National Labor Relations Board v. Newport News Shipbuilding Dry Dock Co

Decision Date04 December 1939
Docket NumberNo. 20,20
Citation60 S.Ct. 203,308 U.S. 241,84 L.Ed. 219
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. Frank Murphy, Atty. Gen., and Charles Fahy, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. H. H. Rumble, of Norfolk, Va., for respondent.

Mr. Frank A. Kearney, of Phoebus, Va., for Employees' Representative Committee, Intervener.

Mr. Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In a case duly instituted and heard, the National Labor Relations Board issued an order,1 pursuant to the provisions of Sec. 10(c)2 of the National Labor Relations Act, requiring the respondent, Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company: (1) to cease and desist from (a) dominating or otherwise interfering with the administration of the Employees' Representative Committee, a labor organization,3 or the formation or administration of any other labor organization of its employes; (b) from interfering with, restraining, or coercing its employes in the exercise of the right guaranteed them by Sec. 74 of the Act. The order further required the company (2) to take affirmative action, namely: (a) to withdraw all recognition from the Committee as the representative of any of its employes for the purpose of dealing with the company concerning labor conditions and wages, and completely to disestablish the Committee as such representative; (b) to post copies of the order throughout the plant; (c) to maintain said notices for thirty days; and (d) to notify the Board's Regional Director of the steps taken to comply with the order.

The order was based upon findings that the respondent had dominated and interfered with the formation and administration of the Committee, had contributed to it financial and other support, and was still dominating and interfering with the Committee, contrary to Sec. 8(1) and (2)5 of the Act. 6

The Company petitioned the Circuit Court of Appeals for review. The Board answered praying that the court dismiss the company's petition and decree enforcement. The court held that the Board had jurisdiction of the cause, but that its holding that the company had dominated and interfered with the formation and administration of the Committee was without support in the evidence. The court decreed that Section 1(a) and (b) and Section 2(b)(c) and (d) of the Board's order should be enforced but that Section 2(a), which required the withdrawal of recognition of the Committee and its disestablishment as a representative of the employes, should be stricken from the order. We granted certiorari, 307 U.S. 617, 59 S.Ct. 793, 83 L.Ed. 1497, because of asserted conflict with decisions of this court.7

The respondent does not press the claim advanced in the court below that the Board lacked jurisdiction. The sole issue here joined is as to the propriety of that portion of the Board's order which constrained the respondent to withdraw recognition of the Committee and to disestablish it as the bargaining representative of the employes. Resolution of the issue requires that we determine whether the Board's ultimate finding of domination and interference by the employer has substantial support in the evidence.

The Board's subsidiary findings of fact are not the subject of serious controversy. The respondent attacks the ultimate conclusion of fact as unjustified by the subsidiary findings and further contends that the conclusion could not have been reached had not the Board ignored and refused to find other relevant facts which were either stipulated or proved without contradiction.

The Board's findings were to the following effect: In 1927, in cooperation with its employes, the respondent put into effect a plan of employe representation known as 'Representation of Employes'. The preamble of the plan stated that its purpose was to give employes a voice in respect of the conditions of their labor and to provide a procedure for the prevention and adjustment of future differences. Under the plan the employes were to elect representatives each of whom was paid $100 per year for services as such. No one holding a supervisory position was eligible to serve as a representative or to vote for a representative. Administration of the plan was vested in certain joint committees each of which con- sisted of five elected representatives and not more than five representatives chosen from amongst the employes by the management. There was provision for a Management's Representative whose function was 'to keep the management in touch with the representatives and represent the management in negotiations with their officers and committees.' A provision calling for the arbitration of differences was to become operative only upon concurrence of the respondent's president.

Amendment of the plan could be made only by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the full membership of the Joint Committee on Rules or of a majority of all the employes' representatives and all the representatives of the management, at an annual conference. The plan set forth that independence of action of elected representatives was guaranteed by permitting them to take questions of discrimination to any of the superior officers, to the Joint Committee, and to the president of the company. There was no provision for the payment of dues.

The original plan was revised in 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, and 1937.

By the 1931 revision, which was not materially altered until 1937, a General Joint Committee was set up in lieu of several joint committees theretofore constituted, and two representatives were to be elected by the employes in each department while the respondent was to appoint an equal number of management representatives, a majority of each class of representatives constituting a quorum. The annual remuneration to be paid elected representatives by the company was reduced to $60.00. The secretary of the General Joint Committee was paid $5.00 monthly by the company. An Executive Committee was also established constituted of five elected employe representatives and five representatives of management.

Elections were arranged for by the management representatives but, in so far as possible, were conducted by the employes themselves.

A procedure was established for the adjustment of individual employe grievances, whereby, in event of failure of settlement, notice was to be given to the president of the company. Under the revised plan the General Joint Committee met monthly to take action upon matters presented by the Management Representative or by employe representatives or subcommittees; but finality of the action of the General Joint Committee was dependent upon approval by the respondent's president. Amendment of the plan, which could be accomplished by a two-thirds vote of the entire General Joint Committee, became effective when approved by the president of the company.

The last revision made in May 1937, after the validity of the National Labor Relations Act had been sustained by this court, originated in the General Joint Committee, one-half of whose members represented the interests of the respondent. The amended plan was referred to the Executive Committee, similarly constituted, and to the elected employe representatives, respectively. After announcement by the Management Representative that the revision was acceptable to the respondent it was adopted by the General Joint Committee. The personnel manager, and the general manager of the respondent, took part in the revision of the plan. The secretary of the Committee testified that this revision was undertaken in order to bring the plan within the letter, as well as within the spirit, of the Act.

The two principal changes made were the elimination of payment of compensation by the respondent to elected representatives of the employes and the substitution of an Employes' Representative Committee, composed solely of employe representatives elected by employes, for the former General Joint Committee and the Joint Executive Committee. The revised plan provides that action of the Employes' Representative Committee 'shall be final and become effective upon agreement by the company'; and, further, that any article of the plan may be amended by a vote of two-thirds of the entire membership of the committee; and 'amendments shall be in effect at the time specified by the Employes' Representative Committee, unless disapproved by the company within fifteen days after their passage.'

The grievance procedure permits the presentation of a grievance to the respondent's personnel manager, or its general manager, in the event no settlement has theretofore been effected.

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