National Labor Relations Board v. Truitt Manufacturing Co, 486

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
Citation100 L.Ed. 1027,76 S.Ct. 753,351 U.S. 149
Docket NumberNo. 486,486
Decision Date07 May 1956

351 U.S. 149
76 S.Ct. 753
100 L.Ed. 1027



No. 486.
Argued March 29, 1956.
Decided May 7, 1956.


David P. Findling, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. R. D. Douglas, Jr., Greensboro, N.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The National Labor Relations Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to refuse to bargain in good faith with the representative of his employees.1

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The question presented by this case is whether the National Labor Relations Board may find that an employer has not bargained in good faith where the employer claims it cannot afford to pay higher wages but refuses requests to produce information substantiating its claim.

The dispute here arose when a union representing certain of respondent's employees asked for a wage increase of 10 cents per hour. The company answered that it could not afford to pay such an increase, it was undercapitalized, had never paid dividends, and that an increase of more than 2 1/2 cents per hour would put it out of business. The union asked the company to produce some evidence substantiating these statements, requesting permission to have a certified public accountant examine the company's books, financial data, etc. This request being denied, the union asked that the company submit 'full and complete information with respect to its financial standing and profits,' insisting that such information was pertinent and essential for the employees to determine whether or not they should continue to press their demand for a wage increase. A union official testified before the trial examiner that '(W)e were wanting anything relating to the Company's position, any records or what have you, books, accounting sheets, cost expenditures, what not, anything to back the Company's position that they were unable to give any more money.' The company refused all the requests, relying solely on the statement that 'the information * * * is not pertinent to

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this discussion and the company declines to give you such information; You have no legal right to such.'

On the basis of these facts the National Labor Relations Board found that the company had 'failed to bargain in good faith with respect to wages in violation of Section 8(a)(5) of the Act.' 110 N.L.R.B. 856. The Board ordered the company to supply the union with such information as would 'substantiate the Respondent's position of its economic inability to pay the requested wage increase.' The Court of Appeals refused to enforce the Board's order, agreeing with respondent that it could not be held guilty of an unfair labor practice because of its refusal to furnish the information requested by the union. 4 Cir., 224 F.2d 869. In National Labor Relations Board v. Jacobs Mfg. Co., 196 F.2d 680, the Second Circuit upheld a Board finding of bad-faith bargaining based on an employer's refusal to supply financial information under circumstances similar to those here. Because of the conflict and the importance of the question we granted certiorari. 350 U.S. 922, 76 S.Ct. 211.

The company raised no objection to the Board's order on the ground that the scope of information required was too broad or that disclosure would put an undue burden on the company. Its major argument throughout has been that the information requested was irrelevant to the bargaining process and related to matters exclusively within the province of management. Thus we lay to one side the suggestion by the company here that the Board's order might be unduly burdensome or injurious to its business. In any event, the Board has heretofore taken the position in cases such as this that 'It is sufficient if the information is made available in a manner not so burdensome or timeconsuming as to impede the process of bargaining.'2 And in this case the Board has held

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substantiation of the company's position requires no more than 'reasonable proof.'

We think that in determining whether the obligation of good-faith bargaining has been met the Board has a right to consider an employer's refusal to give information about its financial status. While Congress did not compel agreement between employers and bargaining representatives, it did require collective bargaining in the hope that agreements would result. Section 204(a) (1) of the Act admonishes both employers and employees to 'exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain agreements concerning rates of pay, hours, and working conditions * * *.'3 In their effort to reach an agreement here both the union and the company treated the company's ability to pay increased wages as highly relevant. The ability of an employer to increase wages without injury to his business is a commonly considered factor in wage negotiations.4 Claims for increased wages have sometimes been abandoned because of an employer's unsatisfactory business condition; employees have even voted to accept wage decreases because of such conditions.5

Good-faith bargaining necessarily requires that claims made by either bargainer should be honest claims. This is true about an asserted inability to pay an increase in wages. If such an argument is important enough to pre-

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sent in the give and take of bargaining, it is important enough to require some sort of proof of its accuracy. And it would certainly not be farfetched for a trier of fact to reach the conclusion that bargaining lacks good faith when an employer mechanically repeats a claim of inability to pay without making the slightest effort to substantiate the claim. Such has been the holding of the Labor Board since shortly after the passage of the Wagner Act. In Pioneer Pearl Button Co., decided in 1936, where the employer's representative relied on the company's asserted 'poof financial condition,' the Board said: 'He did no more than take refuge in the assertion that the respondent's financial condition was poor; he refused either to prove his statement, or to permit independent verification. This is not collective bargaining. 1 N.L.R.B. 837, 842—843. This was the position of the Board when the Taft-Hartley Act was passed in 1947 and has been its position ever since.6 We agree with the Board that a refusal to attempt to substantiate a claim of inability to pay increased wages may support a finding...

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    ...the case must be returned to the Board [26 Cal.3d 39] so that it can apply the proper standard. (Cf. Labor Board v. Truitt Mfg. Co. (1955) 351 U.S. 149, 157, 76 S.Ct. 753, 100 L.Ed. 1027 (conc. and dis. opn. of Frankfurter, J.).) As the United States Supreme Court recently observed, "It is ......
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    ...compromise differences). The quality of the negotiations is evaluated by the totality of conduct. See Page 1212 NLRB v. Truitt Mfg. Co., 351 U.S. 149, 153-154, 76 S.Ct. 753, 756-757, 100 L.Ed. 1027 (1956) (good faith or lack thereof depends on the particular[388 Mass. 573] circumstances of ......
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3 books & journal articles
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    • 1 Enero 2011
    ...See Detroit Edison Co. v. NLRB, 440 U.S. 301, 303 (1979); NLRB v. Acme Indus. Co., 385 U.S. 432, 435-36 (1967); NLRB v. Truitt Mfg. Co., 351 U.S. 149, 153 (1956). The duty to provide employment-related information is broad, though it may be constrained in light of employee privacy interests......
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    ...that employers have a general obligation to provide unions with information they need to carry out their duties); NLRB v. Truitt Mfg. Co., 351 U.S. 149, 152-53 (1956) (holding that employers have a responsibility to disclose some financial information as part of their duty to bargain in goo......
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    ...[]. (297.) NLRJB v. Truitt Mfg. Co., 351 U.S. 149, 152-54 (298.) D.C. CODE [section] 42-3404.02 (2020). (299.) Edwards & McCarthy, supra note 207, at 127. (300.) A significant literature in sociology examines the importance of both leadership development and ra......

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