Bethlehem Steel Co v. New York State Labor Relations Board Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation v. Kelley

Decision Date07 April 1947
Docket Number76,Nos. 55,s. 55
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Appeal from the Court of Appeals of the State of New York.

Appeal from the Supreme Court of the State of New York the Court of Chautauqua.

Mr. Bruce Bromely, of New York City, for appellants Bethlehem Steel Co. and others.

Mr. John G. Buchanan, of Pittsburgh, Pa., for appellant Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp.

Mr. William E. Grady, of New York City, for appellees.

Robert L. Stern, of Washington, D.C., for United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

Mr. Justice JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

These appeals challenge the validity of the Labor Relations Act of the State of New York as applied to appellants to permit unionization of their foremen. Conflict is asserted between it and the National Labor Relations Act and hence with the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

After enactment by Congress of the National Labor Relations Act, July 5, 1935, 49 Stat. 449, 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., New York adopted a State Labor Relations Act following the federal pattern. Laws of New York 1937, Chap. 443, 30 McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York, Labor Law, §§ 700 716. In the administrative boards they create, the procedures they establish, the unfair labor practices prohibited, the two statutes may be taken for present purposes to be the same. But in provision for determination of units of representation for bargaining purposes, the two Acts are not identical. Their differences may be made plain by setting forth § 9(b) of the Federal Act, with that part which is omitted from the State Act in brackets and additions made by the State Act as amended, Laws of New York, 1942, Chap. 518, Labor Law, § 705, subd. 2, in italics: 'The board shall decide in each case whether, in order to insure to employees the full benefit of their right to self-organization, (and) to collective bargaining and otherwise to effectuate the policies of this act, the unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining shall be the employer unit, multiple employer unit, craft unit, plant unit, or (subdivision thereof) any other unit; provided, however, that in any case where the majority of employees of a particular craft shall so decide the board shall designate such craft as a unit appropriate for the purpose of collective bargaining.'

The procedures prescribed for the two boards for investigation, certification, and hearing on representation units and for their election are substantially the same except that the State law adds the following limitation not found in the Federal Act: '* * * provided, however, that the board shall not have authority to investigate any question or controversy between individuals or groups within the same labor organization or between labor organizations affiliated with the same parent labor organization.' Laws of New York, 1937, Chap. 443, as amended, Laws 1942, Chap. 518, 30 McKinney's Consolida ed Laws of New York, Labor Law, § 705, subd. 3.

The two boards have at times pursued inconsistent policies in applying their respective Acts to petitions of foremen as a class to organize bargaining units thereunder. The State Board has in these cases recognized that right; the National Board for a time recognized it. Union Collieries Coal Co., 41 N.L.R.B. 961; Godchaux Sugars, Inc., 44 N.L.R.B. 874. Later, there was a period when, for policy reasons but without renouncing jurisdiction, it refused to approve foremen organization units. Maryland Drydock Co., 49 N.L.R.B. 733; Boeing Aircraft Co., 51 N.L.R.B. 67; General Motors Corp., 51 N.L.R.B. 457. Now, again, it supports their right to unionize. Packard Motor Car Co., 61 N.L.R.B. 4, 64 N.L.R.B. 1212; L. A. Young Spring & Wire Corp., 65 N.L.R.B. 298. The foremen of these appellants, at a time when their desire to organize was frustrated by the policy of the National Board, filed applications with the State Board. It entertained their petitions and its policy permitted them as a class to become a bargaining unit. Both employers, by different methods adequate under State law to raise the question, challenged the constitutionality of the State Act as so applied to them. Their contentions ultimately were considered and rejected by the New York Court of Appeals and its decisions sustaining state power over the matter were brought here by appeals.

