Southern Co v. National Labor Relations Board, No. 320

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBYRNES
Citation62 S.Ct. 886,316 U.S. 31,86 L.Ed. 1246
PartiesSOUTHERN S.S. CO. v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD et al
Decision Date06 April 1942
Docket NumberNo. 320

316 U.S. 31
62 S.Ct. 886
86 L.Ed. 1246
SOUTHERN S.S. CO.

v.

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD et al.

No. 320.
Argued Feb. 9, 10, 1942.
Decided April 6, 1942.

Messrs. Joseph W. Henderson and Randolph W. Childs, both of Philadelphia, Pa., for petitioner.

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

Page 32

Mr.Wm. L. Standard, of New York City, for respondent, National Maritime Union of America.

Mr. Justice BYRNES delivered the opinion of the Court.

Upon the petition of a union not a party to the present suit, the National Labor Relations Board ordered an election among petitioner's unlicensed employees to determine their collective bargaining representative. The elections were held on board seven of petitioner's vessels during October, 1937. In the case of the election on board the S.S. City of Houston, the labor organizations involved objected to the presence of any representative of the petitioner during the voting, and consequently none was admitted by the Board. No such objection was raised with respect to the subsequent balloting, and petitioner's representatives were present while the vote was taken on board the remaining six vessels. The National Maritime Union obtained a clear majority of all the votes cast. Because of the exclusion of its representative from the voting on the S.S. City of Houston, petitioner objected to the certification of the N.M.U. as the exclusive bargaining representative of the employees in the unit. On January 26, 1938, the Board rejected petitioner's contention, and issued a certification order. 4 N.L.R.B. 1140.

Six months later, on July 26, the N.M.U. filed charges against petitioner, which it amended on November 22. On November 23, the Board issued a complaint in which it accused petitioner of violations of Sections 8(1), (3) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act. U.S.C., Title 29, Section 158(1), (3)(5), 29 U.S.C.A. § 158(1, 3, 5). The allegations of the complaint were that the N.M.U. had been certified in January as exclusive bargaining representative, that petitioner had con-

Page 33

sistently refused since that time to bargain with the Union, that as a result of this refusal to bargain a strike had occurred on July 18 aboard petitioner's S.S. City of Fort Worth while docked at Houston, Texas, that upon the City of Fort Worth's return to Philadelphia on July 25 five members of the crew1 were discharged because of their membership and activity in the Union and particularly because of their participation in the strike, and that as a result of these discharges other members2 of the crew of the Fort Worth had gone on strike while the vessel was at home dock in Philadelphia. In its answer to this complaint, petitioner generally denied these allegations and chiefly contended: first, that it had been under no obligation to bargain with the N.M.U. because the Board's refusal to permit petitioner to be represented at the election aboard the S.S. City of Houston rendered the entire certification proceedings void; and second, that the discharge of the five members of the City of Fort Worth was not an unfair labor practice because it was based upon their misconduct in striking on July 18 while under Shipping Articles, away from home port, and on board ship.

After the usual proceedings, on April 22, 1940, the Board issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order. 23 N.L.R.B. 26. Its findings, which must be set out in some detail, follow:

After the election and the certification of the N.M.U. in January, 1938, the Union made persistent efforts through its representatives to arrange a bargaining conference with officials of the petitioner. Every such attempt was frustrated by the latter, who refused even to answer the requests until August. In that month the Union was notified that petitioner would not undertake to bargain

Page 34

with it 'until the validity of the Board's certification was settled by the Board and the courts.'

On July 17, while the City of Fort Worth was docked at Houston, thirteen unlicensed members of the crew met in a union hall. They decided to strike the next day to compel petitioner to recognize the Union and to issue to the Union's shore delegates the passes without which they could not board petitioner's vessels. At 8 o'clock the following morning the strike began. One of the men, Tracey, failed to turn the steam 'on deck' for use in loading the cargo. He was then asked by the first assistant engineer why he had failed to do so, and answered that a strike was on, explaining the strikers' demands. When the first assistant engineer turned on the steam himself, Tracey persuaded Braun, the fireman, to leave his post. And Ferguson, who came on duty just at that moment to replace Braun as fireman, also refused to tend the fires. The second assistant engineer then undertook to tend the fires himself, and Tracey, Ferguson and Braun went to the poop deck where the rest of the strikers were sitting. The poop deck is the usual meeting place of the crew when not on duty.

