General Electric Company v. Local 205, United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America

PETITIONER: General Electric Company
RESPONDENT: Local 205, United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America
LOCATION: Congress

DOCKET NO.: 276
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 353 US 547 (1957)
ARGUED: Mar 26, 1957
DECIDED: Jun 02, 1957

Facts of the case

Question

Media for General Electric Company v. Local 205, United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 26, 1957 (Part 2) in General Electric Company v. Local 205, United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 26, 1957 (Part 1) in General Electric Company v. Local 205, United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America

Earl Warren:

Number 276, General Electric Company versus Local 205, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

Mr. Farr.

Warren F. Farr:

May it please the Court.

The basic issue in this case is the same as in the other two cases.

Namely, may a federal court compel performance of an agreement to arbitrate future disputes in a labor contract?

And the answer to that question seems to me must turn on whether the 1925 United States Arbitration Act requires such a result.

Because as the court below held, as the Fifth Circuit held in the Lincoln Mills case, as the Seventh Circuit held in the Galland-Henning case, as every other Circuit Courts that I know of which has faced this question has held, unless you find the right to compel arbitration in the United States Arbitration Act, you can't find it in Section 301.

Mr. Feller has demonstrated the difficulty, the confusion that inevitably arise from trying to rest and find in 301 the power to compel arbitration of a labor dispute.

So, I think they must first consider the United States Arbitration Act.

First, I might point out briefly the facts in this case.

Felix Frankfurter:

Did I understand you to say that -- that all those who sustained the enforceability of the arbitration provision have rested it under the Arbitration Act?

Warren F. Farr:

As far as I know, every Circuit Court which has enforced it has done so by virtue of the Arbitration Act, like the First Circuit and the Fifth Circuit rejected 301 as itself being the source of power to do so.

The present case like the other two cases rose on a complaint under 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, and the -- the union sought to compel specific enforcement of two grievances.

Those grievances are set out in the amended complaint at page 44 and 45 of the record.

The grievances were two.

One, that an employee named Boiardi was not being paid the rate of pay which he was entitled to under his job classification.

And secondly, that an employee named Armstrong had been improperly discharged and not for cuase.

Arbitration was demanded.

The company refused the arbitration on the ground that the issues were not arbitrable under the collective-bargaining agreement.

The union brought suit seeking specific performance and damages on a motion to strike the claim for specific performance.

The District Court held that it lacked power to enforce arbitration because of the provisions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act.

After that decision the complainant, the union, then amended its complaint to strikeout the claim for damages so that its cause of action would ask only specific performance.

It did so that it might have an immediate appeal.

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding first that the Norris-LaGuardia Act was not at bar.

Then it said, but it isn't enough to say that the Norris-LaGuardia Act is not at bar.

We must find some affirmative basis on which compulsion of arbitration can be rested.

Now, they said we can't find it in the common law because it was long settled common law that enforcement of executory agreements to arbitrate would not be compelled in the federal courts or in a state court.

They turned then to section 301 and they say no, we can't find in 301 such a power.

But we do find a statute which authorizes it and that is the United States Arbitration Act.

And they held that this contract was a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce within the meaning of section 2 of the Act.