National Labor Relations Board v. International Rice Milling Co

Decision Date04 June 1951
Docket NumberNo. 313,313
Citation341 U.S. 665,71 S.Ct. 961,95 L.Ed. 1277
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

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

Mr. Conrad Meyer III, New Orleans, La., for respondents.

Mr. Justice BURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented is whether a union violated § 8(b)(4) of the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 449, 29 U.S.C. § 151, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947,1 under the following circum- stances: Although not certified or recognized as the representative of the employees of a certain mill engaged in interstate commerce, the agents of the union picketed the mill with the object of securing recognition of the union as the collective bargaining representative of the mill employees. In the course of their picketing, the agents sought to influence, or in the language of the statute they 'encouraged,' two men in charge of a truck of a neutral customer of the mill to refuse, in the course of their employment, to go to the mill for an order of goods. For the reasons hereinafter stated, we hold that such conduct did not violate § 8(b)(4).

This case was heard here with No. 393, National Labor Relations Board v. Denver Building and Construction Trades Council, 341 U.S. 675, 71 S.Ct. 943; No. 108, International- Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. National Labor Relations Board, 341 U.S. 694, 71 S.Ct. 954; and No. 85, Local 74, United Brotherhood of Carpenters v. National Labor Relations Board, 341 U.S. 707, 71 S.Ct. 966. Its facts, however, distinguish it from those cases.

This review is confined to the single incident described in the complaint issued by the Acting Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, Local 201, A.F.L., herein called the union. The complaint originally was based upon four charges made against the union by several rice mills engaged in interstate commerce near the center of the Louisiana rice industry. The mills included the International Rice Milling Company, Inc., which gives its name to this proceeding, and the Kaplan Rice Mills, Inc., a Louisiana corporation, which operated the mill at Kaplan, Louisiana, where the incident now before us occurred. The complaint charged that the union or its agents, by their conduct toward two employees of a neutral customer of the Kaplan Rice Mills, engaged in an unfair labor practice contrary to § 8(b)(4). The Board, with one member not participating, adopted the findings and conclusions of its trial examiner as to the facts but disagreed with his recommendation that those facts constituted a violation of § 8(b)(4)(A) or (B). The Board dismissed the complaint but attached the trial examiner's intermediate report to its decision. 84 N.L.R.B. 360. The Court of Appeals set aside the dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings. 183 F.2d 21. We granted certiorari because of the importance of the principle involved and because of the conflicting views of several circuits as to the meaning of § 8(b)(4). 340 U.S. 902, 71 S.Ct. 278.2

The findings adopted by the Board show that the incident before us occurred at the union's picket line near the Kaplan Mill in October, 1947. The pickets generally carried signs, one being 'This job is unfair to' the union. The goal of the pickets was recognition of the union as the collective bargaining representative of the mill employees, but none of those employees took part in the picketing. Late one afternoon two employees of The Sales and Service House, which was a customer of the mill, came in a truck to the Kaplan Mill to obtain rice or bran for their employer. The union had no grievance against the customer and the latter was a neutral in the dispute between the union and the mill. The pickets formed a line across the road and walked toward the truck. When the truck stopped, the pickets told its occupants there was a strike on and that the truck would have to go back. Those on the truck agreed, went back to the highway and stopped. There one got out and went to the mill across the street. At that time a vice president of the Kaplan Mill came out and asked whether the truck was on its way to the mill and whether its occupants wanted to get the order they came for. The man on the truck explained that he was not the driver and that he would have to see the driver. On the driver's return, the truck proceeded with the vice president, to the mill by a short detour. The pickets ran toward the truck and threw stones at it. The truck entered the mill, but the findings do not disclose whether the articles sought there were obtained. The Board adopted the finding that 'the stopping of the Sales House truck drivers and the use of force in connection with the stoppage were within the 'scope of the employment' of the pickets as agents of the respondent (union) and that such activities are attributable to the respondent.' 84 N.L.R.B. 360, 372.

