National Labor Relations Board v. Retail Store Employees Union

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Retail Store Employees Union
LOCATION: Elkhart, Indiana

DOCKET NO.: 79-672
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 447 US 607 (1980)
ARGUED: Apr 15, 1980
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1980

ADVOCATES:
Laurence Stephen Gold -
Norton J. Come -

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Retail Store Employees Union

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 15, 1980 in National Labor Relations Board v. Retail Store Employees Union

Warren E. Burger:

The case is submitted.

We'll hear arguments next in the National Labor Relations Board against Retail Store Employees Union.

Mr. Come.

Norton J. Come:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This here -- this case is here on certiorari to the District of Columbia Circuit, which sitting en banc and dividing 5-to-4, denied enforcement of the Board's order against the Union, Local of the Retail Clerks International, which the Board found had engaged in secondary picketing in violation of Section 8 (b) (4) (ii) (B) of the National Labor Relations Act.

This Section makes it an unfair labor practice for a labor organization to threat and coerce or restrain any person for an object of forcing him to cease dealing in the products of or otherwise, to cease dealing of doing business with any other person.

A proviso to this Section accepts publicity other than picketing for the purpose of truthfully advising the public that a product or products are produced by an employer of whom the Union has a primary dispute and are distributed by another employer.

The question whether the picketing here violates Section 8 (b) (4) (ii) (B) turns on an application of the principles enunciated by this Court in the Tree Fruits decision in 1964.

The relevant facts --

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, it -- it turns basically on the statute, doesn't it?

And naturally, any cases from this Court interpreting the statute but that the basic criteria is the statutory language.

Norton J. Come:

That is correct.

Except that in Tree Fruits, as I will indicate, the Court did interpret that language as applied to picketing of this general character.

But at bottom, we do get back to an interpretation of the statute and that was what Tree Fruits attempted to do.

The Union here is the certified bargaining representative of certain employees of Safeco Title Insurance Company.

And it called a strike following an impasse in negotiations over an initial contract.

In addition to picketing Safeco's office, striking employees also engaged in picketing of five land title companies that sell only Safeco Title Insurance policies.

The signs carried by the picket stated that Safeco was non-union and did not have a contract with the Union and the handbills, which were distributed at the general public, requested that numbers of the public boycott Safeco Insurance.

The Union's activities at the land title companies did not cause any work stoppages or interference with deliveries.

From 90% to 95% of the income of the land title companies is derived from the issuance of Safeco Title Insurance policies.

The remaining 5% to 10% comes from title research and escrow services.

Each land title company operates under an agency contract with Safeco under which Safeco operate -- underwrites all of its title insurance.

And the land title company agrees not to act as an agent for any other title insurance company.

Safeco owns stock in all of the land title companies, 53% in one and amounts ranging from 18% to 38% in the other four.

The remaining stock is held by various individuals.

An officer of Safeco serves as a member of the board of directors of -- of each land title company and two served on the board of the company in which Safeco owns 53% of the stock.

However, each land title company independently establishes its own wages hours and other terms and conditions of employment for its own employees.

And there is no interchange of employees between the land title companies and Safeco.

Based upon these facts, the Board concluded that despite the land title company's economic dependents on -- on Safeco for the underwriting of the title insurance, each land title company retained control over their own labor relations policies and their day to day operations and therefore, they were independent companies and not allied or part of Safeco.

The Court of Appeals sustained this finding and the Union does not challenge it here.