National Labor Relations Board v. Waterman Steamship Corporation, No. 193

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
Citation309 U.S. 206,84 L.Ed. 704,60 S.Ct. 493
Docket NumberNo. 193
Decision Date12 February 1940
PartiesNATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD v. WATERMAN STEAMSHIP CORPORATION

309 U.S. 206
60 S.Ct. 493
84 L.Ed. 704
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD

v.

WATERMAN STEAMSHIP CORPORATION.

No. 193.
Argued Jan. 3, 1940.
Decided Feb. 12, 1940.
Rehearing Denied March 11, 1940.

See 309 U.S. 696, 60 S.Ct. 611, 84 L.Ed. —-.

Page 207

Messrs. Robert H. Jackson, Atty. Gen., and Robert B. Watts, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Messrs. Gessner T. McCorvey and C. A. L. Johnstone, Jr., both of Mobile, Ala., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Court below, upon petition of respondent to set aside an order of the Labor Board, decided that the Board's order was not supported by substantial evidence, said the order was based on mere suspicion, and declined

Page 208

to enforce it. Whether the court properly reached that conclusion is the single question here.

We do not ordinarily grant certiorari to review judgments based solely on questions of fact. In its petition, however, the Board earnestly contended that the record before the Court of Appeals had presented 'clear and overwhelming proof' that the Waterman Steamship Company had been guilty of a most flagrant mass discrimination against its employees in violation of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., and that the court had unwarrantedly interfered with the exclusive jurisdiction granted the Board by Congress. The Board's petition also charged that the present was one of a series of decisions in which the court below had failed 'to give effect to the provisions of the Act that the findings of the Board as to facts, if supported by evidence, shall be conclusive.'1

In that Act, Congress provided, 'The findings of the Board as to the facts, if supported by evidence, shall be conclusive.'2 It is of paramount importance that courts not encroach upon this exclusive power of the Board if effect is to be given the intention of Congress to apply an orderly, informed and specialized procedure to the complex, administrative problems arising in the solution of industrial disputes. As it did in setting up other administrative bodies, Congress has left questions of law which arise before the Board—but not more ultimately to the traditional review of the judiciary. Not by accident, but in line with a general policy, Congress has

Page 209

deemed it wise to entrust the finding of facts to these specialized agencies. It is essential that courts regard this division of responsibility which Congress as a matter of policy has embodied in the very statute from which the Court of Appeals derived its jurisdiction to act. And therefore charges by public agencies constitutionally created—such as the Board—that their duly conferred jurisdiction has been invaded so that their statutory duties cannot be effectively fulfilled, raise questions of high importance. For this reason we granted certiorari.3

Respondent, Waterman Steamship Company, of Mobile, Alabama, is engaged in maritime transportation between this country, Europe, and the West Indies. Upon complaint made by the National Maritime Union, a labor organization affiliated with the Committee for Industrial Organization, the Board held hearings and found that respondent had, at Mobile, laid up the ships 'Bienville' (27 days) and 'Fairland' (7 days) for dry-docking and repairs, and had, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act:

(a) discharged and refused to reinstate, because of membership in the N.M.U., the entire unlicensed crew and the chief steward, Edmund J. Pelletier, of the Steamship 'Bienville', and all but three of the crew of the Steamship 'Fairland';

(b) discharged and refused to reinstate C. J. O'Conner, second assistant engineer of the 'Azalea City' because of his activities in representing aggrieved members of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, a labor organization of licensed ship personnel affiliated with the C.I.O.;

(c) and, pending an election directed by the Board to permit the ships' crews to select their bargaining agencies,

Page 210

had interfered with its employees' free right to select a union of their own choosing under Section 7 of the Act by refusing to grant ships' passes to representatives of the C.I.O. affiliate, while at the same time issuing passes to representatives of the International Seaman's Union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor.4

The Board's order in question was based on the foregoing findings.