The most that can be concluded from the foregoing, to establish a violation of § 8(b)(4), is that the union, in the course of picketing the Kaplan Mill, did encourage two employees of a neutral customer to turn back from an intended trip to the mill and thus to refuse, in the course of their employment, to transport articles or perform certain services for their employer. We may assume, without the necessity of adopting the Board's findings to that effect, that the objects of such conduct on the part of the union and its agents were (1) to force Kaplan's customer to cease handling, transporting or otherwise dealing in products of the mill or to cease doing business with Kaplan, at that time and place, and (2) to add to the pressure on Kaplan to recognize the union as the bargaining representative of the mill employees.

A sufficient answer to this claimed violation of the section is that the union's picketing and its encouragement of the men on the truck did not amount to such an inducement or encouragement to 'concerted' activity as the section proscribes. While each case must be considered in the light of its surrounding circumstances, yet the applicable proscriptions of § 8(b)(4) are expressly limited to the inducement or encouragement of concerted conduct by the employees of the neutral employer.3 That language contemplates inducement or encouragement to some concert of action greater than is evidenced by the pickets' request to a driver of a single truck to discontinue a pending trip to a picketed mill. There was no attempt by the union to induce any action by the employees of the neutral customer which would be more widespread than that already described. There were no inducements or encouragements applied elsewhere than on the picket line. The limitation of the complaint to an incident in the geographically restricted area near the mill is significant, although not necessarily conclusive. The picketing was directed at the Kaplan employees and at their employer in a manner traditional in labor disputes. Clearly, that, in itself, was not proscribed by § 8(b)(4). Insofar as the union's efforts were directed beyond that and toward the employees of anyone other than Kaplan, there is no suggestion that the union sought concerted conduct by such other employees. Such efforts also fall short of the proscriptions in § 8(b)(4). In this case, therefore, we need not determine the specific objects toward which a union's encouragement of concerted conduct must be directed in order to amount to an unfair labor practice under subsection (A) or (B) of § 8(b)(4). A union's inducements or encouragements reaching individual employees of neutral employers only as they happen to approach the picketed place of business generally are not aimed at concerted, as distinguished from individual, conduct by such employees. Generally, therefore, such actions do not come within the proscription of § 8(b)(4), and they do not here.

In the instant case the violence on the picket line is not material. The complaint was not based upon that violence, as such. To reach it, the complaint more properly would have relied upon § 8(b)(1)(A)4 or would have addressed itself to local authorities. The substitution of violent coercion in place of peaceful persuasion would not in itself bring the complained-of conduct into conflict with § 8(b)(4). It is the object of union encouragement that is proscribed by that section, rather than the means adopted to make it felt.5

That Congress did not seek, by § 8(b)(4), to interfere with the ordinary strike has been indicated recently by this Court.6 This is emphasized in § 13 as follows 'Nothing in this Act, except as specifically provided for herein, shall be construed so as either to interfere with or impede or diminish in any way the right to strike, or to affect the limitations or qualifications on that right.' 61 Stat. 151, 29 U.S.C. (Supp. III) § 163, 29 U.S.C.A. § 163.

By § 13, Congress has made it clear that § 8(b)(4), and all other parts of the Act which otherwise might be read so as to interfere with, impede or diminish the union's traditional right to strike, may be so read only if such interference, impediment or diminution is 'specifically provided for' in the Act.7 No such specific provision in § 8(b)(4) reaches the incident here. The material legislative history supports this view.8

On the single issue before us, we sustain the action of the Board and the judgment of the Court of Appeals, accordingly, is reversed.


1 'Sec. 8. * * *

'(b) It shall be an unfair labor practice for a labor organization or its agents—

'(4) to engage in, or, to induce or encourage the employees of any employer to engage in, a strike or a concerted refusal in the course of their employment to use, manufacture, process, transport, or otherwise handle or work on any goods, articles,...

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