National Labor Relations Board v. Savair Manufacturing Company

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Savair Manufacturing Company
LOCATION: The White House

DOCKET NO.: 72-1231
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 414 US 270 (1973)
ARGUED: Nov 12, 1973
DECIDED: Dec 17, 1973

ADVOCATES:
Norton J. Come - for petitioner
Robert J. Solner - for respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Savair Manufacturing Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 12, 1973 in National Labor Relations Board v. Savair Manufacturing Company

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in number 72-1231, National Labor Relations Board against Savair Manufacturing Company.

Mr. Come, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Norton J. Come:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on a writ of certiorari to the Sixth Circuit.

The basic question is, whether it is permissible for the National Labor Relations Board in the exercise of its broad discretion to establish the standards and safeguards for conducting a fair and free representation election to conclude that a union's offer to waive initiation fees for all employees who signed union authorization cards before the election, should the union win the election, does not tend to interfere with the employee free choice in the election.

The facts are these.

In September of 1970, pursuant to a representation petition filed by the Mechanics Educational Society of America, the Board conducted a secret ballot election among the production and maintenance employees of the Savair Manufacturing Company.

The Union won the election by a vote of 22 to 20.

The company filed objections to the election alleging among other things that union representatives had improperly coerced certain employees by leading them to believe that if they failed or refused to sign a card requesting an election and the Union were successful, they would be fined from to $20.00 to $200.00 before they could join the Union.

These objections were investigated and set down for hearing before a Hearing Officer of the Board who found that prior to the filing of the representation petition, Bennie McKnight, an employee supporter of the union, solicited employees to sign cards applying for membership in the union, which cards were to be used to support the petition as this Court note out those that generally, the Board requires a support of 30% in cards before it will process a representation petition.

McKnight told the employees that if they did not sign a card now, they would be subject to an assessment or a fine if the Union won the election.

When the employees questioned McKnight about the union's policy, he told them to call Alfred Smith, the Union Secretary-Treasurer whose phone number he gave them.

After the election petition was filed but before the election was held, Smith addressed the group of about 20 employees.

In response to a question about the assessment, he explained that it was the union's policy to waive initiation fees in organizing new shops but to require a small fee to be paid by the persons joining the union after a contract had been negotiated.

In fact, the union's constitution and by-laws provide for the local union to set the initiation fees, which in no event can exceed $10.00.

Smith added that there was no assessment or fine in our organization in regards to the situation of membership.

The only time the fine was imposed was for violation of the union's constitution or by-laws.

The Hearing Officer concluded that what the Union did through Smith and McKnight was to inform employees that an initiation fee would be waived in the eventuality of a successful election by the union.

He further found that whatever confusion may have re-existed with respect to the terminology utilized by McKnight, the union's policy was clarified at this initial organizational meeting at which Smith explained the union's policy when he held a subsequent meeting shortly before the election going over the same ground.

How many were at the second meeting?

Norton J. Come:

At the first meeting, there were about 20 employees and he indicated that about the same number were at the second meeting.

The first meeting was attended by the card signers.

He explained that those were the only names and addresses that he had and that's what the notice went out to.

There is no indication as to who in addition may have been present at the second meeting.

Following the Board's decision in DIT-MCO that a waiver of initiation fees prior to an election, is not an improper inducement for vote for the Union regardless of whether it was contingent upon the results of the election.

The Hearing Officer concluded that the union's waiver offer did not impair free choice in the election and recommended that the union be certified.

I should point out that DIT-MCO represents a reversal of the Board's earlier position in Lobue in which the Board had concluded that if the waiver was tied to the outcome of the election, it was improper.

Do you have at least a copy of the cards in the record?

Norton J. Come:

There is not a copy of the cards in the record.

What we do have in the record is a testimony by the union agent.