National Woodwork Manufacturers Association v. National Labor Relations Board National Labor Relations Board v. National Woodwork Manufacturers Association

Decision Date17 April 1967
Docket NumberNos. 110 and 111,s. 110 and 111
Citation87 S.Ct. 1250,18 L.Ed.2d 357,386 U.S. 612
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

See 387 U.S. 926, 87 S.Ct. 2026.

[Syllabus from pages 612-614 intentionally omitted] Charles B. Mahin, Chicago, Ill., for petitioners in No. 110 and respondents in No. 111.

Dominick L., Manoli, Washington, D.C., for respondent in No. 110 and petitioner in No. 111.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Under the Landrum-Griffin Act amendments enacted in 1959, 73 Stat. 542, § 8(b) (4)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act, 61 Stat. 141, became § 8(b)(4)(B) and § 8(e) was added. The questions here are whether, in the circumstances of these cases, the Metropolitan District Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, AFL—CIO (hereafter the Union), committed the unfair labor practices prohibited by §§ 8(e) and 8(b)(4)(B).1

Frouge Corporation, a Bridgeport, Connecticut, was the general contractor on a housing project in Philadelphia. Frouge had a collective bargaining agreement with the Carpenters' International Union under which Frouge agreed to be bound by the rules and regulations agreed upon by local unions with contractors in areas in which Frouge had jobs. Frouge was therefore subject to the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement between the Union and an organization of Philadelphia contractors, the General Building Contractors Association, Inc. A sentence in a provision of that agreement entitled Rule 17 provides that '* * * No member of this District Council will handle * * * any doors * * * which have been fitted prior to being furnished on the job. * * *'2 Frouge's Philadelphia project called for 3,600 doors. Customarily, before the doors could be hung on such projects, 'blank' or 'blind' doors would be mortised for the knob, routed for the hinges, and beveled to make them fit between jambs. These are tasks traditionally performed in the Philadelphia area by the carpenters employed on the jobsite. However, precut and prefitted doors ready to hang may be purchased from door manufacturers. Although Frouge's contract and job specifications did not call for premachined doors, and 'blank' or 'blind' doors could have been ordered, Frouge contracted for the purchase of premachined doors from a Pennsylvania door manufacturer which is a member of the National Woodwork Manufacturers Association, petitioner in No. 110 and respondent in No. 111. The Union ordered its carpenter members not to hang the doors when they arrived at the jobsite. Frouge thereupon withdrew the prefabricated doors and substituted 'blank' doors which were fitted and cut by its carpenters on the jobsite.

The National Woodwork Manufacturers Associations and another filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Union alleging that by including the 'will not handle' sentence of Rule 17 in the collective bargaining agreement the Union committed the unfair labor practice under § 8(e) of entering into an 'agreement * * * whereby (the) employer * * * agrees to case or refrain from handling * * * any of the products of any other employer * * *,' and alleging further that in enforcing the sentence against Frouge, the Union committed the unfair labor practice under § 8(b)(4)(B) of 'forcing or requiring any person to cease using * * * the products of any other * * * manufacturer * * *.' The National Labor Relations Board dismissed the charges, 149 N.L.R.B. 646.3 The Board adopted the findings of the Trial Examiner that the 'will not handle' sentence in Rule 17 was language used by the parties to protect and preserve cutting out and fitting as unit work to be performed by the jobsite carpenters. The Board also adopted the holding of the Trial Examiner that both the sentence of Rule 17 itself and its maintenance against Frouge were therefore 'primary' activity outside the prohibitions of §§ 8(e) and 8(b)(4)(B). The following statement of the Trial Examiner was adopted by the Board:

'I am convinced and find that the tasks of cutting out and fitting millwork, including doors, has, at least customarily, been performed by the carpenters employed on the jobsite. Certainly, this provision of rule 17 is not concerned with the nature of the employer with whom the contractor does business nor with the employment conditions of other employers or employees, nor does it attempt to control such other employers or employees. The provision guards against encroachments on the cutting out and fitting work of the contract unit em- ployees who have performed that work in the past. Its purpose is plainly to regulate the relations between the general contractor and his own employees and to protect a legitimate economic interest of the employees by preserving their unit work. Merely because it incidentally also affects other parties is no basis for invalidating this provision.

