Virginia Electric Power Co v. National Labor Relations Board

Decision Date07 June 1943
Docket NumberNo. 709,709
Citation319 U.S. 533,63 S.Ct. 1214,87 L.Ed. 1568
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

See 320 U.S. —-, 64 S.Ct. 27, 88 L.Ed. —-.

Messrs. T. Justin Moore and George D. Gibson, both of Richmond, Va., for petitioner.

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

Mr. Justice MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

After the remand of this case in 314 U.S. 469, 62 S.Ct. 344, 86 L.Ed. 348, the Board reconsidered it upon the original record, made new findings of fact, and concluded that the Company had violated s 8(1)(2) and (3) of the Act. 29 U.S.C. § 158, 29 U.S.C.A. § 158. A new order was entered requiring the Company to cease and desist from the unfair labor practices found and from giving effect to its contract with the Independent Organization of Employees. The order also directed the Company to withdraw recognition from and disestablish the I.O.E. as a representative of its employees, to reinstate with back pay two of three employees found to have been discriminatorily discharged, to reimburse its employees in the amount of dues and assessments deducted from their wages by the Company and paid to the I.O.E., and to post appropriate notices. 44 N.L.R.B. 404. The court below, one judge dissenting in part, upheld the order in full. 132 F.2d 390. The I.O.E. then apparently decided to dissolve, and the Company withdrew recognition from and disestablish d it. Because of an apparent conflict of decisions, we granted the Company's petition for certiorari which challenged only the authority of the Board to require reimbursement of the checked-off dues, a point not reached when the case was here before.1

The new findings are much more elaborate than those originally before us in 314 U.S. 469, 62 S.Ct. 344, 86 L.Ed. 348, and it would serve no useful purpose to discuss them minutely. The following outline is sufficient for an understanding of the issues raised: The findings sketch in considerable detail the anti-union background of the Company and the activities of Bishop, the superintendent of the Company's Norfolk transportation department, including his suggestions to employees Ruett and Elliott that they form unaffiliated organizations. The growth of the I.O.E. is traced from the speeches and meetings of May 24, 1937, which were held after requests for collective bargaining were received by the Company from several small groups of employees as a result of the bulletin of April 26, and which were attended by representatives selected by the employees at the suggestion of the Company. The tracing continues with a discussion of the reactions of those representatives after the Company officials left the meetings and their subsequent reports delivered to the employees on Company property and in some instances on Company time with the help of supervisory employees. Emphasis is placed upon the frequent meetings on Company property held by the resultant Norfolk and Richmond steering committees during the first part of June. The Constitution and by-laws of the I.O.E. were adopted on June 15. The membership campaign began June 17, and within two weeks the I.O.E. had a majority of the Company's 3000 widely scattered employees. The Board contrasted this with its findings that during the critical formative period of the I.O.E. the Company discharged one Mann, an outspoken foe of an 'inside' union, that Edwards, a supervisor, kept C.I.O. meetings under surveillance and warned some employees against 'messing with the C.I.O.', and that the Company denied the use of its premises to representatives of national labor organizations, and then drew the conclusion that the quick success of the I.O.E. membership campaign 'must be attributed in large part to the respondent's (Company's) sponsorship of and assistance to the I.O.E. and its persistent and well-known opposition to national unions.'

Continuing, the findings relate that the representatives of the I.O.E. in convention on July 17 and 18, drew up a proposed contract, embodying demands for a closed-shop, check-off of I.O.E. dues and substantial wage increases, which was sent to the Company with a request for a bargaining conference. The conference began on July 30, and the Company quickly gave recognition and offered no objection to the check-off provision, with the addition of a proviso that the employees might rev ke their authorizations at any time. The by-laws of the I.O.E., however, required all members to authorize the deduction of dues, and the membership applications contained such authorizations. The closed-shop provision was discussed for two hours and then postponed for other matters until the following day, when it was again taken up for two hours and then agreed to with the addition, at the instance of the Company, of a provision that nothing in the contract should prevent employees from joining or remaining members of any other labor organization. Wage increases, costing the Company $600,000 annually, were granted, and, as President Holtzclaw had promised at the May 24 meeting in Richmond, they were made retroactive to June 1. The contract was formally executed August 5, and on August 20 the Company paid $3,784.50 to the I.O.E. as dues under the check-off provision, although it had not yet deducted that entire amount from the wages of its employees. The Board considered 'the promptness with which the respondent (Company) agreed to grant the I.O.E. a check-off of dues and a closed shop * * * after a comparatively few hours discussion', and then found that the Company 'agreed to the closed shop and the check-off of I.O.E. dues in order to entrench the I.O.E. among the employees and to insure its financial stability.'

