National Licorice Co v. National Labor Relations Board

Decision Date04 March 1940
Docket NumberNo. 272,272
Citation60 S.Ct. 569,84 L.Ed. 799,309 U.S. 350
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. Abraham Mann and Edward M. Ladden, both of New York City, for petitioner.

Mr. Robert B. Watts, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Apart from the sufficiency of the evidence to support an order of the National Labor Relations Board, the questions of importance presented for our decision are whether the Board has authority to order an employer not to enforce contracts with its employees, found to have been procured in violation of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., and to contain provisions violating that act, in the absence of the employees as parties to the proceeding; and whether the Board has authority to make its order relating to the contracts, although the unfair labor practices found to affect the contracts were not set up in the charge presented to the Board, on the basis of which it issued its complaint.

On August 2, 1937, the Bakery & Confectionery Workers International Union of America, Local Union No. 405, a labor organization, affiliated with the American Federa- tion of Labor, lodged with the National Labor Relations Board an amended charge, alleging that petitioner had engaged in certain unfair labor practices in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. After a complaint by the Board charging petitioner with unfair labor practices had been served October 7, 1937, and after hearings, the Board found jurisdictional facts, which need not be repeated, and other facts which may be shortly summarized as follows: Petitioner is engaged in business in the manufacture of licorice products which it sells and ships in commerce, employing at its Brooklyn, New York plant about one hundred and forty production employees. The Board found that early in July, 1937, the Union began to secure signatures of petitioner's employees to applications for membership; that on July 14, 1937, ninety-nine of petitioner's one hundred and forty employees had signed applications for membership, designating the Union as the applicant's representative for collective bargaining; that the member had increased to one hundred and nine on July 19th or 20th. On that date a meeting was held between representatives of the Union and officers of petitioner, at which the Union demands were presented. The negotiations came to nothing and were promptly followed by an unsuccessful effort on the part of petitioner's representatives to circulate among the employees a petition, nominating a committee to act as their collective bargaining representative.

On July 29th a second meeting took place between representatives of the Union and the president and other officers of the company, at which the petitioner declined to recognize the Union as the bargaining representative of all the employees, and declared that it would negotiate with the Union only as the bargaining representative of its members. The meeting adjourned without reaching any agreement. On August 2nd the employees went out on strike. The plant was closed and not reopened until the conclusion of the strike on August 25th. August 5th had been agreed upon for a third meeting, and on the evening of August 2nd, after the strike had begun, the Union representatives wrote to petitioner stating that the Union was ready to meet with petitioner at any time or place which it would designate 'in order to mediate the dispute and through collective bargaining arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement.' Petitioner replied, declaring that it believed the Union had called the strike. It cancelled the meeting of August 5th and asserted that it would not 'set any further time for negotiations until we have a letter from you informing us as to whether or not this strike was instigated, ordered or approved by your Union or officials of the Union.' Representatives of the Union denied that it had called the strike. The Board found that the strike was the result of spontaneous action by the employees because of dissatisfaction with the course of negotiations between the Union and petitioner.

On August 27th after the plant was reopened, petitioner sent a letter to each employee requesting him to return to work on August 30th. On the same day petitioner's representative met with three employees who stated that they were anxious to return to work, and asked whether they could have their own committee and bargain with petitioner. They were informed that if they could obtain the authorization of a majority of the employees, petitioner would deal with them. Thereafter, petitioner's president, at the request of one of the three, prepared a form of letter designating a committee of workers as the Collective Bargaining Representatives of the employees and revoking the authority to any other organization. The letter was signed by the members of the committee and one hundred and ten other employees, and returned to petitioner on September 9th.

At a meeting with the Committee on September 10th petitioner's president renewed proposals for a contract which he had made at the meetings with the Union representatives on July 20th and July 29th, stipulating for a five per cent. wage increase, time and a half for overtime, and one week's vacation with pay. The Committee's only request related to pay for holidays and a reduction of the term of the contract from five to three years, which was granted with some modification. As finally agreed upon the contract purports to be made between the petitioner, the Committee and 'each and every one of the employees'.1 Petitioner furnished the Committee members with mimeographed copies of the agreement, telling them to explain it to the best of their ability to the employees, and giving explicit instructions as to the manner in which the individual contracts were to be executed. There was testimony by a number of witnesses that petitioner's president informed the employees that he would not 'protect their jobs and they would not get five per cent. if they did not sign the agreement. One group of fourteen employees asked for representation on the Committee and were referred to petitioner's president, who, in refusing the request, informed them that 'the Committee had been picked already. There is enough right now on the Committee.' The contract is stated to be directly between the petitioner and the individual employee and under it the Committee as such has no rights or duties. It was signed by the Committee and one hundred and eighteen employees. The Committee appears to have functioned only so long as it was necessary to obtain the individual signatures on the contract. The benefits of the contract were limited to those employees who signed. In return the signers relinquished the right to strike, the right to demand a closed shop or signed agreement with any union. The contract also contained provisions for arbitration as to rate of wages and the number of regular hours of employment per week by an arbitrator designated by and mutually acceptable to petitioner and the Committee, but provided that the 'question as to the propriety of an employee's discharge is in no event to be one for arbitration or mediation. * * *'

From these subsidiary findings of fact the Board concluded that petitioner, by refusing to bargain collectively with the Union on July 20th and July 29th and thereafter had engaged in unfair labor practices within the meaning of § 8(5) of the Act; that petitioner, by coercing and intimidating employees in the exercise of their rights to self-organization and collective bargaining, and by persuading and coercing its employees to refrain from becoming members of the Union and to sign individual contracts of employment, had engaged in an unfair labor practice within the meaning of § 8(1) of the Act, and that by initiating, sponsoring and dominating a labor organization of its employees, the Collective Bargaining Committee, it had engaged in unfair labor practices within the meaning of § 8(1) and (2) of the Act. The Board's order directed petitioner to desist from dominating and interfering with the administration of the Collective Bargaining Committee, from recognizing the Committee as representing petitioner's employees, from giving effect to petitioner's contracts with the Committee and with the individual employees, and from refusing to bargain collectively with the Union. As affirmative relief, designed to effectuate the policy of the Act as authorized by § 10(c), the Board ordered petitioner to bargain collectively, on request, with the Union; to withdraw recognition from the Committee; to inform the Committee and employees who had contracted individually that 'such contract constitutes a violation' of the Act; that the employees are relieved from all obligations under it; that petitioner will 'no longer demand its performance' and to post appropriate notices.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, upon petition of the Board for enforcement of the order, directed that it be enforced except for a modification of that part of the order which directed that petitioner recognize and bargain with the Union. The order of the Court of Appeals directed that this part of the Board's order be conditioned upon a determination in an election that the Union is still the choice as bargaining representative of a majority of the employees. 104 F.2d 655.

Upon a petition which challenged the authority of the Board to make so much of its order as related to the contracts with petitioner's employees, without making the employees parties to the proceeding, we granted certiorari October 9, 1939, because of the importance of the question in the administration of the National Labor Relations Act, and because of an asserted misapplication of the principles of National Labor Relations Board v. Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines, 303 U.S. 261...

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