Ford Motor Co v. Huffman International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implementworkers of America, Ci v. Huffman

Decision Date06 April 1953
Docket NumberNos. 193 and 194,s. 193 and 194
Citation345 U.S. 330,97 L.Ed. 1048,73 S.Ct. 681
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. William T. Gossett, Dearborn, Mich., for Ford Motor Co.

Mr. Harold A. Cranefield, Detroit, Mich., for International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, CIO.

Mr. Herbert Monsky, Louisville, Ky., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

In these cases we sustain the validity of collective-bargaining agreements whereby an employer, in determining relative seniority of employment among its employees, gives them credit for pre-employment military service as well as the credit required by statute for post-employment military service.1

These proceedings were begun in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky by respondent Huffman, acting individually and on behalf of a class of about 275 fellow employees of the Ford Motor Company, petitioner in Case No. 193 (here called Ford). His complaint is that his position, and that of each member of his class, has been lowered on the seniority roster at Ford's Louisville works, because of certain provisions in collective-bargaining agreements between Ford and the International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, CIO, petitioner in Case No. 194 (here called International). He contends that those provisions have violated his rights, and those of each member of his class, under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, as amended.2 He contends that also that International's acceptance of those provisions exceeded its authority as a collective-bargaining representative under the National Labor Relations Act, as amended.3 He asks, accordingly, that the provisions be declared invalid insofar as they prejudice the seniority rights of members of his class, and that appropriate injunctive relief be granted against Ford and International. After answer, both sides asked for summary judgment.4

The District Court dismissed the action without opinion but said in its order that it was 'of the opinion that the collective bargaining agreement expresses an honest desire for the protection of the interests of all members of the union and is not a device of hostility to veterans. The Court finds that said collective bargaining agreement sets up a seniority system which the Court deems not to be arbitrary, discriminatory or in any respect unlawful.' The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, one judge dissenting. 195 F.2d 170. Ford and International filed separate petitions for certiorari seeking to review the same decision of the Court of Appeals. We granted both because of the widespread use of contractual provisions comparable to those before us, and because of the general importance of the issue in relation to collective bargaining. 344 U.S. 814, 73 S.Ct. 35.

The pleadings state that Huffman entered the employ of Ford September 23, 1943, was inducted into military service November 18, 1944, was discharged July 1, 1946, and, within 30 days, was reemployed by Ford with seniority dating from September 23, 1943, as provided by statute.5 It does not appear whether the other members of his class are veterans but, like him, all have seniority computed from their respective dates of employment by Ford.

The pleadings allege further that Huffman and the members of his class all have been laid off or furloughed from their respective employments at times and for periods when they would not have been so laid off or furloughed except for the provisions complained of in the collective-bargaining agreements. Those provisions state, in substance, that after July 30, 1946, in determining the order of retention of employees, all veterans in the employ of Ford 'shall receive seniority credit for their period of service, subsequent to June 21, 1941 in the land or naval forces or Merchant Marine of the United States or its allies, upon completion of their probationary period' of six months.6

The effect of these provisions is that whereas Huffman's seniority, and that of the members of his class, is com- puted from their respective dates of employment by Ford and they have been credited with their subsequent military service, if any, yet in some instances they are now surpassed in seniority by employees who entered the employ of Ford after they did but who are credited with certain military service which they rendered before their employment by Ford.7

Respondent contended in the Court of Appeals that allowance of credit for pre-employment military service was invalid because it went beyond the credit prescribed by the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. That argument was rejected unanimously. 195 F.2d 170, 173. It has not been pressed here. There is nothing in that statute which prohibits allowing such a credit if the employer and employees agree to do so. The statutory rights of returning veterans are subject to changes in the conditions of their employment which have occurred in regular course during their absence in military service, where the changes are not hostile devices discriminating against veterans. Aeronautical Indus. Dist. Lodge v. Campbell, 337 U.S. 521, 69 S.Ct. 1287, 93 L.Ed. 1513; and see Trailmobile Co. v. Whirls, 331 U.S. 40, 67 S.Ct. 982, 91 L.Ed. 1328; Fishgold v. Sullivan Drydock & Repair Corp., 328 U.S. 275, 66 S.Ct. 1105, 90 L.Ed. 1230. See also, Oakley v. Louisville & N.R. Co., 338 U.S. 278, 70 S.Ct. 119, 94 L.Ed. 87, as to a veteran's seniority status more than one year after his reemployment.

On the other hand, the second objection raised by respondent was sustained by a majority of the members of the Court of Appeals. This objection was that the authority of International, as a certified bargaining representative, was limited by statute and was exceeded when International agreed to the provisions that are before us.

The authority of every bargaining representative under the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, is stated in broad terms:

'Sec. 7. Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organiza- tions, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. * * *

'Sec. 9. (a) Representatives designated or selected for the purposes of collective bargaining by the majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for such purposes, shall be the exclusive representatives of all the employees in such unit for the purposes of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, or other conditions of employment: * * *.' (Emphasis supplied.) 61 Stat. 140, 143, 29 U.S.C.(Supp. V) §§ 157, 159(a), 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 157, 159(a).

In the absence of limiting factors, the above purposes, including 'mutual aid or protection' and 'other conditions of employment', are broad enough to cover terms of seniority. The National Labor Relations Act, as passed in 1935 and as amended in 1947, exemplifies the faith of Congress in free collective bargaining between employers and their employees when conducted by freely and fairly chosen reporesentatives of appropriate units of employees. That the authority of bargaining representatives, however, is not absolute is recognized in Steele v. Louisville & N.R. Co., 323 U.S. 192, 198—199, 65 S.Ct. 226, 230, 89 L.Ed. 173, in connection with comparable provisions of the Railway Labor Act. Their statutory obligation to represent all members of an appropriate unit requires them to make an honest effort to serve the interests of all of those members, without hostility to any. Id., 323 U.S. at page 198, 202—204, 65 S.Ct. 230, 231—232; Tunstall v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, 323 U.S. 210, 211, 65 S.Ct. 235, 236, 89 L.Ed. 187; Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Howard, 343 U.S. 768, 72 S.Ct. 1022, 96 L.Ed. 1283.

Any authority to negotiate derives its principal strength from a delegation to the negotiators of a discre- tion to make such concessions and accept such advantages as, in the light of all relevant considerations, they believe will best serve the interests of the parties represented. A major responsibility of negotiators is to weigh the relative advantages and disadvantages of differing proposals. A bargaining representative, under the National Labor Relations Act, as amended, often is a labor organization but it is not essential that it be such. The employees represented often are members of the labor organization which represents them at the bargaining table, but it is not essential that they be such. The bargaining representative, whoever it may be, is responsible to, and owes complete loyalty to, the interests of all whom it represents. In the instant controversy, International represented, with certain exceptions not material here, all employees at the Louisville works, including both the veterans with, and those without, prior employment by Ford, as well as the employees having no military service. Inevitably differences arise in the manner and degree to which the terms of any negotiated agreement affect individual employees and classes of employees. The mere existence of such differences does not make them invalid. The complete satisfaction of all who are represented is hardly to be expected. A wide range of reasonableness must be allowed a statutory bargaining representative in serving the unit it represents, subject always to complete good faith and honesty of purpose in the exercise of its discretion.

Compromises on a temporary basis, with a view to long range advantages, are natural incidents of negotiation. Differences in wages, hours and conditions of employment reflect countless variables. Seniority...

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