National Labor Relations Board v. Fant Milling Company

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Fant Milling Company
LOCATION: U.S. District Court Southern District of California

DOCKET NO.: 482
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 360 US 301 (1959)
ARGUED: May 20, 1959
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1959

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Fant Milling Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 20, 1959 (Part 2) in National Labor Relations Board v. Fant Milling Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 20, 1959 (Part 1) in National Labor Relations Board v. Fant Milling Company

Earl Warren:

Number 482, National Labor Relations Board, Petitioner, verus Fant Milling Company.

Mr. Manoli, you may proceed.

Dominick L. Manoli:

May it please the Court.

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

The National Labor Relations Act provides that when every charges is filed alleging the Commission of unfair labor practice, the Board may issue a complaint stating the charges in that respect.

The principal question here is whether the Board's complaint must be confined to the allegations of the charge or whether the complaint may include matters or events which occur after the filing of the charge and pending the Board's investigation of that charge.

The court below answered this question in the negative.

And I shall faithfully summarize the facts which give rise to our problem here.

In 1953, the Board certified the union which is involved in these proceedings as the bargaining representative of the company's employees.

Thereafter, between August of that year and November of the following year, representatives of the union and of the company engaged in a series of 20 almost -- about 20 conferences for the purposes of arriving a collective bargaining agreement but they were unable to do so.

Among the principle obstacles that prevented agreement were the company's insistence upon a contract which would give it the unilateral right during the life of the contract to either raise or lower the wages that were agreed to in the contract.

The company's refusal to incorporate in any agreement provisions of the respect to existing employment practices at the plant despite the fact that some of these had been in existence for some time and despite the further fact that the company said that it had no present intention of changing them.

And -- and further, the company's insistence upon a no-strike provision with a -- with a monetary penalty for its breach, coupled with the company's refusal to give to the union the normal quid pro quo for that kind of a -- an agreement, namely, a grievance procedure with arbitration.

The company insisted that any grievances should be ultimately be -- ultimately be resolved by the presence of the company.

The atmosphere of these negotiations was not enhanced when, in April of 1954, the company made certain individual wage adjustments which the union had indicated that it want to discuss but the company did this, however, without first notifying or consulting with the union that it was putting these changes into effect.

In May of 1954, the union filed a charge with the Board and this charge alleged that the company had engaged and was engaging in unfair labor practice within the meaning of Section 85 of the Act, that's the bargaining provision of the statute.

And also that the company on or about November 20th, 1953 had refused to bargain with the -- with the union collectively.

The Board's Regional Director, with whom this charge was filed after investigation, informed the parties that he was declining to issue a complaint because in his view, the -- the investigation did not disclose sufficient evidence to support the issuance of a complaint.

The union thereupon appealed from the Regional Director's action to the Board's General Counsel.

While the appeal was pending before the Board's General Counsel, the company and the union continued to negotiate.

And then October of 1954, the company unilaterally without prior notice or consultation with the union put into effect a -- a general wage increase for all of the employers and after having done so, notified the union.

In fact, the union discovered it quite fortuitously through the employers of another plant.

The negotiations continued after this unilateral action on the part of the employer for two more meetings.

And on the last of these meetings, the company abruptly terminated the negotiations when it notified the union that it had worth -- word-of-mouth information that the union no longer represented a majority of the employees in the plant.

The union reported these matters to the Board's Regional Director.

And shortly thereafter, the Board's Regional Director wrote to the parties, both to the union and to the company, that he was withdrawing his earlier refusal to issue a complaint on the union's charges and that the matter would be investigated further.

In August of that year, this was some time in January of 1955, in August of that year, the Board's General Counsel notified the parties that in view of the Regional Director's action withdrawing his earlier refusal to issue a complaint that all further inquiry should be addressed to the Regional Director.

And -- and shortly thereafter, the Regional Director issued a complaint against the company.

And the complaint, in relevant part, alleged that the company on and after November 21st, 1953 had refused to bargain collectively with the union in violation of the statute and further that on or about October 7th, 1954, 1954, the company had put into effect the unilateral wage increase without prior notice to the union.

Upon the record that was made on this complaint before the Board's Hearing Officer, Hearing Examiner which also included the transcript of the negotiations between the company and the union that continued for nearly 15 months, the Board found that the record clearly evidenced the company's refusal throughout the course of the negotiations to bargain in good evidence -- clearly evidence the company's failure to bargain in good faith and that this conclusion was confirmed by the unilateral wage increase of October 1954.