National Labor Relations Board v. Exchange Parts Company

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Exchange Parts Company
LOCATION: Alabama State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 26
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 375 US 405 (1964)
ARGUED: Dec 11, 1963
DECIDED: Jan 13, 1964

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Exchange Parts Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 11, 1963 in National Labor Relations Board v. Exchange Parts Company

Earl Warren:

Number 26, National Labor Relations Board, Petitioner, versus Exchange Parts Company.

Mr. Manoli.

Dominick L. Manoli:

May it please the Court.

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Fifth Circuit.

The case arises of course under the National Labor Relations Act Section 8 (a) (1) of that Act makes it unlawful for an employer to interfere with or restrain or coerce the employer's employees in the exercise of their right to engage in self-organization and to select bargaining representatives of their own choosing.

Our problem here is whether an employer violates the statutory prohibition when in the course of a union's organizing efforts, campaign and immediately prior to a board election, he grants to the employees economic benefits for the purpose of inducing them to reject the union but without expressly conditioning the benefits upon the employees voting against the union.

The facts which underlie this controversy are not in dispute and I shall summarize them briefly.

On October of 1959, the Boilermakers union began a campaign to organize the company's employees which numbered approximately 230.

On November 9th of that year, the Boilermakers wrote to the company stating that the majority employees had designated it as their -- as the bargaining representative and requesting the company need to meet for the purpose of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.

The company apparently did not respond to this letter.

And on November -- November 16th -- on November 16th, the union filed a petition with the Labor Board asking the Board to hold an election for the purpose of formally determining whether the employees wish to be represented by the Boilermakers union for purpose of collective bargaining.

On February 19th, the Board, after customary proceedings, directed that an election be held and the election was scheduled for March 18th.

Now, in the inner goal, the company made no secret of its hostility to the union and sought to persuade and induce the employees to reject the union.

On February 25th of 1960, some three weeks, approximately three weeks before the election, the company's Vice-President had a company sponsored dinner, spoke to the employees about the -- the pending election.

He called attention -- he attacks -- he criticized the union.

He attacks the union for having allegedly misrepresented certain benefits that the company had given to the employees.

He also call attention to various benefits, which the company had to given to the employees in the past when there was no union in the picture, and he urged the employees, he urged the employees to vote -- to vote because as he quoted, the issue before them was whether they were going to retain the right -- their right to speak and act for themselves or whether they wanted to surrender that right to the union.

On March 4, on March 4, two weeks before the election which had been ordered by the Board, the company sent to its employees a letter together with a pamphlet and a cartoon.

And in this -- in this communication, the company announced two changes in the employment conditions which would benefit the employees.

And these two changes are the subject matter of this litigation.

Now, before I describe, before I describe these two changes, which the company made in the employees -- in the employees' employment conditions, I think it would be appropriate for the Court to take note of the context in which these benefits were announced by the company.

The letter, the pamphlet and the cartoon to which I have made reference are reprinted at pages 90 to 97 of the record.

And the opening paragraphs, the opening paragraphs of the company's letter of March 4th, I think, are fairly indicative of the tenure of the entire letter.

But I doubt if I can do justice of the company's stylistic bait and if I may, I should like to take a moment of the Court's time and read these opening paragraphs.

The letter said, “To our fellow employees, you've got an envelope from us through the mail yesterday an empty envelope.

You may have thought that we goofed, that we forgot to put something in it.

But we didn't forget, we didn't intend to put anything in it.

That empty envelope had everything that the Boilermakers have done for you and everything it can do for you.

That empty envelope brought home to you the empty promises of the union and the fact that it is the company that puts things in your envelope.

Your paycheck, your vacation pay, your holiday pay, your insurance, etcetera.