From that time until evening the strikers sat quietly by, engaging in no violence and not interfering with the officers of the ship or the non-striking members of the crew who proceeded with the loading of the cargo. The strikers did not 'claim to hold the ship in defiance of the right of possession of the owner'.3 But when the captain

Page 35

ordered them to return to work, they refused. They continued to refuse after a deputy United States Shipping Commissioner came aboard and read to them that provision of their shipping articles in which they had promised 'to be obedient to the lawful commands' of the master. Late in the afternoon, although he had not been authorized to do so, petitioner's attorney in Houston promised the Union's attorney in that city that he would meet with the latter during the following week to negotiate an agreement and that he would recommend to petitioner that passes be granted to shore delegates. As a result of this promise, the strike was ended at about 7 p.m. and the ship sailed on schedule at about 9 p.m.

The return voyage to Philadelphia was marked by no further difficulty. However, during the course of it the captain decided not to reship five of the strikers.4 When the ship reached port on July 25 and the men signed off the shipping articles, these five were informed that they would not be reshipped. Most of them had been members of the City of Fort Worth's crew continuously for a considerable length of time.5 It was the custom of petitioner to have the seamen sign new articles for the next voyage when signing off the old, but even when this was not done the men considered themselves employed for the next voyage unless notified to the contrary. Under these circumstances the Board found that the five men in question had actually been discharged and that their employment had

Page 36

not simply ended as of course when the shipping articles expired. Seven6 of the other men who had engaged in the Houston strike immediately struck again in protest against the discharge of their fellows. On the basis of this evidence the Board found that both the strike at Houston on July 18 and the strike at Philadelphia on July 25 were caused by petitioner's unfair labor practices. And it made a specific finding with respect to each of the five men that the discharge was based upon participation in the Houston strike. It concluded that petitioner had interfered with its employees' right to organize and bargain collectively, in violation of § 8(1); that it had discriminated with regard to tenure of employment, in violation of § 8(3); and that it had refused to bargain with the authorized representative of its employees, in violation of § 8(5).

Consequently, it ordered petitioner to cease and desist: (a) from discouraging membership in the N.M.U. or any other labor organization by discriminating in regard to employment; (b) from refusing to bargain collectively with the N.M.U.; and (c) from interfering with, restraining, or coercing its employees in any way in the exercise of their right to organize and bargain collectively. In addition, and 'in order to effectuate the policies of the Act,' the order included the following affirmative requirements: (a) that petitioner bargain with the N.M.U.; (b) that it reinstate with back pay the five men discharged; (c) that, upon application, it offer immediate reinstatement to the July 25th strikers; and (d) that it post notices of its intention to conform to this order.

Petitioner sought to have this order set aside by the Circuit Court of Appeals. The Circuit Court, however, sitting en banc, and with one judge dissenting, entered a decree enforcing the order with a single minor modifica-

Page 37

tion.7 3 Cir., 120 F.2d 505. We granted certiorari because of the importance of the matters involved, and because of an asserted conflict with decisions of this Court and of other Circuit Courts of Appeal.

Petitioner's contentions in this Court are: (1) that the refusal by the Board to permit a company representative aboard the S.S. City of Houston during the voting vitiated the entire election and certification proceeding and absolved petitioner of any duty under the Act to bargain with the N.M.U.; (2) that the employment of the seamen involved automatically terminated when they signed off the shipping articles in Philadelphia, so that they cannot be said to have been 'discharged'; and (3) that participation in the Houston strike by the discharged seamen was misconduct of such a character that the Board cannot order their reinstatement.

The first two of these arguments are without substance. The Board enjoys a wide discretion in determining the procedure necessary to insure the fair and free choice of bargaining representatives by employees. N.L.R.B. v. Waterman Steamship Corporation, 309 U.S. 206, 226, 60 S.Ct. 493, 503, 84 L.Ed. 704; N.L.R.B. v. Falk Corporation, 308...

