National Labor Relations Board v. Warren Company, Inc.

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Warren Company, Inc.

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

ARGUED: Oct 20, 1955
DECIDED: Dec 12, 1955

Facts of the case


Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Warren Company, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 20, 1955 in National Labor Relations Board v. Warren Company, Inc.

Earl Warren:

Number 27, National Labor Relations Board versus The Warren Company.

Mr. Findling.

David P. Findling:

Thank you, Your Honor.

May it please the Court.

The National Labor Relations Board has brought this case here on certiorari to review a decision of the Court of Appeals for the Firth Circuit, which dismissed the Board's petition to adjudge the Warren Company in contempt of an enforcement decree.

The enforcement decree had been entered in the conventional enforcement proceedings in the court below under Section 10 (e) of the National Labor Relations Act, and among other things required the company to bargain collectively with Lodge 46 of the Machinists Union.

The court below had recognized in the enforcement proceedings that under the applicable substantive law and the decisions of this Court, it was obliged to enter the enforcement decree requiring bargaining with the union, despite the union's inability to maintain its majority membership among the employees after the refusal to bargain and other unfair labor practices.

But the Court held in the contempt proceeding that the different consideration, and that's a quotation from the Court's opinion, the different considerations applicable to contempt as distinguished from enforcement proceedings committed it in its discretion to accept as a defense in the civil contempt proceedings, the lost of majority which it had recognized was not a defense to the entry of the enforcement decree.

We think that in taking this position, the Court exceeded the permissible limits of its legal discretion and that in the circumstances of this case, the Court was found to give effect to the enforcement decree by compelling obedience to it through the imposition of civil contempt sanction.

The facts as they are set forth in the Board's petition to adjudge the company in contempt was substantially admitted in the company's answer, and may I think the -- fairly summarized as follows.

After the usual unfair labor practice proceedings under Section 10 of the Act, the Board found on June 30, 1949, that the company had violated Section 8 (a) (5) of the Act by refusing to bargain with the union.

Professing a doubt as to the union's majority status when in fact it had no such doubt and at the same time, making an election to determine the employees true wishes impossible by dismissing four -- by discharging four of the eight employees in the unit because they had joined the union and by engaging another acts of intimidation and coercion with respect to the employees unionization.

After the Board's decision order issue, the company took steps to comply with the reinstatement requirements as the payment of back pay to the employees discharge.

It also post the notices required by the Board's order.

But it did not comply with the bargaining requirements of the order.

In that respect, as the undisputed fact show the company despite repeated request by the union for bargaining conferences met with the union only once during this period.

That was on September 8, 1950 when the union submitted a contract proposal and the company took no position on it except to say that it would consider the proposed contract and let the union know whether the contract was acceptable and if the contract was not acceptable, it would submit counter proposals with respect to the provisions that were unacceptable.

This promise, the company never kept thereafter despite the union's repeated request for a statement of its position on the contract or prepare the meetings.

Instead, on August 6, 1951, the company wrote the union that only two of the eight employees comprising the union -- the unit continued to be employed in the plant, but the company therefore doubted the continued majority status of the union and that it would be glad to meet on August 16 and here I quote from the letter which is at 41 of the record, “To discuss this feature and what proof you have of the majority status.”

At about the same time on August 14, the Board instituted the enforcement proceedings in the court below to which the company responded that although there were sufficient evidence in the record upon which to face the Board's findings and order, the order should nevertheless not be enforced because -- and here again I quote, and this is at pages 1 and 2 of the record, “The order has been obeyed in all of its provisions and because of changed condition, not attributable to respondent's conduct and the references obviously is to the turn over among the employees in the unit normal cost of business.”

The union does not now represent a majority in this small unit and respondent should not be required to bargain fairly with it.

The court below rejected that defense in the enforcement case principally on the authority of this Court's decision in National Labor Relations Board against Mexia Textile Mills in 339 U.S.

The Court pointed out that in that case, this Court had expressly ruled that compliance with the order did not affect the Board's right to an enforcement decree in as much as the Act contemplated that there be immediately available to the Board, and I'm reading from the Court's opinion, “An existing Court decree to serve as a basis for contempt proceedings in the event a renewal of the unfair labor practice occurs after the enforcement order.”

In its opinion on enforcement, the court below also pointed out that the same case settled the doctrine that the union's allege lost and I'm reading again, “May not be urged as a defense in an enforcement proceeding.”

And so on August 7, 1952, the court below entered its decree enforcing the Board's order including as I've said, the bargaining provision.

The union thereupon immediately renewed --

Felix Frankfurter:

What date?

David P. Findling:

-- on certain --

Felix Frankfurter:

What was the date?

David P. Findling:

August 7, 1952, Your Honor.