On the basis of these findings the Board concluded that: 'the respondent has engaged in a course of conduct calculated to restrain and discourage its employees from self organization in nationally affiliated unions and to divert and canalize their organizational efforts to the establishment of a company-wide unaffiliated labor organization; that in its totality, the respondent's conduct has been coercive of its employees in the exercise of their right to self-organization, with the result that when they formed the I.O.E. they were not as free as the statute requires; that the I.O.E. is the fruit of the respondent's illegal interference with, and restraint and coercion of its employees; and that the respondent has dominated the formation and administration of the I.O.E., and has contributed financial and other support to it.' and again that: 'the I.O.E. was not the result of the employees' free choice; that it was initiated in response to the urgings of the respondent at the May 24 meetings to set up their 'own' organization; that the respondent's support of the organization during the critical formative period and its consistent opposition to nationally affiliated organizations are largely responsible for the adherence of the employees to the organization; and that the contract with the I.O.E. granting a closed shop and the check-off of the I.O.E. dues marked the climax of the respondent's efforts to erect an unaffiliated organization as a bulwark against nationally affiliated organizations. We find that the respondent has dominated and interfered with the formation and administration of the I.O.E. and has contributed support to it, * * *'

In discussing the appropriate remedy for the unfair labor practices found, the Board stated that the Company's domination and interference in the formation and administration of the I.O.E. constituted 'a continuing obstacle to the exercise by the employees of the rights guaranteed them by the Act' and therefore the disestablishment of the I.O.E. was necessary. In addition the Board was of opinion that 'under the circumstances of this case' the Company should be ordered to reimburse its employees for the amounts checked-off their wages and paid to the I.O.E.2

The company no longer attacks the conclusion that the I.O.E. was dominated by it, but it does contest the validity of the findings relating to domination in so far as may be pertinent to the reimbursement order, and it challenges the power of the Board to make that order under the circumstances of the case.

Under the applicable principles governing the scope of our review of Board orders, we think the Board's findings and conclusions regarding the Company's domination of and interference with the I.O.E. are supported by sub- stantial evidence, and therefore conclusive. See National Labor Relations Board v. Link-Belt Co., 311 U.S. 584, 61 S.Ct. 358, 85 L.Ed. 368; International Association of Machinists, etc., v. National Labor Relations Board, 311 U.S. 72, 61 S.Ct. 83, 85 L.Ed. 50; National Labor Relations Board v. Automotive Maintenance Machinery Co., 315 U.S. 282, 62 S.Ct. 608, 86 L.Ed. 848; National Labor Relations Board v. Nevada Consol. Copper Corp., 316 U.S. 105, 62 S.Ct. 960, 86 L.Ed. 1305; National Labor Relations Board v. Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Co., 319 U.S. 50, 63 S.Ct. 905, 87 L.Ed. —-. These findings and conclusions are not subject to the infirmities of the original ones which prompted our decision in 314 U.S. 469, 62 S.Ct. 344, 86 L.Ed. 348. While the bulletin of April 26 and the speeches of May 24 are still stressed, they are considered not in isolation but as part of a pattern of events adding up to the conclusion of domination and interference. We are also of opinion that the Board had power to enter the check-off reimbursement order in the circumstances of this case.

Section 10(c) of the Act3 authorizes the Board to require persons found engaged or engaging in unfair labor practices 'to take such affirmative action, including reinstatement of employees with or without back pay, as will effectuate the policies of this Act.' The declared policy of the Act in § 1 is to prevent, by encouraging and protecting...

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