National Labor Relations Board v. Insurance Agents' International Union, AFL-CIO

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Insurance Agents' International Union, AFL-CIO
LOCATION: Fleetwood Paving Co.

DOCKET NO.: 15
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 361 US 477 (1960)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1959 / Dec 08, 1959
DECIDED: Feb 23, 1960

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Insurance Agents' International Union, AFL-CIO

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1959 in National Labor Relations Board v. Insurance Agents' International Union, AFL-CIO

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1959 in National Labor Relations Board v. Insurance Agents' International Union, AFL-CIO

Earl Warren:

Number 15, National Labor Relations Board, Petitioner versus Insurance Agents International Union.

Mr. Manoli.

Dominick L. Manoli:

May it please the Court.

This case is here on a writ of certiorari for the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The National Labor Relations Act imposes upon employers and unions alike the duty to bargain collectively.

The statute defines this duty as the -- as the mutual obligation of both the employer and the representative of the employees to bargain, to meet and confer -- to meet and confer in good faith concerning the terms and conditions of employment and to reduce to writing upon request any agreement which it may arrive.

The respondent union in this case in order to bring pressure to bear upon the employer to yield to its bargaining demands engaged in a program under which the employees remained on the job, group compensation, but refused to perform important functions of their job.

There can be no question I think that by engaging in these activities, the employees expose themselves to discharge without recourse to the protection of the Act.

The question which we have here is whether these tactics -- these tactics are permissible bargaining technique under the Act or whether a union which engages or directs the employees to engage in such activities and such tactics is guilty of a refusal to bargain in good faith within the meaning of the statute.

The facts which give rise to our problem can be summarized quite briefly, the respondent union has, for some years, represented the insurance agents of the Prudential Insurance Company throughout the country.

These agents who number many thousands are engaged in the business of selling insurance for the company and also servicing its policy holders.

Early in 1956, the collective bargaining agreement which covered the terms and conditions of employment of these employees was about to terminate, and as a consequence, the company and the union entered into negotiations for the purpose of arriving at a new agreement to succeed the one which was about to expire.

After approximately two months of negotiations, the company and the union had failed to arrive at an agreement.

And at that time, the union instituted what it called its work without contract program, which I shall describe in a moment.

This program continued at the same time that there negotiations between the company and the union were going on.

It continued for approximately three months and it was called off at the end of the three months when the union informed its membership that it had served its purpose.

And shortly thereafter, the company and the union entered into a collective bargaining agreement.

Now, this -- under this so called work without contract program that the union instituted for the purpose of applying pressure to the company to yield to its demands, the employees refused to write new business.

The writing of new business, new insurance policies is of course an important function of an insurance agent and of course, it's also an important aspect of any insurance company's business.

And during this period, approximately seven weeks in duration, during the period that the employees refused to write new business, the company's business -- new business dropped many millions of dollars.

At the end of approximately two months, the employees resumed -- resumed writing new business but at least some of the agents, however, refused to follow the procedures which the company had adopted for the orderly processing of this business.

Normally, the agents would report new business to what is the applications therefore to their district manager.

But under the work without contract program, the agents sent these reports and applications directly to the home office.

Now, the record does not indicate what the effect of this departure from the procedure was, but I suppose there was -- it may have resulted in some amount of confusion in the handling -- in the handling of these reports and applications.

Now in addition, under this work without contract program, the employees of -- the employees were directed by their union to ignore the company's working rules and other conditions of their employment.

Under this program, the employees -- or let me say this.

Normally, the employees report to their district officers twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8:30 and normally they leave -- and they report there for purposes of making reports, having conferences, getting instructions and making financial accounts.

And normally, on Tuesdays, they leave at 9:30 and then they go about their business and again on Friday, they leave at about 11:30 and then they go about their business.

But under this program, however, they were instructed by the union not to report on either of these days prior to 10 o'clock.

And then, to sit in the office and do as the union described it, and do what comes naturally, and then they would leave in a body, they would leave at a body at 12 o'clock.