A clear understanding of the issues presented by the mass discharge of the crews of the 'Bienville' and the 'Fairland' necessitates initial reference to the Federal laws governing engagement of seamen for foreign voyages. There is provision, 46 U.S.C. § 564, 46 U.S.C.A. § 564, that a master of any vessel bound from the United States to foreign ports (with exceptions not pertinent) 'shall, before he proceeds on such voyage, make an agreement, in writing or in print, with every seaman whom he carries to sea as one of the crew * * *.' This written agreement, commonly referred to in maritime circles as articles, must specify the nature and duration of the intended voyage or engagement; the port or country at which the voyage will terminate; the number and description of the crew and their employments; the time each seaman must be on board to begin work and the capacity in which he is to serve; wages; provisions to be furnished each seaman; regulations to which the seaman will be subjected on board such as fines, short allowance of provisions or other

Page 211

lawful punishments for misconduct; and stipulations of any advance and allotment of the seaman's wages. And the provisions of 46 U.S.C. §§ 567, 568, 46 U.S.C.A. §§ 567, 568, impose penalties for carrying seamen in ships' crews on foreign voyages without entering into the required articles. All seamen 'discharged in the United States from merchant vessels engaged in voyages * * * to any foreign port * * * shall be discharged and receive their wages in the presence of a duly authorized shipping commissioner * * *.' Id. § 641, 46 U.S.C.A. § 641. The master and each seaman shall 'in the presence of the shipping commissioner, * * * sign a mutual release of all claims for wages in respect of the past voyage or engagement'; the release must be recorded in a book which shall be kept by the commissioner, and such release 'shall operate as a mutual discharge and settlement of all demands for wages between the parties * * *, on account of wages, in respect of the past voyage or engagement'. Id., § 644, 46 U.S.C.A. § 644. (Italics supplied.)

Respondent, the Waterman Company, has taken the position that when the crews of the 'Bienville' and 'Fairland' received their wages and signed off statutory articles in Mobile, all tenure of employment and employment relationship of these men were at an end. From this premise, the Company insists that vacancies were created as the men signed off and, under an outstanding contract with the I.S.U., preference in filling these vacancies had to be given to members of the I.S.U. unless contractual obligations were to be violated.5 How-

Page 212

ever, the Board contends that the signing off of articles when the ship's voyage ended at Mobile served only to end employment 'in respect of the past voyage or engagement' and, therefore, it proceeded to examine the evidence to determine whether there was, after completion of the voyages in question of the 'Bienville' and 'Fairland', a continuing relationship, tenure, term or condition of employment between the Company and its men. The Act provides6 that

'It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer—

'(1) To interfere with * * * (the employees' right of self-organization). * * *

'By discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization: * * *.'

The protection to seamen embodied in the Federal statutes which have been referred to has existed in some form since the earliest days of the Nation. 7 This statutory plan was never intended to forbid the parties from mutually undertaking to assure a crew the right to continue as employees and to re-sign if it desires after signing off articles at a voyage's end. The design was to protect seamen from being carried to sea against their will; to prevent mistreatment as to wages and to assure against harsh application of the iron law of the sea during voyages.8 The Board, therefore, properly heard evi-

Page 213

dence as to whether the crews of the 'Bienville' and 'Fairland' had, unless discharged for cause, a continuing tenure or relationship entitling them to re-sign when the temporary lay-ups of their ships ended. If, as the Board found, there were such continuing tenure and customary term or condition of employment, of course no vacancies occurred when the men of the 'Bienville' and the 'Fairland' signed off articles in Mobile. And respondent's contract with the I.S.U., which only provided preferential treatment of the I.S.U. (A.F. of L.) in filling vacancies, did not require the Company to discharge the N.M.U. (C.I.O.) men from these ships.

If, therefore, there was substantial support in the evidence for the findings that these crews had a continuing right to and customary tenure, term or condition of employment within the purview of the Act even though their ships were temporarily laid up, and that this relationship was terminated by the Company because of the crews' C.I.O. affiliation, the court below was required to enforce the Board's order.

Evidence as to the continuing tenure, and conditions and relation of employment. On the basis of nine to ten years at sea, one witness testified that a ship's crew is customarily kept on when she goes into dry dock and is laid up for temporary repairs; and that both the Waterman Company and the unions had observed that custom. Another, with a background of ten years experience at sea, in visiting some fifty ships in dry...