To continue reading

Request your trial
206 practice notes
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Insurance Agents International Union, AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1960
    ...Relations Board v. Sands Mfg. Co., 306 U.S. 332, 59 S.Ct. 508, 83 L.Ed. 682; and Southern S.S. Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 316 U.S. 31, 62 S.Ct. 886, 86 L.Ed. 1246. But 'limitations and qualifications' do not extinguish the rule. For the Board to proceed, as it apparently claims ......
  • Western Addition Community Organization v. NLRB, No. 71-1656.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 29, 1973
    ...inconsistent policies embodied in other legislation. As the Supreme Court noted in Southern Steamship Co. v. N. L. R. 485 F.2d 928 B., 316 U.S. 31, 47, 62 S.Ct. 886, 894, 86 L.Ed. 1246 The Board has not been commissioned to effectuate the policies of the Labor Relations Act so single-minded......
  • State v. Local No. 8-6, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Intern. Union, AFL-CIO, AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • September 29, 1958
    ...laws which have the effect of limiting and qualifying the right to strike. In Southern S. S. Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 316 U.S. 31, 62 S.Ct. 886, 86 L.Ed. 1246, seamen of a ship whose home port was Philadelphia struck and refused to obey orders while in port at Houston. The dis......
  • Idaho Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council v. Inland Pac. Chapter Builders & Contractors, Inc., Nos. 11–35985
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 16, 2015
    ...of an administrative body that it undertake this accommodation without excessive emphasis upon its immediate task.” S. S.S. Co. v. NLRB, 316 U.S. 31, 47, 62 S.Ct. 886, 86 L.Ed. 1246 (1942) ; see also Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137, 142–44, 122 S.Ct. 1275, 152 L.Ed.2d ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
198 cases
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Insurance Agents International Union, AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1960
    ...Relations Board v. Sands Mfg. Co., 306 U.S. 332, 59 S.Ct. 508, 83 L.Ed. 682; and Southern S.S. Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 316 U.S. 31, 62 S.Ct. 886, 86 L.Ed. 1246. But 'limitations and qualifications' do not extinguish the rule. For the Board to proceed, as it apparently claims ......
  • Western Addition Community Organization v. NLRB, No. 71-1656.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 29, 1973
    ...inconsistent policies embodied in other legislation. As the Supreme Court noted in Southern Steamship Co. v. N. L. R. 485 F.2d 928 B., 316 U.S. 31, 47, 62 S.Ct. 886, 894, 86 L.Ed. 1246 The Board has not been commissioned to effectuate the policies of the Labor Relations Act so single-minded......
  • State v. Local No. 8-6, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Intern. Union, AFL-CIO, AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • September 29, 1958
    ...laws which have the effect of limiting and qualifying the right to strike. In Southern S. S. Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 316 U.S. 31, 62 S.Ct. 886, 86 L.Ed. 1246, seamen of a ship whose home port was Philadelphia struck and refused to obey orders while in port at Houston. The dis......
  • Idaho Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council v. Inland Pac. Chapter Builders & Contractors, Inc., Nos. 11–35985
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 16, 2015
    ...of an administrative body that it undertake this accommodation without excessive emphasis upon its immediate task.” S. S.S. Co. v. NLRB, 316 U.S. 31, 47, 62 S.Ct. 886, 86 L.Ed. 1246 (1942) ; see also Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137, 142–44, 122 S.Ct. 1275, 152 L.Ed.2d ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Federal Protection of Labor
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 224-1, November 1942
    • November 1, 1942
    ...N.L. 80 Fansteel Metallurgical Corp., 306 U. S. R.B., 8 N.L.R.B. 621, 311 U. S. 72. 240. 86 Sec. 8(5) of the act. 81 Southern S.S. Co., 62 S. Ct. 886. 87 Sec. 9(a) of the ann.sagepub.com Downloaded from at SAGE PUBLICATIONS on December 4, 2012 16 questions its status.88 If it does not ees......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT