Babbitt v. United Farm Workers National Union

RESPONDENT: United Farm Workers National Union
LOCATION: Residence of Irving Dunaway

DOCKET NO.: 78-225
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 442 US 289 (1979)
ARGUED: Feb 21, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 05, 1979

Jerome Cohen - for appellees
Rex E. Lee - for appellants

Facts of the case


Media for Babbitt v. United Farm Workers National Union

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 21, 1979 in Babbitt v. United Farm Workers National Union

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Babbitt against United Farm Workers.

Mr. Lee, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Rex E. Lee:

Thank you Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is an appeal from a judgment of three-judge District Court, holding unconstitutional in its entirety, Arizona’s Agricultural Employment Relations Act.

The invalidated statute is patterned after the National Labor Relations Act, that is it guarantees employee organizational rights, provides for collective bargaining, secret ballot, election process.

It prohibits 20 separate unfair labor practices, establishes an agriculture labor relations board, gives that board authority to adopt rules and regulations and generally to enforce and implement the policies of that Act.

At the time that this case went to trial, the parties stipulated to 20 cases in which the Act had been applied in some way.

Eight of those involved secondary boycotts.

Six were election proceeding and six were proceeding against employers because of unfair labor practices, employer unfair labor practices as defined by the Act.

The focus at the trial was not on these instances of enforcement for reasons that I'll develop in just about two minutes.

Rather the great bulk of the evidence at the trial concentrated on expert opinion concerning how the Act would probably be interpreted and how it would probably operate.

The principle issue at the trial was how the election provisions would be applied and how long it will take to hold an election under the Act in the view of the --

Warren E. Burger:

Beyond that didn't it hypothesize the number of probable likely situations?

Rex E. Lee:

Yes and how the Act would be interpreted, given those situations.

Warren E. Burger:

First hypothetical facts and then hypothetical or assumptions about what the Act meant?

Rex E. Lee:

Precisely Mr. Chief Justice it was built on two hypothesize, one was factual and one was legal, neither of which we contend was within the preview of District Court.

Armed with that kind of a record, the court specifically found constitutionally defective, five specific provisions of the Act, parts of four sections out of some 16 of the Act consists of, including one out of 20 unfair labor practices and from this determination that five provisions were unconstitutional, the District Court invalidated, struck down the entire statute.

The points of disagreement between the parties are in this case are far more numerous than this Court is accustomed to dealing with.

Indeed, there isn't even an agreement between the parties as to what the number of questions presented before this Court is, but careful analysis of those briefs reveals that there are at least six propositions advanced by the appellants concerning which the appellees have either not joined issue at all or the joinder if attempted hasn't really meshed, so that the point is effectively undisputed and fortunately those six propositions undisputed and undisputable are dispositive of the case before this Court, as a consequence I believe that the most helpful way that I can use my scarce oral argument time of this afternoon is – yes?

Byron R. White:

Mr. Lee we noticed how prompt your prior counsel were?

Rex E. Lee:

Well, I know that Mr. Justice White and I realize no constitutional obligation, take all my time, I appreciate it.

But when you are dealing somewhere between seven and ten questions presented and each of the ten raises many sub issues, there is some problem of allocation, no matter how one attempts to be prompt, which I assure you I will do.

So I'd like concentrate on these six propositions.

The first two concern whether this dispute really amounts to a case or controversy at all.

The appellees lay great stress on the enforcement stipulation.

There are 20 instances in which the Act has been enforced, but the fact that is not disputed is that of the five provisions held unconstitutional by the District Court, namely the sections dealing with elections, untruthful publicity, binding arbitration, free access to employer facilities, and the provisions making violations of misdemeanor, not one, not a single one has ever been applied to any of these plaintiffs.

There is, indeed the only section that's ever been applied to anyone of those five is the election provision and that's not to these plaintiffs.

Now there is an attempt by the appellees as to one of these provisions, sub section 8 of the Unfair Labor Practices, the one that prohibits untruthful publicity to join issue but they don't really do so.

The fact of the matter is that in one case only, case number two, the Safeway case, there was an allegation in the complaint of a violation of sub section 8, but the Superior Court, the Trial Court made a preliminary determination, a threshold determination that the union's conduct in that case was a sufficient compliance with sub section 8 and as a consequence it has never been applied and we are left with this fact that of all of those 20 instances not one has ever been applied to these plaintiffs.

The second point of no real dispute is this and it concerns the law dealing with this kind of case.