Hughes Tool Co. v. National Labor Relations Board

Decision Date14 March 1945
Docket NumberNo. 11071.,11071.
Citation147 F.2d 69
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit


Robert H. Kelley and W. M. Streetman, both of Houston, Tex., for petitioner.

Alvin J. Rockwell, Gen. Counsel, Malcolm F. Halliday, Associate Gen. Counsel, and Ivar Peterson, Asst. Gen. Counsel, National Labor Relations Board, all of Washington, D. C., for respondent.

Arthur J. Mandell, of Houston, Tex., for intervener United Steelworkers of America.

Tom M. Davis, of Houston, Tex., for intervener Independent Metal Workers Union, etc.

Before SIBLEY, WALLER, and LEE, Circuit Judges.

SIBLEY, Circuit Judge.

This case, presenting no question of fact, asks whether the adjustment of individual grievances is the exclusive function of the bargaining representative under the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.; and what if any relationship the deduction of union dues bears to the exclusive rights of the bargaining representative.

Employees of the Hughes Tool Company in the bargaining units here involved belong in part to the Independent Metal Workers Union, in part to United Steelworkers of America (C.I.O.) and in lesser part to an affiliate of American Federation of Labor. For many years past it has been the Company's practice on the written request of individual employees to deduct their union dues from their wages and pay them over to their union. On Nov. 13, 1941, the National Labor Relations Board certified the Independent as the bargaining representative in the main plant. The collective agreement then made contained an agreement by the Company to deduct the dues of the Independent's members upon their several written authorizations. The Company at the same time, over an objection made by Independent, made a similar agreement with the Steelworkers as to their members. Individual grievances were adjusted with the individuals or with representatives of their several unions. On December 26, 1942, the Steelworkers won an election and were certified as the bargaining representative; and on January 6, 1943, in meeting with the Company requested that the Company cease making deductions of dues for the members of the Independent; that no grievances be disposed of until the Steelworkers were called in, and that no grievance be handled which was brought in by the Independent on behalf of any of Independent's members. These requests the Company by a letter said it could not grant. Thereafter the Steelworkers made with the Company a collective agreement in which a system of handling grievances was set up, mainly through a grievance committee appointed by the Steelworkers. The collective agreement on the matter of dues provided: "The Company shall continue, in accordance with present practice, to deduct the sum of $1.00 each month for membership dues from members of Locals 1742 and 2457, United Steelworkers of America." The Company continued to deduct dues also for the other unions on request of members, and to handle individual grievances as before for the members of the other unions, over objection of the Steelworkers. The Steelworkers were also certified as bargaining representative in a new plant, where the same practices and protests exist, though no collective contract had been signed at the date of the hearing. On the Steelworkers' complaint the Board had a hearing. The Company's public relations director was called as the only witness, and he made it clear that the Company's policy was one of strict impartiality, that all dues deductions were made, as they always had been, on the written request of individual employees; that grievances were handled otherwise than through the bargaining representative because of the proviso in Sec. 9(a) of the Act, and that when the Independent was bargaining agent, as well as now since the Steelworkers are such, the representative's exclusive right to bargain was carefully observed, and when in a grievance adjustment any question arose involving a construction of the contract the bargaining agent was always consulted. Otherwise, except on two occasions while the Independent was bargaining agent, the contract was never in a grievance adjustment suffered to be interpreted, added to or taken from. Since the Steelworkers have become the bargaining agent, the presentation of grievances has been held within this same scope. There is no evidence to the contrary. There was an offer of proof by the Company and the Independent, which had intervened, that it was the policy of the Steelworkers to refuse to handle the grievances of the members of the Independent, and that on a number of occasions when it had appeared that the grievance presented by the Steelworkers' committee was in behalf of members of the Independent, the committee had dropped it; and that on January 30, 1944, a circular was distributed, signed by the President of Local 1742 of the Steelworkers, urging the men to join that union "because the committee and the international union will handle your grievances only if you are members." This proof was rejected as immaterial.

The Board held that deduction of dues for the members of the Independent, and the handling of grievances without calling in the Steelworkers, and the permitting the Independent to represent its members in the adjustment of their grievances were acts in derogation of the Steelworkers' exclusive right to bargain and an unfair labor practice, and ordered the Company to cease and desist and post specified notices. The Company petitions to set aside the order. The Board prays its enforcement. The Independent and the Steelworkers' have intervened respectively to attack and support the order. The case is mostly one between rival unions. The questions raised are novel.

The avowed object of the National Labor Relations Act is to protect commerce by establishing and preserving for employees a right of collective bargaining through a representative of their choosing. By Section 2(4) (5), 29 U.S. C.A. § 152(4) (5), the representative may be an individual or a labor organization, and the labor organization may be of any kind, or any agency, or employee committee or plan in which employees participate, for the purpose "of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work." The representative, whether an individual, a committee, or a "union," has its powers and privileges defined in Section 9(a), 29 U.S.C.A. 159(a), thus: "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: Provided that any individual employee or group of employees shall have the right at any time to present grievances to their employer." Taking the quoted provisions together, it is plain that collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment and other conditions of employment which will fix for the future the rules of the employment for everyone in the unit, is distinguished from "grievances," which are usually the claims of individuals or small groups that their rights under the collective bargain have not been respected.1 These claims may involve no question of the meaning and scope of the bargain, but only some question of fact or conduct peculiar to the employee, not affecting the unit. They may, however, raise a question of the meaning of the contract, or present a situation not covered by the contract touching which an agreement ought to be made. In the latter cases it is plain that the representative ought to participate, for bargaining, rather than the mere decision of a case according to the contract, is involved. Attention to grievances is therefore mentioned in Section 2(5) as part of the business of the representative, but Section 9(a) does not give him the exclusive right to handle them unless they really involve a bargaining for the unit, or an interpretation of the bargain. On the contrary, it expressly gives each employee or group of employees the right to present their own grievances to the employer. The purpose is to preserve in each employee as a right this direct approach to the employer to secure full consideration of his case.2 The trial examiner seems to have considered that the word "present" means no more than to call attention to the grievance, and that all prosecution of it must be by the representative. We understand the Board to...

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