Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild, Inc.

PETITIONER: Marquez
RESPONDENT: Screen Actors Guild, Inc.
LOCATION: North Carolina General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 97-1056
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 525 US 33 (1998)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1998
DECIDED: Nov 03, 1998

ADVOCATES:
Leo Geffner - Argued the cause for the respondents
Raymond J. LaJeunesse, Jr. - Argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Naomi Marquez, part-time actress, auditioned successfully for a role in a television series produced by Lakeside Pictures. Pursuant to their collective bargaining agreement, Lakeside contacted the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) to confirm that Marquez met the "union security clause" of the agreement that requires union "membership" as a condition for employment. The clause stated one must be a member "in good standing." Subsequently, Marquez was denied the part because she had not paid her dues. Marquez filed suit alleging SAG breached its duty of fair representation with its union security clause. First, Marquez argued she should have been made aware of her established legal right not to join the union, but only to pay for its representational activities. Second, Marquez claimed that the clause required repetitious thirty-day previous work periods every time motion picture employment ceased. The District Court summarily ruled against Marquez because the clause followed the National Labor Relations Act; therefore, it did not breach its duty of fair representation. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision on the first claim, but held the second claim was in the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board.

Question

Can collective bargaining contracts require membership for employment without articulating what it means to be "in good standing?"

Media for Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1998 in Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - November 03, 1998 in Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 97-1056, Marquez against the Screen Actors Guild will be announced by Justice O'Connor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The petitioner is a part-time actress who successfully auditioned for a small part in a television series.

It was being produced by respondent, Lakeside Productions.

After she was hired, but before she began to work, she was told that she would have to comply with the terms of a collective bargaining agreement between Lakeside and the union that represented all employees on its productions.

And that was the respondent's screen actor's guild, the union.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, all employees were required to become members of the union within 30 days of their employment.

This clause track the language of the section of the National Labor Relations Act that authorize this type of union security clause.

But contract did not go on and explained that this Court has given that statutory language a specialized meaning.

Specifically, the contract did not explain that this Court has interpreted the statutory language to allow an employee to satisfy the membership condition merely by paying the portion of the union's fees attributable to its role as the exclusive bargaining agent for the employees.

The agreement did, however, spell out that it interpreted the 30-day grace period to begin running with any work an employee had done in the entertainment industry.

And because the petitioner had previously worked in the industry for more than 30 days, she had to comply with the terms of that clause.

When she had not paid her union fees by the day of the filming, Lakeside hired a different actress to play the part.

The petitioner filed suit against the union claiming that the union's agreement was deficient in two ways, the collective bargain agreement.

She alleged the union security clause breached the union's duty to treat her fairly because it did not tell her that membership that's written in the clause had acquired a specialized meaning in the labor law.

Second, she alleged that the union's grace period provision, a 30-day provision, was inconsistent with the terms of the National Labor Relations Act.

Now, the District Court granted summary judgment to the union, holding that the union did not breach its duty of fair representation by failing to spell out in the agreement all the interpretation associated with the proper enforcement of a union security clause.

Second, the District Court held that petitioner's challenge to the grace period provision was really just to claim that the union's clause violated the statute, a kind of claim that fell within the primary jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, not the Federal District Court.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court judgment.

And in an opinion filed with the clerk of the Court today, we affirm the judgment of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

First, we held that a union does not breach its duty of fair representation merely by negotiating a union security clause that tracks the language of the statute.

A union breaches its duty of fair representation when its conduct toward a member of the bargaining unit is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith.

Petitioner does not allege the union's conduct was discriminatory.

And on the record before us, we could not conclude that the union's conduct was arbitrary or in bad faith.

We do not decide in this case.

Petitioners claims that the union illegally enforced the union security clause.

And that it breached its duty of fair representation by failing adequately notify of her rights under the clause.

Second we hold the petitioner's challenge to the 30-day grace period provision falls within the primary jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board.

Her claim at basis is a claim that the union's clause is inconsistent with the statute and this type of claim is one that belongs in the first instance before the Board.

Justice Kennedy has filed a concurring opinion which Justice Thomas has joined.