Both of these labor controversies arose in manufacturing plants located in New York where the companies employ large staffs of foremen to supervise a much larger force of labor. But both concerns have such a relation to interstate commerce that, for the reasons stated in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, 301 U.S. 1, 57 S.Ct. 615, 81 L.Ed. 893, 108 A.L.R. 1352, federal power reaches their labor relations. On this basis the National Board has exercised power to certify bargaining agents for units of employees other than foremen of both companies. Matter of Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation and Steel Workers Organizing Committee, Case No. III—R—411, N.L.R.B., June 29, 1942; Matter of Bethlehem Steel Corp. and C.I.O., 30 N.L.R.B. 1006, 32 N.L.R.B. 264, 1941 (production and maintenance employees); Matter of Bethlehem Steel Corp. and A.F. of L., 47 N.L.R.B. 1330, 1943 (plant protection employees); Matter of Bethlehem Steel Corporation and C.I.O., 52 N.L.R.B. 1217, 1943 (employees in order department); Matter of Bethlehem Steel Co. and A.F. of L., 55 N.L.R.B. 658, 1944 (fire department employees). The companies contend that the National Board's jurisdiction over their labor relations is exclusive of state power; the State contends on the contrary that while federal power over the subject is paramount, it is not exclusive and in such a case as we have here, until the federal power is actually exercised as to the particular employees, State power may be exercised.

At the time the courts of the State of New York were considering this issue, the question whether the Federal Act would authorize or permit unionization of foremen was in controversy and was unsettled until our decision in Packard Motor Car Co. v. N.L.R.B., 330 U.S. 485, 67 S.Ct. 789. Whatever constitutional issue may have been presented by earlier phases of the evolution of the federal policy in relation to that of the State, the question now is whether, Congress having undertaken to deal with the relationship between these companies and their foremen, the State is prevented from doing so. Congress has not seen fit to lay down even the most general of guides to construction of the Act, as it sometimes does, by saying that its regulation either shall or shall not exclude state action. Cf. Securities Act of 1933, § 18, 48 Stat. 85, 15 U.S.C. § 77r, 15 U.S.C.A. § 77r; Securities Exchange Act of 1934, § 28, 48 Stat. 903, 15 U.S.C. § 78bb, 15 U.S.C.A. § 78bb; United States Warehouse Act, § 29, before and after 1931 amendment, 39 Stat. 490, 46 Sta . 1465, 7 U.S.C. § 269, 7 U.S.C.A. § 269. Our question is primarily one of the construction to be put on the Federal Act. It long has been the rule that exclusion of state action may be implied from the nature of the legislation and the subject matter although express declaration of such result is wanting. Napier v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 272 U.S. 605, 47 S.Ct. 207, 71 L.Ed. 432.

In determining whether exclusion of state power will or will not be implied, we well may consider the respective relation of federal and state power to the general subject matter as illustrated by the case in hand. These companies are authorized to do business in New York State, they operate large manufacturing plants in that state, they draw their labor supply from its residents, and the impact of industrial strife in their plants is immediately felt by state police, welfare and other departments. Their labor relations are primarily of interest to the state, are within its competence legally and practically to regulate, and until recently were left entirely to state control. Thus, the subject matter is not so 'intimately blended and intertwined with responsibilities of the national government' that its nature alone raises an inference of exclusion. Cf. Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52, 66, 61 S.Ct. 399, 403, 85 L.Ed. 581.

Indeed, the subject matter is one reachable, and one which Congress has reached, under the federal commerce power, not because it is interstate commerce but because under the doctrine given classic expression in the Shreveport case, Congress can reach admittedly local and intrastate activities 'having such a close and substantial relation to interstate traffic that the control is essential or appropriate to the security of the traffic, to the efficiency of the interstate service, and to the maintenance of conditions under which interstate commerce may be conducted upon fair terms and without molestation or hindrance.' Houston, East & West Texas Ry. v. United States, 234 U.S. 342, 351, 34 S.Ct. 833, 836, 58 L.Ed. 1341. See also National Labor Relations Board v. Fainblatt, 306 U.S. 601, 59 S.Ct. 668, 83 L.Ed. 1014.

In the National Labor Relations Act, Congress has sought to reach some aspects of the employer-employee relation out of which such interferences arise. It has dealt with the subject or relationship but partially, and has left outside of the scope of its delegation other closely related matters. Where it leaves the employer-employee relation free of regulation in some aspects, it implies that in such matters federal policy is indifferent, and since it is indifferent to what the individual of his own volition may do we can only assume it to be equally indifferent to what he may do under the complusion of the state. Such was the situation in Allen-Bradley Local No. 1111, United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers...

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