National Labor Relations Board v. Gissel Packing Company, Inc.

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Gissel Packing Company, Inc.
LOCATION: Ohio General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 573
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 395 US 575 (1969)
ARGUED: Mar 26, 1969 / Mar 27, 1969
DECIDED: Jun 16, 1969

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Gissel Packing Company, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 27, 1969 in National Labor Relations Board v. Gissel Packing Company, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 26, 1969 in National Labor Relations Board v. Gissel Packing Company, Inc.

Earl Warren:

Number 585, the Sinclair Company, petitioner versus National Labor Relations Board.

Mr. Simerka.

Edward J. Simerka:

Excuse me.

Mr. Chief Justice and members of the Court, may it please the Court.

We would like to get immediately into the reason why we are here.

In December of 1965, the Teamsters Union lost an NLRB Election which was held among employees classified as journeymen wire weavers at our plant on Holyoke, Massachusetts.

They voted seven against the Union and six for the Union.

Now, even though the Union lost the election, the Labor Board ordered us to bargain with it and why did the Labor Board do this?

They did it because of our words, because of what we said to our employees prior to a conduct of this election.

Unlike the other cases that have been heard this afternoon, there were no discharges, there was no interrogation, there was no surveillance, and there were no promises of benefit by the employer in this case.

Now, during the organizing campaign, President David Sinclair made two speeches to the employees and he wrote about eight letters for handbills.

Now, in its decision, the Board could not find a single statement.

They couldn't find a single sentence or a single communication which they could characterize as being unlawful.

So, instead, what the Board said in fact was that even though each of the employer's statements was lawful by itself considered separately, we, the Board in our expertise seating here in Washington will decide that the totality of all these lawful statements however are unlawful and are coercive, and that is why we are here.

It is our position that our communications to our employees were lawful and protected not only by Section 8 (c) of the Taft-Hartley Act but also by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Now, we would like to meet the issues head-on and if I may, I would like to direct the Court's attention to page 21 of the Board's brief.

The Board's attorneys call attention on page 21 of their brief to five points that allegedly were made by President David Sinclair in petitioner's communications.

I'm using the term Board's attorneys advisedly because the Board nowhere indicated that it relied upon these five points or upon any other points.

The only finding that we have from the Board is that by petitioner's series of communications that when they were considered as a whole that these were coercive but the Board at no time ever indicated as to what it was specifically that we had said at narrative proscription.

That's why I point to page 21 of the Board's brief because the Board's attorneys point to five points which they say we made and these five points I gather which made -- allegedly made our communications coercive in the Board's view.

Now, of course the Board's attorneys merely expanded upon an approach taken by the court below which did much the same thing relying upon four points.

Again, which there are no evidence were relied on by the Board.

Now, we submit that each of the five statements or points that are referred to in the Board's brief were lawful and protected by Section 8 (c) and by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Point number one, for example is that the 1952 strike left the company in a state of continuing financial difficulty.

Now, of course the facts in our case are that we did have a union for journeymen and at the time apprentice wire weavers up until 1952 and there was a 13-week strike.

And in our communications, we told the employees that the 1952 strike of 13 weeks duration had left the company in a continuing state of financial difficulty and we submit that this statement is perfectly lawful and proper under Section 8 (c) of the Act by no stretch of the imagination can it be acclaimed to contain a threat or force or reprisal on our part, certainly is not a promise of benefit.

Further, the statement is amply supported by the record and I point out that this Court has held that no test of truth can be administered either by judges or juries or by administrative agencies when questions of free speech were involved but the record does support this statement and it shows that the financial difficulties over the years became so severe that in 1964 President David Sinclair was forced to sell his family-owned company.

Now, we assume that even the Board will agree with us that statement number one which the Board is relying on is a statement lawful and protected under 8 (c) and under the First Amendment.

Hugo L. Black:

What page of the brief did you say that was on?

Edward J. Simerka:

It's on page 21, Your Honor, of the Board.