National Labor Relations Board v. Cabot Carbon Company

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Cabot Carbon Company
LOCATION: Fargo, North Dakota

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 360 US 203 (1959)
ARGUED: Mar 24, 1959
DECIDED: Jun 08, 1959

Facts of the case


Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Cabot Carbon Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 24, 1959 in National Labor Relations Board v. Cabot Carbon Company

Earl Warren:

umber 329, National Labor Relations Board, Petitioner, versus Cabot Carbon Company and Cabot Shops, Inc.

Mr. McDermott.

Thomas J. McDermott:

May it please the Court.

This case is here upon a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals to the Fifth Circuit.

This case involves a determination by the Labor Board that certain employee representation committees are labor organizations within the meaning of Section 2 (5), the Taft-Hartley Act and that the respondents, referred to herein as Cabot, dominated, interfered with, assisted and supported those committees in violation of Section 82 of the Act.

The court below while accepting the Board's finding that Cabot in fact dominated, interfered with, assisted and supported the committees in question, disagreed with the Board that the committees are labor organizations and therefore, the Court found that no violation of Section 82 had occurred.

Hence, the basic and only question before this Court is whether the committees are labor organizations within the meaning of the Act.

The essential facts of the case may be briefly stated as follows.

During World War II, an employee representation committee was established at each of Cabot's plants or installations in line with the work production Board's encouragement of joint labor management committees to promote production and efficiency.

The employee representation system was continued after the war and a committee was set up for each new plant acquired by Cabot.

The committees have no formal organization.

There are no membership requirements, no dues and no officers.

Organization is limited to the election once a year by the employees, committeemen and their alternates.

The committees' bylaws provide that the purposes of the committee are to bring about a better understanding between management and the employee and to provide a definite procedure for considering employees ideas with respect to problems of mutual interest, such as safety, increased efficiency in production and the improvement or the encouragement of ingenuity and initiative.

The bylaws further provide the committees shall meet at regular monthly and special meetings called by the management, make recommendations on employee suggestions, submitted under Cabot suggestion plant and handle grievances in nonunion plants or departments.

The committees in addition to handling grievances in discussing with management, problems concerning plant production efficiency, have dealt with a wide variety of other matters.

Thus, doing a period covered by the complaint, the employee committees have complained about, discussed, made request and recommendations, and otherwise, dealt with Cabot with respect to seniority in the transfer of employee, job classifications, job bidding, improvement of working facility, overtime records and time cards, the merit system, layoff and makeup time, working schedules, vacation and sick leave, the allocation of company houses, holidays, and other matters affecting their employment.

And while management did not accede to our request, it did frequently act upon request or complaints made by this committee.

First among other things, management agreed to change from a company to a plant seniority system in certain plants to put up vents in tops of warehouses, to furnish workloads at cost, to permit employees to report early and leave early on weekends, and to establish an annual basis for allocating overtime.

Although there's no provision in the bylaws for Central Committee, Central Committee exist the part of the employee representation plant is composed of the chairmen of each plant committee and meets annually with top management.

The central committee at its 1955 and 1956 annual meetings with Cabot's Director of Industrial Relations, Mr. Reno Stinson, made proposals and had discussions with respect to matters similar to those handled by the plant committee.

These subjects included among other items, a three-week vacation for employees with 10 year's service, annual sick leave and sick or disability benefits, whether shiftmen should be permitted to make up days lost in work, a request for the creation of new job classifications, a proposal for greater uniformity among the different plants and maintaining job classifications, more opportunities for employees to shift from plant to plant, from department to department, and finally, proposals for a general wage increase.

With respect to each of the proposals or requests made by -- at these meetings, Director Stinson set forth Cabot's position or policy, discussed whether or not acceding to the proposals or to requests would be economically feasible in the point of view of Cabot and sought to reach some solution.

In some instances, Stinson expressed approval of the request or he promised to do -- to see what could be done about remedy in a situation complained of.

In other instances, Stinson told the committeemen to take it up with local management.

In still other instances, Stinson expressed disapproval of the request and gave his reasons for doing so.

On the basis of these and other facts in the record, the Board determined that the committees in question are labor organizations within the meaning of Section 2 (5) of the Act.

That section reads as follows and I quote.

“The term 'labor organization' means any organization of any kind, or any agency or employee representation committee or plant, in which employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work.”

When the activities of the committees, as I have described them, are put down beside, playing an explicit wording of Section 2 (5), the conclusion seems quite clear that the committee exactly the statutory definition.