decisive of this case is whether a certification by the National Labor Relations Board under s 9(c) of the Wagner Act, 49 Stat. 449, 453, 29 U.S.C., Supp. IV, §§ 151-166, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 151—166, that a particular labor organization of longshore workers is the collective bargaining representative of the employees in a designated unit, composed of numerous employers of longshore workers at Pacific Coast ports, is reviewable by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by the procedure set up in § 10(f) of the Act.

Petitioners, International Longshoremen's Association, and its affiliate, Pacific Coast District International Longshoremen's Association No. 38, are labor organizations, both affiliated with the petitioner, American Federation of Labor (A.F. of L.). In January, 1938, the International Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union, District No. 1, a labor organization affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organization (C.I.O.) petitioned the Board for an investigation concerning the representation of longshoremen on the Pacific Coast, and that the Board certify the name of the appropriate representative for collective bargaining as provided in § 9(c) of the Wagner Act.

The Board directed an investigation with appropriate hearings, and a consolidation of the proceeding for purposes of hearing with two other proceedings already initiated by locals of the Longshoremen's Union. Petitioners were made parties to the consolidated proceedings and participated in the hearings, at the conclusion of which the Board made its findings of fact and of law and certified that the workers who do longshore work in the Pacific Coast ports for the employers which are members of five designated employer associations of Pacific Coast shipowners or of waterfront employers, constitute a unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining within the meaning of § 9(b) of the Act. It also certified that the C.I.O. affiliate, Longshoremen's Union District No. 1, is the exclusive bargaining representative of all the workers in such unit within the meaning of the Act. In the Matter of Shipowners' Association of the Pacific Coast et al., 7 N.L.R.B. 1002.

The effect of the certification, as petitioner alleges, is the inclusion in single unit for bargaining purposes, of all of the longshore employees of the members of the employer associations doing business at the west coast ports of the United States, and to designate the C.I.O. affiliate as their bargaining representative so that in the case of some particular employers, their workers who are not organized or represented by the C.I.O. affiliate have been deprived of opportunity to secure bargaining representatives of their own choice. Although the petitioners who are affiliated with the A.F. of L. assert that they have in fact been selected as bargaining representatives by a majority of the employees of their respective employers, petitioners allege that they have nevertheless been prevented from acting in that capacity by the Board's designation of the C.I.O. affiliate as the exclusive representative of such employees.

The present suit was begun by petition to the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia in which the petitioners set forth, in addition to the facts already detailed, that they were aggrieved by the 'decision and order of certification of the Board' in that the certificate is contrary to fact and to law; that the Wagner Act does not contemplate or authorize 'the designation by the Board of an employee unit constituting all the employees of different employers in different and distant geographical districts of the United States.' The petition prayed that the 'order of certification' be set aside, in so far as it attempts to designate a single exclusive bargaining representative for longshore employees of many employers on the Pacific Coast and denies to a majority of the longshore employees of a single employer the right to select one of the petitioners as their exclusive bargaining representative.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the petition is not within the jurisdiction to review orders of the Board conferred upon it by § 10 of the Wagner Act. 70 App.D.C. 62, 103 F.2d 933. We granted certiorari October 9, 1939, 308 U.S. 531, 60 S.Ct. 76, 84 L.Ed. -, because of the importance of the question presented and to resolve an alleged conflict of the decision below with that of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. National Labor Relations Board, 105 F.2d 598.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, like the several circuit courts of appeals, is without the jurisdiction over original suits conferred on district courts by § 24 of the Judicial Code, as amended. 28 U.S.C. § 41, 28 U.S.C.A. § 41. Such jurisdiction as it has, to review directly the action of administrative agencies, is specially conferred by legislation relating specifically to the determinations of such agencies made subject to review, and prescribing the manner and extent of the review. Here, the provisions of the Wagner Act, § 10(f), which gives a right of review to 'any person aggrieved by a final order of the Board', determines the nature and scope of the review by the court of appeals.

The single issue which we are now called on to decide is whether the certification by the Board is an 'order' which, by related provisions of the statute, is made reviewable upon petition to the Court of Appeals of the District or in an appropriate case to a circuit court of appeals. The question is distinct from another much argued at the Bar, whether petitioners are precluded by the provisions of the Wagner Act from maintaining an independent suit in a district court to set aside the Board's action because contrary to the statute, and be- cause it inflicts on petitioners an actionable injury otherwise irreparable.

By the provisions of the Wagner Act the Board is given two principal functions to perform. One, defined by § 9, which as enacted is headed 'Representatives And Elections', is the certification, after appropriate investigation and hearing, of the name or names of representatives, for collective bargaining, of an appropriate unit of employees. The other, defined by § 10, which as enacted is headed 'Prevention of Unfair Labor Practices', is the prevention by the Board's order after hearing and by a further appropriate proceeding in court, of the unfair labor practices enumerated in § 8, 29 U.S.C.A. § 158. One of the outlawed practices is the refusal of an employer to bargain with the representative of his employees. § 8(5).

Certification involves, under § 9(b), decision by the Board whether 'the unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining shall be the employer unit, craft unit, plant unit, or subdivision thereof', and the ascertainment by the Board under § 9(c) of the bargaining representative who, under § 9(a) must be 'designated or selected * * * by the majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for such (bargaining) purposes'. The Board is authorized by § 9(c) 'whenever a question affecting commerce arises concerning the representation of employees' to investigate 'such controversy' and to certify the names of the appropriate bargaining representatives. In conducting the investigation it is required to provide for appropriate hearing upon due notice 'and may take a secret ballot of employees, or utilize any other suitable method' of ascertaining such representatives. By § 9(d) whenever an order of the Board is made pursuant to § 10(c) directing any person to cease an unfair labor practice and there is a petition for enforcement or review of the order by a court, the Board's 'certification and the record of such investigation' is to be included in the transcript of the entire record required to be filed under § 10(e) or (f), and the decree of the court enforcing, modifying or setting aside the order of the Board is to be made and entered upon the pleadings, testimony and proceedings set forth in the transcript.

It is to be noted that § 9, which is complete in itself, makes no provision, in terms, for review of a certification by the Board and authorizes no use of the certification or of the record in a certification proceeding, except in the single case where there is a petition for enforcement or review of an order restraining an unfair labor practice as authorized by § 10(c). In that event the record in the certification proceeding is included in the record brought up on review of the Board's order restraining an unfair labor practice. It then becomes a part of the record upon which the decree of the reviewing court is to be based.

All other provisions for review of any action of the Board are found in § 10 which as its heading indicates relates to the prevention of unfair labor practices. Nowhere in this section is there mention of investigations or certifications authorized and defined by § 9. Section 10(a) authorizes the Board 'to prevent any person from engaging in any unfair labor practice (listed in section 8(158)) affecting commerce'. Section 10(b) prescribes the procedure of the Board when any person is charged with engaging in any unfair labor practice, and requires that the person so charged shall be served with a complaint and notice of hearing by the Board with opportunity to file an answer and be heard. Section 10(c) directs the Board, if it is of opinion, as the result of the proceedings before it, that any person named in the complaint has engaged in an unfair labor practice 'to issue' 'an order' directing that person to cease the...

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