RESPONDENT: National Labor Relations Board
DOCKET NO.: 422
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
CITATION: 353 US 313 (1957)
ARGUED: Mar 28, 1957
DECIDED: May 06, 1957
Facts of the case
Media for Office Employees International Union, Local No. 11, AFL-CIO v. National Labor Relations BoardAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1957 (Part 2) in Office Employees International Union, Local No. 11, AFL-CIO v. National Labor Relations Board
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1957 (Part 1) in Office Employees International Union, Local No. 11, AFL-CIO v. National Labor Relations Board
Number 422, Office Employes International Union, Local Number 11, AFL-CIO, Petitioner, versus National Labor Relations Board.
Joseph E. Finley:
May it please the Court.
This case presents the important public issue of whether or not labor unions, when dealing with their own employees, must obey the law in the same fashion as do commercial employers.
The case arose in 1954 in Portland, Oregon, where the Teamsters Unions there were allegedly involved in unfair labor practices against their own employees, that is their office and clerical employees.
Petitioner, which is a local union of the Office Employes International Union, filed these charges.
The matter came on for hearing before a trial examiner of the Board.
And on the merits of the case, the trial examiner found the six Teamster respondents and I refer to them here as Teamster respondents.
Before the Board there was International Brotherhood of Teamsters, two of its locals, the Joint Council and two other subsidiary organizations and we lumped them together as labor organizations as Teamster respondents for the purposes of arguing this case.
The examiner found on the merits that the Teamsters Unions toward their own employees violated Sections 8 (a) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 encompassing all the unfair -- employer unfair labor practice provisions of the Act.
On the question of Board jurisdiction, which is the only question, the only legal question before this Court, the examiner found that the Teamster organizations were integral parts of a multistate enterprise.
He found that in 1953, the year prior to the hearing, some approximately $6 million induce an initiation fees across state lines.
The examiner further found that since the Board normally asserts its jurisdiction over multistate enterprises, it would assert jurisdiction here.
The case came on before the NLRB and the Board split three ways, the controlling decision of -- then Chairman Farmer and member Peterson, which is the decision we are challenging here, held in substance that the Teamsters as unions were not engaged in a proper enterprise.
They were not engaged in commercial business and that the Board normally, so that decision said, did not assert its jurisdiction over so-called nonprofit non-commercial organizations, and since the Teamsters were not nonprofit non-commercial, we will not assert our jurisdiction over them because it will not effectuate the policies of the Act.
Member Murdock in a separate concurring opinion read the congressional intent is not to include union as employers engaging -- when they are engaged their trade union capacities, and he voted to dismiss the complaints also.
Two dissenting Board members took the position that the Board should assert its jurisdiction, and they relied largely, I think, upon the equity principle that if commercial employers must obey the law towards their own employees, so should organizations.
In the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit, that Court in a 2-to-1 decision affirmed the Board.
The Court of Appeals said that the Board had a wide discretion in the exercise of its jurisdiction and that it had made a rational finding in lumping these labor unions in a category with other nonprofit non-commercial organizations.
And therefore, this was a rational finding and they would not disturb it.
Now, Judge Bazelon dissented, a very short dissent saying that the reference in Section 2 (2) of the Act, which I will refer to in a moment, to labor unions distinguish them from the normal nonprofit non-commercial organization or which the Board had refused to take jurisdiction.
Now, Section 2 (2) of the Act which -- from which this controversy flows was enacted -- remains the same today as it was when it was enacted in the law in 1935.
Now, Section 2 (2) defines employers and excludes therefrom labor organizations (other than when acting as an employer) and that's the statutory language here that we come -- we bring this case on.
Now, petitioners first element of argument is that the Board in declining, and I say declining to assert its jurisdiction, ignored the intent of Congress in enacting this specific provision of Section 2 (2) and that is arbitrary and capricious to ignore the congressional intent.
And our second contention is that in any event it was arbitrary to place unions in a category with a university or a symphony orchestra or a live (Inaudible) or something of that nature.
Now, let us look for a moment at the legislative history of this provision.
The first comprehensive Labor Act was introduced by Senator Wagner in 1934 in the 73rd Congress.
Senator Wagner in his employer definition section excluded labor organizations.
The bill was referred to committee, hearings were held and the Senate Labor Committee and I might say which Mr. Justice Black was a member at that time, reported the bill out and changed the language of Section 2 (2) to read exactly as it does today.
And the Committee put in the parenthetical expression other than when acting as an employer.