Litton Financial Printing Div., Litton Business Systems, Inc. v. NLRB

PETITIONER: Litton Financial Printing Div., Litton Business Systems, Inc.
RESPONDENT: National Labor Relations Board
LOCATION: The Department of Health and Human Services

DOCKET NO.: 90-285
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 501 US 190 (1991)
ARGUED: Mar 20, 1991
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1991

ADVOCATES:
David A. Rosenfeld - on behalf of the Respondent Printing Specialties
Lawrence G. Wallace - on behalf of the Respondent NLRB in support of the Petitioner
Mathias J. Diederich - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Litton Financial Printing Div., Litton Business Systems, Inc. v. NLRB

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 20, 1991 in Litton Financial Printing Div., Litton Business Systems, Inc. v. NLRB

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 13, 1991 in Litton Financial Printing Div., Litton Business Systems, Inc. v. NLRB

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-285, Litton Financial Printing Division versus NLRB will be announced by Justice Kennedy.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

This case, Litton Financial Printing versus National Labor Relations Board comes to us on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Litton operated a printing plant and decided to eliminate part of its printing operation.

Without notice to the Union, it laid-off 10 workers.

This was at the time when an old collective bargaining agreement had expired and a new one had yet to be negotiated.

It was a hiatus between the two agreements.

The Union filed grievances arguing that the lay-offs, which included some of the plant's most senior employees, violated the expired bargaining agreement.

That agreement had provided that seniority be the deciding factor in case of lay-offs and provided "if other factors such as aptitude and ability are equal".

Litton refused to submit to grievance or arbitration procedures or to negotiate over the lay-offs.

The NLRB eventually concluded that Litton had committed unfair labor practices in its refusal to bargain over the lay-offs, its refusal of the process the grievances, and its wholesale repudiation of any obligation to arbitrate.

The Board ordered backpay and required Litton to submit the grievance procedures.

The Board held, however, that despite a broad arbitration provision in the collective bargaining agreement, Litton had no obligation to arbitrate any unresolved grievances.

This was so because the duty to arbitrate is wholly contractual.

Litton's contract with the Union was no longer in effect and the lay-off grievances could not said to arise under the expired agreement.

The Court of Appeals reversed the Board on this point and it is that aspect of the litigation which we review today.

When a bargaining agreement expires and the parties are in the process of negotiating a new agreement, the employer has a duty to refrain from making unilateral changes in the terms and conditions of employment.

The Union argues that because arbitration and other dispute resolution provisions are terms and conditions of employment, the Board should impose a statutory duty to continue a practice of arbitrating disputes even where no contractual duty survives.

We have previously recognized that labor arbitration is a matter of consent that would not be imposed beyond the scope of that agreement.

The Board's refusal to impose a statutory duty to arbitrate is rational and consistent with the National Labor Relations Act and we will defer to the Board's rule.

We decline to extend the unilateral change doctrine so as to impose any statutory duty to arbitrate.

As we have recognized Nolde Brothers, a contractual duty to arbitrate a dispute may survive expiration of a bargaining agreement.

Where the bargaining agreement contains a broad arbitration clause, as in the case here, the duty to arbitrate cannot terminate in its entirety upon the date of the contract's expiration rather the duty to arbitrate continues as to any dispute arising under the contract.

The employer's contractual duties must not be confused with duties arising from the statutory obligation to refrain from imposition of unilateral changes.

Nolde Brothers should not be interpreted to require arbitration over whether an employer has made a unilateral change in what was a one-time contractual term or condition of employment.

We must determine whether the lay-off grievances in this case arise under the bargaining agreement even though the lay-offs did not occur until almost a year after the agreement had expired.

We hold that they do not and that the Board was correct in declining to order arbitration.

We reverse the Court of Appeals to the extent that it refused to enforce the Board's order in its entirety.

Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Blackmun and Scalia join; Justice Stevens has also filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Blackmun and Scalia join.