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235 practice notes
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Hearst Publications Same v. Stockholders Pub Co Same v. Co 8212 339, TIMES-MIRROR
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 24, 1944
    ...S.Ct. 122, 85 L.Ed. 63, with Sen. Rep. No. 573, 74th Cong., 1st Sess. 7. 31 Compare National Labor Relations Board v. Waterman S.S. Corp., 309 U.S. 206, 60 S.Ct. 493, 84 L.Ed. 704; Phelps Dodge Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board, 313 U.S. 177, 61 S.Ct. 845, 85 L.Ed. 1271, 133 A.L.R. 12......
  • Chamber of Commerce of U.S. v. Nat'l Labor Relations Bd., Civil Action No. 15–0009 (ABJ)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 29, 2015
    ...steps necessary to conduct that election fairly were matters which Congress entrusted to the Board alone." NLRB v. Waterman S.S. Corp., 309 U.S. 206, 226, 60 S.Ct. 493, 84 L.Ed. 704 (1940). It is with this direction in mind that the Court reviews each of the challenged provisions of the Fin......
  • Vitco v. Joncich, No. 16187.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • April 29, 1955
    ...United States, supra, 336 U.S. at pages 519-521, 69 S.Ct. 707, 93 L.Ed. 850; National Labor Relations Board v. Waterman S. S. Corp., 1940, 309 U.S. 206, 60 S.Ct. 493, 84 L.Ed. 704; Jones v. Waterman S. S. Corp., supra, 155 F.2d at page 996; Enochasson v. Freeport Sulphur Co., supra, 7 F.2d ......
  • Chamber of Commerce of U.S. v. Lockyer, No. 03-55166.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 21, 2006
    ...decision to "entrust[ ] to the Board alone" the criteria necessary to conduct a fair representation election. NLRB v. Waterman S.S. Corp., 309 U.S. 206, 226, 60 S.Ct. 493, 84 L.Ed. 704 "Garmon preemption is `intended to preclude state interference with the National Labor Relations Board's i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
230 cases
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Hearst Publications Same v. Stockholders Pub Co Same v. Co 8212 339, TIMES-MIRROR
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 24, 1944
    ...S.Ct. 122, 85 L.Ed. 63, with Sen. Rep. No. 573, 74th Cong., 1st Sess. 7. 31 Compare National Labor Relations Board v. Waterman S.S. Corp., 309 U.S. 206, 60 S.Ct. 493, 84 L.Ed. 704; Phelps Dodge Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board, 313 U.S. 177, 61 S.Ct. 845, 85 L.Ed. 1271, 133 A.L.R. 12......
  • Chamber of Commerce of U.S. v. Nat'l Labor Relations Bd., Civil Action No. 15–0009 (ABJ)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 29, 2015
    ...steps necessary to conduct that election fairly were matters which Congress entrusted to the Board alone." NLRB v. Waterman S.S. Corp., 309 U.S. 206, 226, 60 S.Ct. 493, 84 L.Ed. 704 (1940). It is with this direction in mind that the Court reviews each of the challenged provisions of the Fin......
  • Vitco v. Joncich, No. 16187.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • April 29, 1955
    ...United States, supra, 336 U.S. at pages 519-521, 69 S.Ct. 707, 93 L.Ed. 850; National Labor Relations Board v. Waterman S. S. Corp., 1940, 309 U.S. 206, 60 S.Ct. 493, 84 L.Ed. 704; Jones v. Waterman S. S. Corp., supra, 155 F.2d at page 996; Enochasson v. Freeport Sulphur Co., supra, 7 F.2d ......
  • Chamber of Commerce of U.S. v. Lockyer, No. 03-55166.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 21, 2006
    ...decision to "entrust[ ] to the Board alone" the criteria necessary to conduct a fair representation election. NLRB v. Waterman S.S. Corp., 309 U.S. 206, 226, 60 S.Ct. 493, 84 L.Ed. 704 "Garmon preemption is `intended to preclude state interference with the National Labor Relations Board's i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Federal Protection of Labor
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 224-1, November 1942
    • November 1, 1942
    ...43 Harlan Fuel Co., 8 N.L.R.B. 25. 50 Virginia Electric and Power Co., 314 U. 44 Waterman Steamship Corp., 7 N.L.R.B. S. 469, 477. 237, 309 U. S. 206. 51 American Enka Corp., 119 F. (2d) 60, 45 Mansfield Mills, Remington Rand, Repub- 63 (C. C. A. 4). lic Steel, supra, note 40; Brown Shoe, s......

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