National Labor Relations Board v. General Motors Corporation

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: General Motors Corporation
LOCATION: Clauson's Inn

DOCKET NO.: 404
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 373 US 734 (1963)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1963
DECIDED: Jun 03, 1963

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. General Motors Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1963 in National Labor Relations Board v. General Motors Corporation

Earl Warren:

Number 404, National Labor Relations Board, Petitioner, versus General Motors Corporation.

Mr. Solicitor General.

Archibald Cox:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This is a Labor Board case here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The question presented is whether an employer and a labor union representing its employees may without violating the National Labor Relations Act execute a collective bargaining agreement which leaves each employee free to join the union or not as he chooses, but which requires every employee as a condition of employment to pay the union a sum or sums equivalent to its initiation fee and periodic dues.

Such a contract is called the “agency shop”.

It contrasts with the pure union shop and that the union shop in its pure form required membership as a condition of employment.

This, I say, does not require membership but requires merely the payment of sums equivalent to those that -- that union members would pay.

Potter Stewart:

It would be fair to say that it requires all the burdens of membership if it confers not all the benefits of membership.

Archibald Cox:

No, I don't think that would be fair to say, as I shall develop a little later in my argument, it's entirely clear under this proposal and under the existing General Motors UAW contract that anyone who pays the money is entitled, if he alleged that it's entirely his right in his free election to all the benefits of membership.

So that I think it's not fair to say that there are any burdens imposed on anyone unless he chooses to suffer the burdens and not have the benefit.

That's a matter of contract right and it was clearly implicit in the union's proposal.

Potter Stewart:

I don't -- I still don't think get your answer.

In other words, you're saying this is the same as membership.

Archibald Cox:

I'm saying that this is the -- well, I'm saying that anyone who offers to pay these sums is entitled to be a member.

And therefore, it seems to me unfair to say that any burdens are put on him without the benefit.

Now, he may wish, and this is the theory of the agency shop, he may wish not to engage in personal association with the union.

He may feel that that requires a surrender of individual liberty of a character which is somewhat different from simply paying a tax, if you will, equivalent contribution, but that is left up to the individual.

The point that I did want to emphasize, Mr. Justice, if you will look at page 101 of the record, the General Motors-UAW contract, down at the very bottom of the page, stipulates the union shall accept into membership each employee covered by this agreement who tenders to the union the periodic dues and the initiation fees.

So that anyone who pays these sums could join the union and have all the privileges of union membership without doing anything more than paying those sums.

And it's quite clear that that was the nature of the union's proposal.

So if he has benefits with -- has burdens without benefit that is his voluntary surrender of a perfectly clear right, and I don't think that I simply wouldn't apply the term burden to that situation.

Byron R. White:

Well, on the case of pension funds, Mr. Solicitor General, do you have to become a member as well as pay these equivalent sums?

Archibald Cox:

Well, the normal collective bargaining pension fund is applicable to all the employees in the union and such funds are common even though there is no union shop clause or -- and no Agency Shop Clause.

There are some unions which operate their own pension funds for members.

Byron R. White:

This is what I'm talking about.

Archibald Cox:

This contract, as I understand it, would not -- well this union, I believe, doesn't operate any such pension fund.

And I don't think these payments would include any contribution to a pension fund if they're not entitled to recover.

This would certainly, in any event, I think it's important to remember how this case comes up, this arises simply on the union proposal that the company bargained for the proposed Agency Shop Clause.

And if there are any details in the exact form of the Agency Shop Clause, it would make a difference.