National Labor Relations Board v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
LOCATION: Oglala Sioux Tribe

DOCKET NO.: 85-1924
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 481 US 573 (1987)
ARGUED: Feb 25, 1987
DECIDED: May 18, 1987

ADVOCATES:
Jerrold J. Ganzfried - on behalf of the Petitioner
Laurence J. Cohen - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 25, 1987 in National Labor Relations Board v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear argument first this afternoon in 85-1924, National Labor Relations Board versus IBEW.

Mr. Ganzfried, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Jerrold J. Ganzfried:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case presents a question of statutory construction under the National Labor Relations Act.

The Board concluded that the respondent union violated Section 8(b)(1)(B) which prohibits a union from restraining or coercing an employer in the selection of his representatives for the purposes of collective bargaining or the adjustment of grievances.

The Ninth Circuit denied enforcement to that order even though it acknowledged that the union's action may constitute prohibited conduct.

In our view, that recognition by the court should have ended the case and the Board's order should have been enforced.

Instead, in reliance on a theory that was entirely of its own creation, a theory that even the respondent now disavows, the court of appeals rejected the Board's interpretation of the Act.

It then compounded that error by rejecting the Board's findings of fact that would have required enforcement even under that court's legal theory.

After briefly reviewing the facts, I will like to explain why the Board's interpretation of 8(b)(1)(B) is reasonable and should be upheld, and I would also like to explain why the various limitations on Section 8(b)(1)(B) advanced in the theories of the district court and by respondent should be rejected.

This case arose out of a dispute between the respondent union and numerous electrical contractors in the Sacramento, California area involving the composition of a multi-employer bargaining unit.

For some 40 years the respondent had a collective bargaining agreement with the Sacramento chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association or NICA, as it is called, which is an organization that represented some 55 employers in the industry, in negotiating and administering collective bargaining agreements.

The last of those agreements expired on May 31st, 1981, and two weeks later the union struck all NICA members.

The strike continued for some three months until September 15, 1981, when the union sent a disclaimer of interest in representing the employees of the Association's members in the multi-employer bargaining unit previously established.

The union did not, however, disclaim interest in representing the employees of NICA members in a different bargaining unit or in single employer bargaining units.

Rather, it filed separate petitions seeking to represent in single employer units the employees of some 17 NICA members, and as respondent's official testified in this case, the union's strategy was that,

"Ultimately, down the road, it was our hope that everybody would be back under an agreement. "

NICA, however, signed a bargaining agreement with a different union, the National Association of Independent Unions, or NAIU, and the two employers involved in this case, the Royal Electric Company and Harold E. Nutter, Incorporated, adopted that new agreement.

Some months later respondent restrained and coerced those two employers in the selection of their 8(b)(1)(B) representatives.

Internal union charges were brought against union members employed as supervisors by Royal and Nutter.

Those charges were brought under provisions of the union constitution that subject a member to penalties for

"causing economic harm to other union members. "

and for

"working for an employer whose position is adverse or detrimental to the union. "

Two supervisors were found guilty of those charges and fined $6,000 and 28,200 respectively.

The National Labor Relations Board found that the union's conduct coerced the disfavored employers in the selection of their representatives for Section 8(b)(1)(B) purposes, and therefore that the imposition of those fines constituted an unfair labor practice.

In reaching that conclusion, the Board applied the test that this Court set forth both in Florida Power and in ABC versus Writers Guild; namely, whether the union's action may adversely affect the employer in the selection of his representatives.

Section 8(b)(1)(B) was designed to preserve an employer's unfettered right to select supervisory personnel for two specific functions: grievance adjustment and collective bargaining.

The section preserves that employer right by removing from the arsenal of labor unions a particular economic weapon.

That weapon is the union's ability to restrain or coerce an employer in the selection of its representatives for the two stated functions.