National Labor Relations Board v. Washington Aluminum Company

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Washington Aluminum Company
LOCATION: United States Senate

DOCKET NO.: 464
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 370 US 9 (1962)
ARGUED: Apr 10, 1962
DECIDED: May 28, 1962

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Washington Aluminum Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 10, 1962 in National Labor Relations Board v. Washington Aluminum Company

Earl Warren:

Number 464, NLRB, Petitioner, versus Washington Aluminum Company.

Mr. Manoli.

Dominick L. Manoli:

May it please the Court.

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

The Labor Board found in this case that the respondent company violated the National Labor Relations Act by discharging seven employees who had concertedly walked out of the plant in protest against inadequate heating of the machine shop in which they were employed.

The Board's order requires the respondent company to offer reinstatement of these employees with back pay.

The court below set aside the Board's order.

It concluded that the walkout, the concerted walkout was not concerted activity within the protection of the statute and that therefore, the discharge does not violate of the Act because the employees, prior to the walkout, had failed to make a demand upon the employer to correct the objectionable conditions.

The question presented is whether in the circumstances of this case, there is award in the statute for the interposition of such a condition precedent to the employees' exercise of their right to engage in concerted activity for mutual aid or protection.

I shall briefly summarize the basic facts which give rise to this controversy.

The respondent company operates a plant in Baltimore, Maryland where it is engaged in the fabrication of aluminum products.

And in connection with this plant, it operates a machine shop.

The day shift on the machine -- on the machine shop consists of a foreman and eight employees.

And at the time of the events that gave rise to this controversy, these employees were not represented by a union nor was there in effect any collective bargaining agreement which provided for machinery for the handling of grievances.

The shop is approximately 40 x 75 feet.

It is not insulated.

It has a number of doors which open to the outside and during working time, these doors are open by frequently.

The shop is principally heated -- principally heated by large gas furnace and to -- by a large oil furnace rather, by large oil furnace and two much smaller gas furnaces.

Sometime prior to the walkout here in question, the employees complained about the coldness of the shop in the winter time.

On January 5th, 1959, a Monday morning, the employees of the machine shop reported at the plant some time between 7 and 7:30.

That particular morning was extremely cold and for Baltimore, an abnormally cold day, cold morning.

An anticipation of the heat, the night watchmen had been at the plant at 1 o'clock that morning -- 1 o'clock Monday morning, and again at 5 o'clock that morning and had sought to start the furnaces, but he was unable to start the large furnace, and the large furnace is the one that is the source of -- the primary source of heat for the machine shop.

When the employees reported at work, as I say between 7 and 7:30, they found the shop extremely cold.

And one of the employees, Caron, went into the foreman Jarvis' office in order to get warmed but found that his office was just as cold as the rest of the shop.

While he and foreman Jarvis were discussing the cold in the shop, foreman Jarvis saw a couple of employees, as the record puts it, all huddled up near the doorway, and Jarvis remarked to Caron, "If those fellow had any guts, they would go home."

Caron reported this statement to his fellow employees and they discussed it among themselves, and they decided to go home.

There's one employee who testified and answered the question, "Why did you leave the plant on Monday morning with these other men?"

I'm reading it -- at the bottom of page 43 of the record.

His answer was, "Well, they said it was extremely cold, and we had all got together and thought it would be a good idea to go home.

Maybe we could get some heat brought into the plant that way."