'I find that * * * (the provision) is a lawful work-protection or work-preservation provision and that Respondents have not violated Section 8(e) of the Act by entering into agreements containing this provision and by thereafter maintaining and enforcing this provision.' 149 N.L.R.B., at 657.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the Board in this respect. 354 F.2d 594, 599. The court held that the 'will not handle' agreement violated § 8(e) without regard to any 'primary' or 'secondary' objective, and remanded to the Board with instructions to enter an order accordingly. In the court's view, the sentence was designed to effect a product boycott like the one condemned in Allen Bradley Co. v. Local Union No. 3, etc., 325 U.S. 797, 65 S.Ct. 1533, 89 L.Ed. 1939, and Congress meant, in enacting § 8(e) and § 8(b)(4)(B), to prohibit such agreements and conduct forcing employers to enter into them.

The Court of Appeals sustained, however, the dismissal of the § 8(b)(4)(B) charge. The court agreed with the Board that the Union's conduct as to Frouge involved only a primary dispute with it, and held that the conduct was therefore not prohibited by that section but expressly protected by the proviso '(t)hat nothing contained in this clause (B) shall be construed to make unlawful, where not otherwise unlawful, any primary strike or primary picketing * * *.' 354 F.2d, at 597.

We granted certiorari on the petition of the Woodwork Manufacturers Association in No. 110 and on the petition of the Board in No. 111. 384 U.S. 968, 86 S.Ct. 1863, 16 L.Ed.2d 680. We affirm in No. 110 and reverse in No. 111.


Even on the doubtful premise that the words of § 8(e) unambiguously embrace the sentence of Rule 17,4 this does not end inquiry into Congress' purpose in enacting the section. It is a 'familiar rule, that a thing may be within the letter of the statute and yet not within the statute, because not within its spirit nor within the intention of its makers.' Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 459, 12 S.Ct. 511, 512, 36 L.Ed. 226. That principle has particular application in the construction of labor legislation which is 'to a marked degree, the result of conflict and compromise between strong contending forces and deeply held views on the role of organized labor in the free economic life of the Nation and the appropriate balance to be struck between the uncontrolled power of management and labor to further their respective interests.' Local 1976, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, etc. v. National Labor Relations Board (Sand Door), 357 U.S. 93, 99—100, 78 S.Ct. 1011, 1016, 2 L,.ed.2d 1186. See, e.g., National Labor Relations Board v. Fruit & Vegetable Packers, etc., 377 U.S. 58, 84 S.Ct. 1063, 12 L.Ed.2d 129; National Labor Relations Board v. Servette, Inc., 377 U.S. 46, 84 S.Ct. 1098, 12 L.Ed.2d 121; National Labor Relations Board v. Drivers, etc., Local Union, 362 U.S. 274, 80 S.Ct. 706, 4 L.Ed.2d 710; Mastro Plastics Corp. v. National Labor Relations Board, 350 U.S. 270, 76 S.Ct. 349, 100 L.Ed. 309; National Labor Relations Board v. Lion Oil Co., 352 U.S. 282, 77 S.Ct. 330, 1 L.Ed.2d 331; National Labor Relations Board v. International Rice Milling Co., 341 U.S. 665, 71 S.Ct. 961, 95 L.Ed. 1284; Local 761, Intern. Union of Electrical, etc., Workers AFL—CIO v. National Labor Relations Board, 366 U.S. 667, 81 S.Ct. 1285, 6 L.Ed.2d 592.

Strongly held opposing views have invariably marked controversy over labor's use of the boycott to further its aims by involving an employer in disputes not his own. But congressional action to deal with such conduct has stopped short of proscribing identical activity having the object of pressuring the employer for agreements regulating relations between him and his own employees. That Congress meant §§ 8(e) and 8(b)(4)(B) to prohibit only 'secondary' objectives clearly appears from an examination of the history of congressional action on the subject; we may, by such an examination, 'reconstitute the gamut of values current at the time when the words were uttered.'5

The history begins with judicial application of the Sherman Act (26 Stat. 209) to labor activities. Federal court injunctions freely issued against all manner of strikes and boycotts under rulings that condemned virtually every collective activity of labor as an unlawful restraint of trade.6 The first congressional response to vehement labor protests came with § 20 of the Clayton Act in 1914. That section purported drastically to limit the injunction power of federal courts in controversies 'involving, or growing out of, a dispute concerning terms or conditions of employment.' In terms, it prohibited restraining any person from 'ceasing to perform any work or labor' or 'from ceasing to patronize or to employ any party to such dispute, or from...

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