Smith v. Evening News Association

Decision Date10 December 1962
Docket NumberNo. 13,13
Citation371 U.S. 195,83 S.Ct. 267,9 L.Ed.2d 246
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Thomas E. Harris, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Philip T. Van Zile, II, Detroit, Mich., for respondent.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner is a building maintenance employee of respondent Evening News Association, a newspaper publisher engaged in interstate commerce, and is a member of the Newspaper Guild of Detroit, a labor organization having a collective bargaining contract with respondent. Petitioner, individually and as assignee of 49 other similar employees who were also Guild members, sued respondent for breach of contract in the Circuit Court of Wayne County, Michigan.1 The complaint stated that in December 1955 and January 1956 other employees of respondent, belonging to another union, were on strike and respondent die not permit petitioner and his assignors to report to their regular shifts, although they were ready, able and available for work.2 During the same period, however, employees of the editorial, advertising and business departments, not covered by collective bargaining agreements, were permitted to report for work and were paid full wages even though there was no work available. Respondent's refusal to pay full wages to petitioner and his assignors while paying the nonunion employees, the complaint asserted, violated a clause in the contract providing that 'there shall be no discrimination against any employee because of his membership or activity in the Guild.'

The trial court sustained respondent's motion to dismiss for want of jurisdiction on the ground that the allegations, if true, would make out an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act and hence the subject matter was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed, 362 Mich. 350, 106 N.W.2d 785, relying upon San Diego Bldg. Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 79 S.Ct. 773, 3 L.Ed.2d 775, and like pre-emption cases.3 Certiorari was granted, 369 U.S. 827, 82 S.Ct. 843, 7 L.Ed.2d 793, after the decisions of this Court in Local 174, Teamsters, etc. v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95, 82 S.Ct. 571, 7 L.Ed.2d 593, and Charles Dowd Box Co. v. Courtney, 368 U.S. 502, 82 S.Ct. 519, 7 L.Ed.2d 483.

Lucas Flour and Dowd Box, as well as the later Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co., 370 U.S. 238, 82 S.Ct. 1318, 8 L.Ed.2d 462, were suits upon collective bargaining contracts brought or held to arise under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act4 and in these cases the jurisdiction of the courts was sustained although it was seriously urged that the conduct involved was arguably protected or prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act and therefore within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. In Lucas Flour as well as in Atkinson the Court expressly refused to apply the pre-emption doctrine of the Garmon case; and we likewise reject that doctrine here where the alleged conduct of the employer, not only arguably, but concededly, is an unfair labor practice within the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board.5 The authority of the Board to deal with an unfair labor practice which also violates a collective bargaining contract is not displaced by § 301, but it is not exclusive and does not destroy the jurisdiction of the courts in suits under § 301. If, as respondent strongly urges, there are situations in which serious problems will arise from both the courts and the Board having jurisdiction over acts which amount to an unfair labor practice, we shall face those cases when they arise. This is not one of them, in our view, and the National Labor Relations Board is in accord.6

We are left with respondent's claim that the predicate for escaping the Garmon rule is not present here because this action by an employee to collect wages in the form of damages is not among those 'suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization * * *,' as provided in § 301. There is support for respondent's position in decisions of the Courts of Appeals,7 and in Association of Westinghouse Salaried Employees v. Westinghouse Corp., 348 U.S. 437, 75 S.Ct. 489, 99 L.Ed. 510, a majority of the Court in three separate opinions concluded that § 301 did not give the federal courts jurisdiction over a suit brought by a union to enforce employee rights which were variously characterized as 'peculiar in the individual benefit which is their subject matter', 'uniquely personal' and arising 'from separate hiring contracts between the employer and each employee.' Id., at 460, 461, 464, 75 S.Ct., at 500, 503.

