National Labor Relations Board v. Great Dane Trailers, Inc.

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Great Dane Trailers, Inc.
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division

LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 388 US 26 (1967)
ARGUED: Apr 19, 1967
DECIDED: Jun 12, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Great Dane Trailers, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 19, 1967 in National Labor Relations Board v. Great Dane Trailers, Inc.

Arnold Ordman:

-- appeals for the Fifth Circuit which denied enforcement to a board order.

The Board's order was based on a finding that the employer, Great Dane Trailers, Inc. violated Section 8 (a) (1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act by denying payment of previously earned vacation benefits to strikers who elected to remain on strike or who had been replaced while paying such benefits to nonstrikers and strikers who abandoned the strike and returned to work by a certain date.

The court below denied enforcement to the Board's order on the ground that this disparity of treatment, notwithstanding the return on strike activity was not unlawful despi -- absent, an independent showing or an illegal motive on the part of the employer.

Now, the record is devoid of evidence that apart from the disparity of treatment itself, the employer had a subjective intent to penalize the employees for their strike activity.

That's the common ground in this opinion.

Arnold Ordman:

That is correct.

And the question presented here is whether such independent evidence of subjective intent is in the circumstances here presented a pre-conditioned or finding of unfair labor practice.

Now, before stating the facts, I think it would be helpful to note very briefly that we see the issue in this case as paralleling the issue in Erie Resistor.

In that case, as the Court will recall, the employer awarded super seniority, super seniority to replacements and returning strikers as against those who remained on strike and the question presented there as here was whether you would had to have an independent showing of an intent to penalize strikers, has a precondition to finding an unfair labor practice in that case and this Court held that such a showing was not required.

Now, Great Dane Trailers, Inc. manufactures truck trailers in this plant in south, I mean its plant at Savannah, Georgia through its employees for some years have been presented by the Boilermakers Union.

The most recent collective bargaining agreement between the company and the union was for a three-year period which expired in March 31st, 1963 and was terminable thereafter upon proper notice by either of the parties.

Now, so far as relevant here, that agreement provided that employees with more than 60 days of service, would receive annual vacation pay on the Friday nearest July 1 of each year.

Those who had worked at least 1525 hours or approximately 38 weeks, the proceeding year would receive a weeks vacation pay and for those who work less, in as little actually as a 169 hours, they got a diminished scale of payments which was actually set forth in the contract for those who work fewer hours.

Now, employees who had at least five years or more of continuous employment to the company got double paid.

But the agreement specifically provided that those workers who quit or were laid off were otherwise terminated even during the course of the year and didn't survived until July 1st nevertheless would get pay if they had worked the minimum 60 days.

On April 30th, 1963, the union gave timely notice to terminate the agreement as of May 16, approximately two weeks later.

And on May 16th, the union went out on an economic strike to support its bargaining demands.

And about 348, I believe, of the company's 400 employees joined the strike.

Now, within a matter of six weeks, by July 1st, about 259 of the 350 strikers had been replaced and a few of the other strikers went back to work.

The strike, however, continued for several months longer.

But early in July, about 300 of the strikers individually and through their union, asked the company for the vacation pay they had earned under their agreement which had now been terminated.

The company replied by a letter, which was dated July 12 and says -- said in effect, “Because you, the union, have terminated the agreement, there isn't any provision for vacation pay in effect and suggested that may be that matter could be taken up at the bargaining negotiations.”

Potter Stewart:

Well, that was true the agreement was no longer in effect and it was only because of the agreement that they had any right to vacation pay as of July 1st, isn't that correct?

Arnold Ordman:

That is right.

That was a working condition set up by the agreement but under the terms of the agreement and while it was in effect, this right had accrued.

This was work pay they had during the period of the agreement.

Potter Stewart:

That -- that was and remained an issue, I suppose, between the parties, is it not?

Arnold Ordman:

That's right because the agreement was in effect until May 16th, just six weeks earlier.

Potter Stewart:

But it provided for no payments until July 1st, as I understand.

Arnold Ordman:

It provided that payments would be made on the Friday near July 1.