National Labor Relations Board v. Manufacturing Company

Citation388 U.S. 175,18 L.Ed.2d 1123,87 S.Ct. 2001
Decision Date12 June 1967
Docket NumberNo. 216,ALLIS-CHALMERS,216
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Howard C. Equitz, Milwaukee, Wis., for respondent.

Martin C. Seham, New York City, for New York Times Display Advertising Salesmen Steering Committee, as amicus curiae.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question here is whether a union which threatened and imposed fines, and brought suit for their collection, against members who crossed the union's picket line and went to work during an authorized strike against their employer, committed the unfair labor practice under § 8(b)(1)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act of engaging in conduct 'to restrain or coerce' employees in the exercise of their right guaranteed by § 7 to 'refrain from' concerted activities.1 Employees at the West Allis, and La Crosse, Wisconsin, plants of respondent Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company were represented by locals of the United Automobile Workers. Lawful economic strikes were conducted at both plants in support of new contract demands. In compliance with the UAW constitution, the strikes were called with the approval of the International Union after at least two-thirds of the members of each local voted by secret ballot to strike. Some members of each local crossed the picket lines and worked during the strikes. After the strikes were over, the locals brought proceedings against these members charging them with violation of the International constitution and bylaws. The charges were heard by local trial committees in proceedings at which the charged members were respresented by counsel. No claim of unfairness in the proceedings is made. The trials resulted in each charged member being found guilty of 'conduct unbecoming a Unionmember' and being fined in a sum from $20 to $100. Some of the fined members did not pay the fines and one of the locals obtained a judgment in the amount of the fine against one of its members, Benjamin Natzke, in a test suit brought in the Milwaukee County Court. An appeal from the judgment is pending in the

Allis-Chalmers filed unfair labor practice Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Allis-Chalmers filed unfair labor practice violation of § 8(b)(1)(A).2 A complaint issued and after hearing a trial examiner recommended its dismissal. The National Labor Relations Board sustained the examiner on the ground that, in the circumstances of this case, the actions of the locals, even if restraint or coercion prohibited by § 8(b)(1)(A), constituted conduct excepted from the section's prohibitions by the proviso that such prohibitions 'shall not impair the right of a labor organization to prescribe its own rules with respect to the acquisition or retention of membership therein.' 149 N.L.R.B. 67. Upon Allis-Chalmers' petition for review to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, a panel of that court upheld the Board's decision. Following a rehearing en banc, however, the court, three judges dissenting, withdrew the panel opinion, held that the locals' conduct violated § 8(b)(1)(A), and remanded to the Board for appropriate proceedings. 358 F.2d 656. We granted certiorari, 385 U.S. 810, 87 S.Ct. 54, 17 L.Ed.2d 51. We reverse.


The panel and the majority en banc of the Court of Appeals thought that reversal of the NLRB orde w ould be required under a literal reading of §§ 7 and 8(b)(1)(A); under that reading union members who cross their own picket lines would be regarded as exercising their rights under § 7 to refrain from engaging in a particular concerted activity, and union discipline in the form of fines for such activity would therefore 'restrain or coerce' in violation of § 8(b)(1)(A) if the section's proviso is read to sanction no form of discipline other than expulsion from the union. The panel rejected that literal reading. The majority en banc adopted it, stating that the panel 'mistakenly took the position that such a literal reading was unwarranted in the light of the history and purposes' of the sections, 358 F.2d, at 659, and holding that '(T) he statutes in question present no ambiguities whatsoever, and therefore do not require recourse to legislative history for clarification.' Id., at 660.

It is highly unrealistic to regard § 8(b)(1), and particularly its words 'restrain or coerce,' as precisely and unambiguously covering the union conduct involved in this case. On its face court enforcement of fines imposed on members for violation of membership obligations is no more conduct to 'restrain or coerce' satisfaction of such obligations than court enforcement of penalties imposed on citizens for violation of their obligations as citizens to pay income taxes, or court awards of damages against a contracting party for nonperformance of a contractual obligation voluntarily undertaken. But even if the inherent imprecision of the words 'restrain or coerce' may be overlooked, recourse to legislative history to determine the sense in which Congress used the words is not foreclosed. We have only this Term again admonished that labor legislation is peculiarly the product of legislative compromise of strongly held views, Local 1976, United Broth. of Carpenters and Joiners of America v. National Labor Relations Board, 357 U.S. 93, 99—100, 78 S.Ct. 1011, 1016—1017, 2 L.Ed.2d 1186, and that legislative history may not be disregarded merely because it is arguable that a provision may unambiguously embrace conduct called in question. National Woodworkers Mfrs. Assn. v. NLRB, 386 U.S. 612, 619—620, 87 S.Ct. 1250, 1266, 18 L.Ed.2d 357. Indeed, we have applied that principle to the construction of § 8(b)(1)(A) itself in holding that the section must be construed in light of the fact that it 'is only one of many interwoven sections in a complex Act, mindful of the manifest purpose of the Congress to fashion a coherent national labor policy.' National Labor Relations Board v. Drivers, etc., Local Union No. 639, 362 U.S. 274, 292, 80 S.Ct. 706, 716, 4 L.Ed.2d 710.

