National Labor Relations Board v. Swank Products

Decision Date29 December 1939
Docket NumberNo. 7051.,7051.
Citation108 F.2d 872
PartiesNATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD v. SWANK PRODUCTS, Inc.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit

Charles Fahy, Gen. Counsel, Robert B. Watts, Associate Gen. Counsel, Laurence A. Knapp, Asst. Gen. Counsel, Samuel Edes, and John H. Dorsey, all of Washington, D. C., for National Labor Relations Board.

Joseph W. Henderson, of Philadelphia, Pa., Chauncey E. Wheeler, Harold A. Andrews, Isadore Paisner, and Hinckley, Allen, Tillinghast & Wheeler, all of Providence, R. I., and Rawle & Henderson, of Philadelphia, Pa., for respondent.

Before BIGGS, MARIS, and BIDDLE, Circuit Judges.

BIDDLE, Circuit Judge.

The National Labor Relations Board found that Swank Products, Inc., the respondent, dominated and interfered with the formation of Swank Products Employees' Association, and ordered the corporation to cease and desist from these acts, to withdraw recognition of the association, and to post notices that it would do so.1 This is a petition by the Board for enforcement of the order. The only material question before us is whether the Board's findings of fact, upon which its order is based, are supported by substantial evidence.2 The relation of management to the employees of the respondent has always been cordial, probably because labor standards were better than those generally prevailing in the industry. The toolmaking department, one of eight departments, was organized by the A. F. of L. in 1936-37, without opposition by the management, and all of the employees in that department were members of the A. F. of L. union. Respondent's employees did not strike when a growing attempt to organize spread to other shops. Negotiations resulted in a standard union contract for all the shops, including respondent's to which, however, the respondent's toolmakers objected. It contained conditions less favorable to them than those then prevailing with respect to hours, minimum wages, and overtime. Some effort was made later by the A. F. of L. to organize the jewelry establishments generally in the area, though not particularly the respondent's. Of respondent's employees who attended the organization meetings two joined the A. F. of L. union. One of them, Helen Robillard, claimed that she had been discriminated against during a six weeks' lay-off in June and July 1937. But the Board found against her, though ordering the disestablishment of the employees' association. There is no evidence of any hostility to organized labor on the part of the management, expressed in statements or otherwise. There is evidence of dissatisfaction among the employees as a result of the negotiations with the A. F. of L. union, which did not improve the condition of the toolmakers.

In April, 1937, soon after the organization of the respondent's toolmakers, Thomas Stevenson, a foreman and superintendent in charge of production, discussed with William MacClelland, in charge of the assembly department, the idea of forming an employees' association. Stevenson's job was to co-ordinate the work of the various departments. He did not have authority to hire or discharge employees, but occasionally selected them under the directions of Bagnall, the vice-president in charge of production. A small preliminary meeting at the respondent's plant was called on May 4, 1937, at which, in addition to Stevenson and MacClelland, six of the department foremen and a few employees were present. Stevenson and others expressed themselves as being in favor of an inside organization, and a vote of all but two who were present favored it. A few days later a committee from the meeting consulted Chauncey E. Wheeler, Esq., a lawyer who had represented the employers in the negotiations with the union, and who represents respondent in this proceeding, although he did not represent it at that time. Wheeler refused to act for the men, told them to call a meeting of all employees, to "get a charter and by-laws, and have an honest-to-goodness legal organization", and advised that Stevenson should take no active part in the organization. The employees were accordingly called to a meeting on May 14, held on the plant assembly floor, and 250 out of 350 attended. Several departmental foremen were present. Stevenson announced he would take no part in the organization, but did not leave the meeting. A committee was appointed with representatives from each department. Stevenson reported what had taken place to Bagnall. On May 19 and 20 a secret election was held at the plant on Company time. The Swank Products Employees Association was favored by a vote of 275 to 38. Solicitation for membership was thereafter carried on in the plant on company time without opposition from the management. When the complaint was filed the company asked to have the question resubmitted at an election held by the Board. But this the Board would not permit. A charter for the association was obtained, following the usual pattern, with dues at 25 cents a month and no strike fund. There have been no requests by the Association for a written contract.

The Act does not purport to prohibit plant, or so-called "company" unions, except where they are linked to the employer. That relationship does not arise from passive acquiescence of an employer, for acquiescence has none of the positive and aggressive quality contemplated by such words as "interfere", "restrain", "coerce", and "dominate", which we find in the Act.3 The evidence in this case shows, we think, a genuine, if rare, attempt on the part of the employees to form their own intramural union, to prevent what they considered might be a less advantageous external organization bringing them to the lower level of competing shop conditions. This had been the experience of the toolmakers which employees in other departments did not wish to follow.

Nor do we think that the acts of Stevenson and the other shop supervisors, in forming and trying to control the policy of the new Association, were tied to the management. They were acting, so far as the evidence shows, spontaneously and for themselves. Because men express dislike to organized labor does not, as the Board suggests in its argument, indicate that they must be acting for the management. We do not mean to say that agency must be established by proving a specific authority and a defined scope of action, as apparently was the basis of decision in Cupples Co. Manufacturers v. National Labor Relations Board, 8 Cir., 106 F.2d 100, 116.4 Authority may be deduced from acts of the employer coupled with the type of the employee's authority, which make probable the link. But, as we have said, the company's acts here show nothing more than acquiescence in a course of conduct chosen by the men themselves. This conclusion is reenforced by a stipulation of counsel that members of the Association, if called, would have testified that they joined without interference or coercion and that their preference was for the Association, and not for either the C. I. O. or the A. F. of...

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11 cases
  • Oughton v. National Labor Relations Board
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • February 26, 1941
    ...citing Cupples Co. Manufacturers v. National Labor Relations Board, 8 Cir., 1939, 106 F.2d 100 and National Labor Relations Board v. Swank Products, Inc., 3 Cir., 1939, 108 F.2d 872. But the supervisory employees in the instant case had definite indicia of authority. It is shown in the evid......
  • National Labor Relations Bd. v. Sterling Elec. Motors
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • January 9, 1940
    ...Circuit: Ballston-Stillwater Knitting Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 98 F.2d 758, 760, 764; Third Circuit: National Labor Relations Board v. Swank Products, Inc., 108 F.2d 872, December 29, 1939; Fourth Circuit: L. Greif & Bros., Inc., et al. v. National Labor Relations Board, 108 F......
  • Foote Bros. Gear & Mach. Corp. v. National Labor R. Board
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • December 9, 1940
    ...intramural union, to prevent what they considered might be a less advantageous external organization * *." National Labor Relations Board v. Swank Products, 3 Cir., 108 F.2d 872, 874; LinkBelt Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 7 Cir., 110 F.2d The Act does not compel employees to affil......
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Brown Co., 4215.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • March 5, 1947
    ...been, as there were not here, isolated instances of aggressive anti-union activity by supervisory officers. See National Labor Board v. Swank Products, Inc., 3 Cir., 108 F.2d 872; National Labor Board v. Mathieson Alkali Works, 4 Cir., 114 F.2d The case closest to the present on the facts w......
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