However, subsequent decisions here have removed the underpinnings of Westinghouse and its holding is no longer authoritative as a precedent. Three of the Justices in that case were driven to their conclusion because in their view § 301 was procedural only, not substantive, and therefore grave constitutional questions would be raised if § 301 was held to extend to the controversy there involved.8 However, the same three Justices observed that if, contrary to their belief, 'Congress has itself defined the law or authorized the federal courts to fashion the judicial rules governing this question, it would be self-defeating to limit the scope of the power of the federal courts to less than is necessary to accomplish this congressional aim.' Id., at 442, 75 S.Ct., at 491. Textile Workers Union of America v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448, 77 S.Ct. 912, 1 L.Ed.2d 972, of course, has long since settled that § 301 has substantive content and that Congress has directed the courts to formulate and apply federal law to suits for violation of collective bargaining contracts. There is no constitutional difficulty and § 301 is not to be given a narrow reading. Id., at 456, 457, 77 S.Ct., at 918. Section 301 has been applied to suits to compel arbitration of such individual grievances as rates of pay, hours of work and wrongful discharge, Textile Workers Union of America v. Lincoln Mills, supra; General Electric Co. v. Local 205, UEF, 353 U.S. 547, 77 S.Ct. 921, 1 L.Ed.2d 1028; to obtain specific enforcement of an arbitrator's award ordering reinstatement and back pay to individual employees, United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 80 S.Ct. 1358, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424; to recover wage increases in a contest over the validity of the collective bargaining contract, Charles Dowd Box Co. v. Courtney, supra; and to suits against individual union members for violation of a no-strike clause contained in a collective bargaining agreement. Atkinson v. Sinclair Refining Co., supra.

The concept that all suits to vindicate individual employee rights arising from a collective bargaining contract should be excluded from the coverage of § 301 has thus not survived. The rights of individual employees concerning rates of pay and conditions of employment are a major focus of the negotiation and administration of collective bargaining contracts. Individual claims lie at the heart of the grievance and arbitration machinery, are to a large degree inevitably intertwined with union interests and many times precipitate grave questions concerning the interpretation and enforceability of the collective bargaining contract on which they are based. To exclude these claims from the ambit of § 301 would stultify the congressional policy of having the administration of collective bargaining contracts accomplished under a uniform body of federal substantive law. This we are unwilling to do.

The same considerations foreclose respondent's reading of § 301 to exclude all suits brought by employees instead of unions. The word 'between,' it suggests, refers to 'suits,' not 'contracts,' and therefore only suits between unions and employers are within the purview of § 301. According to this view, suits by employees for breach of a collective bargaining contract would not arise under § 301 and would be governed by state law, if not preempted by Garmon, as this one would be, whereas a suit by a union for the same breach of the same contract would be a § 301 suit ruled by federal law. Neither the language and structure of § 301 nor its legislative history requires or persuasively supports this restrictive interpretation, which would frustrate rather than serve the congressional policy expressed in that section. 'The possibility that individual contract terms might have different meanings under state and federal law would inevitably exert a disruptive influence upon both the negotiation and administration of collective agreements.' Local 174, Teamsters, etc. v. Lucas Flour Co., supra, 369 U.S. at 103, 82 S.Ct. at 577.

We conclude that petitioner's action arises under § 301 and is not pre-empted under the Garmon rule.9 The judgment of the Supreme Court of Michigan is reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

Reversed and remanded.

Mr. Justice BLACK, dissenting.

I would affirm the Michigan Supreme Court's holding that Michigan courts are without jurisdiction to entertain suits by employees against their employers for damages measured by 'back pay' based on discrimination, which discrimination § 8(a) of the National Labor Relations Act makes an unfair labor practice and which § 10(b) and (c) subject to the jurisdiction of the Labor Board with power after hearings to award 'back pay.' It is true that there have been expressions in recent cases which indicate that a suit for the violation of a collective bargaining contract may be brought in a state or federal court even though the conduct objected to was also arguably an unfair labor practice within the Labor Board's jurisdiction.1 It seems clear to me that these expressions of opinion were not necessary to the decisions in those cases2 and that neither these prior...

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