National labor policy has been built on the premise that by pooling their economic strength and acting through a labor organization freely chosen by the majority, the employees of an appropriate unit have the most effective means of bargaining for improvements in wages, hours, and working conditions. The policy therefore extinguishes the individual employee's power to order his own relations with his employer and creates a power vested in the chosen representative to act in the interests of all employees. 'Congress has seen fit to clothe the bargaining representative with powers comparable to those possessed by a legislative body both to create and restrict the rights of those whom it represents * * *.' Steele v. Louisville & N.R. Co., 323 U.S. 192, 202, 65 S.Ct. 226, 232, 89 L.Ed. 173. Thus only the union may contract the employee's terms and conditions of employment,3 and provisions for processing his grievances; the union may even bargain away his right to strike during the contract term,4 and his right to refuse to cross a lawful picket line.5 The employee may disagree with many of the union decisions but is bound by them. 'The majority-rule concept is today unquestionably at the center of our federal labor policy.'6 'The complete satisfaction of all who are represented is hardly to be expected. A wide rng e 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.' Ford Motor Co. v. Huffman, 345 U.S. 330, 338, 73 S.Ct. 681, 686, 97 L.Ed. 1048.

It was because the national labor policy vested unions with power to order the relations of employees with their employer that this Court found it necessary to fashion the duty of fair representation. That duty 'has stood as a bulwark to prevent arbitrary union conduct against individuals stripped of traditional forms of redress by the provisions of federal labor law.' Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 182, 87 S.Ct. 903, 912, 17 L.Ed.2d 842. For the same reason Congress in the 1959 Landrum-Griffin amendments, 73 Stat. 519, enacted a code of fairness to assure democratic conduct of union affairs by provisions guaranteeing free speech and assembly, equal rights to vote in elections, to attend meetings, and to participate in the deliberations and voting upon the business conducted at the meetings.

Integral to this federal labor policy has been the power in the chosen union to protect against erosion its status under that policy through reasonable discipline of members who violate rules and regulations governing membership. 7 That power is particularly vital when the members engage in strikes. The economic strike against the employer is the ultimate weapon in labor's arsenal for achieving agreement upon its terms, and '(t)he power to fine or expel strikebreakers is essential if the union is to be an effective bargaining agent * * *.'8 Provisions in union constitutions and bylaws for fines and expulsion of recalcitrants, including strikebreakers, are therefore common-place and were commonplace at the time of the Taft-Hartley amendments.9

In addition, the judicial view current at the time § 8(b)(1)(A) was passed was that provisions defining punishable conduct and the procedures for trial and appeal constituted part of the contract between member and union and that 'The courts' role is but to enforce the contract.'10 In International Association of Machinists v. Gonzales, 356 U.S. 617, 618, 78 S.Ct. 923, 924, 2 L.Ed.2d 1018, we recognized that '(t)his contractual conception of the relation between a member and his union widely prevails in this country * * *.' Although state courts were reluctant to intervene in internal union affairs, a body of law establishing standards of...

To continue reading

Request your trial
351 cases
  • Pasillas v. Agricultural Labor Relations Bd.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 24 Mayo 1984
    ...or expel strikebreakers is essential if the union is to be an effective bargaining agent ....' " (NLRB v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co. (1967) 388 U.S. 175, 181, 87 S.Ct. 2001, 2007, 18 L.Ed.2d 1123 fns. omitted; cf. Machinists Local 1327 v. N.L.R.B. (9th Cir.1984) 725 F.2d 1212, 1218.) Under the......
  • Cornelius v. Benevolent Protective Order of Elks
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
    • 2 Agosto 1974
    ...earlier Act's vague language to the limits which, read literally, the words might permit." N.L.R.B. v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., 388 U.S. 175, 193-194, 87 S.Ct. 2001, 2014, 18 L.Ed.2d 1123 (1967). Cf., Hunter v. Erickson, 393 U.S. 385, 388, 89 S.Ct. 537, 21 L. Ed.2d 616 (1969). Second, "the ......
  • State v. Kimbro
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 20 Agosto 1985
    ...... or constitution, establishes a minimum national standard for the exercise of individual [197 ......
  • Balsavage v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • 11 Mayo 1989
    ...the state. They are simply voluntary, contractual associations of individual workers. See N.L.R.B. v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., 388 U.S. 175, 182-84, 87 S.Ct. 2001, 2007-08, 18 L.Ed.2d 1123 (1967) (stating that relationship of union to its members is one of private contract); Courant, 176 F.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • The Hobson's Choice in Union Discipline Cases: When Union Members Are Forced to Decide Between Fired or Fined
    • United States
    • Iowa Law Review No. 98-5, July 2013
    • 1 Julio 2013
    ...the express language of sections 7 and 8(b)(1)(A), and the Supreme Court soon followed suit.”). 46. NLRB v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., 388 U.S. 175 (1967); Marcoux, supra note 14, at 1421–24. 47. Allis-Chalmers , 388 U.S. at 176. 48. Id. at 181–83. 49. Id. at 179 (“It is highly unrealistic to......
  • Achieving the Achievable: Realistic Labor Law Reform.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 88 No. 2, March 2023
    • 22 Marzo 2023
    ...that agency shop agreements require membership, they were subject to [section] 14(b) right-to-work provision); NLRB v. Allis-Chalmers, 388 U.S. 175, 196 (1967) (upholding the ability of unions to fine members for crossing a picket line). See also William B. Gould IV, Solidarity Forever--Or ......
  • Politics and the Effect on the National Labor Relations Board's Adjudicative and Rulemaking Processes
    • United States
    • Emory University School of Law Emory Law Journal No. 64-0, 2015
    • Invalid date
    ...Foods, Inc., 270 N.L.R.B. 578 (1984).66. See NLRB v. Granite State Joint Bd., 409 U.S. 213 (1972); NLRB v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., 388 U.S. 175 (1967).67. Machinists Local 1327, 263 N.L.R.B. 984 (1982).68. Pattern Makers' League v. NLRB, 473 U.S. 95, 117 (1985) (White, J., concurring).69. ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT