Baker v. General Motors Corporation

RESPONDENT: General Motors Corporation
LOCATION: Hardwick's Apartment

DOCKET NO.: 85-117
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Michigan Supreme Court

CITATION: 478 US 621 (1986)
ARGUED: Apr 02, 1986
DECIDED: Jul 02, 1986

Louis R. Cohen - as amicus curiae in support of Appellees
Jordan Rossen - on behalf of the Appellants
Louis R. Cohen - for the U.S., as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court
Peter G. Nash - on behalf of the Appellees

Facts of the case


Media for Baker v. General Motors Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 02, 1986 in Baker v. General Motors Corporation

Warren E. Burger:

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

Jordan Rossen:

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

Appellants are non-striking General Motors employees who were laid off due to strikes elsewhere.

It is agreed that the only basis for the labor dispute disqualification in this case was because they pay emergency dues.

The issue is may a state deny unemployment compensation to these Appellants solely because they paid emergency or increased dues lawfully required as a condition of remaining union members where the dues were for the union strike fund from which strikers later receive strike benefits.

Appellant's union had a convention in October and voted to require as a condition of membership emergency dues of all UAW members in the United States and Canada.

And, it is agreed and stipulated that these Appellants paid $20 to $40 each for the months of October and November, 1967 to their own local unions which then sent the increase or emergency dues to the international union's strike fund.

Appellants continued working at their own plants.

Their local union settled their contract which Appellants ratified.

That year there was no national strike at General Motors Corporation.

Instead, the General Motors agreement was settled in December and ratified by the union members.

In late January, three General Motors foundry locals went on strike over local issues and after those 11 to 12-day strikes ended, they received no more than $18 from the international union's strike fund.

Those foundry strikes caused part shortages and resulted in layoffs at Appellant's plant.

Appellants were comparatively few members at each plant who were selected because they had low seniority and they were laid off from those plants by General Motors and they applied for unemployment compensation for that February, three months after they paid those dues.

They were found eligible under state law in the sense that they had worked long enough to earn their compensation, they had enough credit weeks, they were available for work, they were seeking work, they wanted to continue working, and they were involuntarily unemployed.

The labor dispute disqualification was asserted as a reason for denying them compensation and under all aspects or all parts of the Michigan Labor Dispute statute, they were not disqualified except one.

What we mean by that is they were held by all agencies and courts to not be in the same locations as the strikers, they were not participating in any foundry strikes, they were not interested in them in the sense that they could not benefit from them nor could they influence those negotiations or strikes.

They were disqualified because they had financed the labor dispute as held by the Michigan court because they had paid those increased or emergency dues the previous October.

If possible, we would like to get into our argument a little bit and then try to respond to some of the points made by General Motors.

It is pretty well agreed that Appellants would not have been disqualified from their unemployment compensation but for the facts that they chose to remain union members and paid these increased or emergency dues.

The Michigan Supreme Court correctly held that this conflicts with their Section 7 right to assist their union and it also conflicts with their right to join and remain union members if they choose to do so.

Under this Court's ordinary preemption rules, state action which conflicts with such Section 7 rights would be preempted, wouldn't stand, unless Congress affirmatively intended to allow such a conflict.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Rossen, did any workers refuse to pay the increased dues?

Jordan Rossen:

It is stipulated, Justice O'Connor, at page 173 of the record that all claimants paid these dues, these emergency dues in accordance with the UAW Constitution.

Thus, there is no evidence that anyone refused to pay the dues.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

What would the union do with a member who refused to pay the increased dues for the purposes of financing the strike?

Jordan Rossen:

There is no evidence that the union took any action against any of the members in terms of trying to get someone's job or anything else under Section 8(a)(3).

It is our position that the dues were lawfully required dues under the union constitution and, in fact, it is stipulated and found that they were paid under the union constitution and, thus, they were required to be union members.

So, failure to pay those dues based on those stipulations would jeopardize a person's union membership if he refused or she refused to pay those dues.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Do you concede that the state can disqualify non-strikers who finance a strike by means of payments other than in the form of union dues?