Local Union No. 721, United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers, AFL-CIO v. Needham Packing Company

PETITIONER: Local Union No. 721, United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers, AFL-CIO
RESPONDENT: Needham Packing Company
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 376 US 247 (1964)
ARGUED: Feb 20, 1964
DECIDED: Mar 09, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for Local Union No. 721, United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers, AFL-CIO v. Needham Packing Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 20, 1964 in Local Union No. 721, United Packinghouse, Food & Allied Workers, AFL-CIO v. Needham Packing Company

Earl Warren:

Number 102, Local Union 721, United Packinghouse, Food and Allied Workers, Petitioner, versus Needham Packing Company.

Mr. Watt.

Richard F. Watt:

If the Court please.

This comes to this Court on a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Iowa.

That court affirmed a ruling of the trial court, Circuit Court of Woodbury County, Iowa, to the effect that the Union's participation or the employees' participation in a walkout can be effect of waiving the right of the Union to require the employer to arbitrate discharges which arose in the context of the walkout.

As the matter came to the Iowa Supreme Court, it came there by way of an interlocutory appeal from a ruling of the trial court under a rule of the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 105, which is a rule that appears to be designed to make it possible for rulings of law, final determinations of law to be made in advance of disposition of the entire case where the facts which raise the issue of law are not contraverted.

As the case commenced, it was a proceeding by the Union to require the employer to arbitrate grievances which the Union had presented under the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

There were two grievances.

One was the discharge of one employee and the second grievance had to do with the discharge of approximately 190 other employees.

Insofar as the record discloses the facts from which these disputes arose, it discloses a set of facts very similar to the facts in the Enterprise Wheel case which was before this Court in 1960.

There seems to have been a dispute between an employee and someone in management.

That employee was discharged and then a significant number of other employees walked off the job, presumably in sympathy in protest.

So that, the question that is presented here is whether or not the conduct of the employees, and possibly of the Union as well, precludes the Union from requiring the employer to arbitrate the disputes under the provisions of an arbitration clause which is certainly as broad as the arbitration clauses that were before this Court in the Steel Workers cases.

The arbitration clause contains the language "disputes with reference to the proper interpretation or application of the provisions of the contract."

It's our contention that, notwithstanding what appears to have been possibly illegal conduct under the contract by the employees and the Union, that the question of the discharges, whether they were for just cause, is a question which should be decided by the arbitrator.

Arthur J. Goldberg:


Richard F. Watt:

I would say, in the factual situation that you put, Justice Goldberg, that the employees would be required through their Union to submit that matter to arbitration.

I think --

Arthur J. Goldberg:

Has that been authorized (Inaudible)

Richard F. Watt:

I don't think they could strike without running a serious risk of violating the no-strike clause unless, first, they had endeavored, rather diligently, to have the matter determined by an arbitrator.

Arthur J. Goldberg:

In other words you (Inaudible)

Richard F. Watt:

I would say that there is room but I think it would be an extraordinary and very exceptional case.

The only decision that I think I would be inclined to agree with, which represents an instance in which the relationships between the parties had deteriorated to the point where it was probably proper to say that no contract remained, was Judge Nordbye's opinion in the Minnesota Joint Board case.

I don't think that situation is presented here, nor do I think that that situation is the situation that post in your hypothetical question.

Arthur J. Goldberg:

Your point here, I think, is that even if there's room for material to be filed (Inaudible)

Richard F. Watt:

I don't think that there was, no.

That would be my point, yes.I think perhaps the problem is created for the courts by the somewhat ambiguous meaning of the term "arbitrability".

I'm sure that there is no question but what initially the term "arbitrability" is a -- an issue which has to be considered by the court.

But, as I understand the decisions of this Court, it has instructed the lower courts that they are simply to concern themselves with the question of whether or not the dispute presented appears to be one on the face of the contract and the face of the arbitration clause that the parties bargain should go to the arbitrator.

Here, however, we have an additional reason urged, not on the face of the contract, an additional reason urged why these grievances should not go to arbitration, the reason being the claim to misconduct of the Union.