Lechmere, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

PETITIONER: Lechmere, Inc.
RESPONDENT: National Labor Relations Board
LOCATION: Mississippi Governor's Office

DOCKET NO.: 90-970
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 502 US 527 (1992)
ARGUED: Nov 12, 1991
DECIDED: Jan 27, 1992

ADVOCATES:
Michael R. Dreeben - Argued the cause for the respondent
Robert P. Joy - Argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Lechmere owned and operated a large retail store in a shopping plaza. Nonemployee union organizers campaigned to organize the store employees by entering the company's parking lot and placing handbills on car windshields. Lechmere prohibited solicitation and literature distribution on its property. The union organizers persisted in their leafleting campaign despite continued objections from Lechmere. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against Lechmere. An NLRB judge ruled in the union's favor.

Question

May nonemployee union organizers trespass on private property to solicit union support?

Media for Lechmere, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 12, 1991 in Lechmere, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 27, 1992 in Lechmere, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-970, Lechmere versus National Labor Relations Board will be announced by Justice Thomas.

Clarence Thomas:

This is a case here on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Petitioner, Lechmere, owns and operate a retails store located in a shopping plaza in Newington, Connecticut.

Lechmere is also a part owner of the parking lot.

As part of a campaign to organize Lechmere's employees, non-employee organizers entered the parking lot and placed handbills on the windshields of cars parked in the employee section of the lot.

Lechmere's manager asked them to leave explaining that the store had a strict policy against handbill distribution.

They left but came back on several subsequent occasions.

Each time, Lechmere personnel asked them to leave and remove the handbills.

The Union organizers then relocated to a strip of public property adjoining the parking lot.

From there, they passed out handbills and picketed Lechmere.

The Union also contacted a substantial percentage of Lechmere's employees directly by tracing their license plate numbers.

The Union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Lechmere had violated the National Labor Relations Act by barring the organizers from its property.

The Board ruled in the Union's favor and issued a cease and desist order requiring Lechmere to allow the organizers onto its parking lot.

The Court of Appeals agreed to enforce the Board's order.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

This case is controlled by the 1956 decision of this Court, NLRB versus Babcock & Wilcox.

In that case, we made it clear that the NLRA does not protect the trespasses of non-employee union organizers except in the rare case where the employees are inaccessible and there is no reasonable means short of trespass for the Union to communicate with them.

We have explained that a union seeking to show that employees are inaccessible bears a heavy burden.

Here, the Union failed to carry that burden by failing to establish the existence of any obstacles rendering Lechmere's employees inaccessible.

The Board's order, therefore, cannot be enforced.

Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion which Justice Blackmun has joined; Justice Stevens has also filed a dissenting opinion.