Scofield v. National Labor Relations Board

RESPONDENT: National Labor Relations Board
LOCATION: Union Free School District No. 15

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 394 US 423 (1969)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1969
DECIDED: Apr 01, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Scofield v. National Labor Relations Board

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 1969 in Scofield v. National Labor Relations Board

Earl Warren:

Number 273, Russell Scofield et al., Petitioners versus National Labor Relations Board et al.

Mr. Urdan?

James Urdan:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This is a review of a decree of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The Court of Appeals upheld an order of the Labor Board which had dismissed unfair labor practice charges against a labor union.

The case raises the issue of whether it is an unfair labor practice under Section 8(b)(1)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act, when a labor union finds one of its members for exceeding a production quota, so called ‘ceiling’ set by the union.

These petitioners are employees of the Wisconsin Motor Corporation and --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And when you say set by the union, am I wrong that this was whatever the ceilings are they were embodied in the collective bargaining agreement?

James Urdan:

The subject of the ceilings was bargained from time-to-time.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

But weren't the actual ceilings agreed upon between management, no?

James Urdan:

They were not agreed upon in the sense that they were a limit on the employee.

The employee was free to work, free to make more than the ceiling permitted and the employer had to pay him under the collective agreement.

There was collective bargaining over the ceilings as to the general level of the ceilings, but never were the ceilings accepted in bargaining as a limit on the individual and as the individual who is complaining here.

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Justice Brennan's question exposes what for me has been a difficulty in reading the briefs and to answer this argument and that is the apparent disagreement among the parties as to what the facts are.

You state as number one on the questions presented, referring to the ceilings, you talk about production quotas established and enforced by the union and the government trying to persuade us that really these things, while not explicitly written out of the collective bargaining agreement, are nonetheless where by custom, practice and basic recognition were part and parcel of the agreement between the union and the employer and that makes for two quite different cases.

I'm interested in knowing which case do we have before us?

James Urdan:

I think there's some truth in both positions.

From the standpoint of the employees who are complaining here, the case we have is that a collective bargaining agreement was entered into.

This union bargained it and agreed with the employer and the collective bargaining agreement set no limit on the production or on the earnings of these men.

They could produce to their capacity, they could claim pay for that work and they would have to be paid for that work.

That is the bargain that the union made with the employer.

Now it is true that the employer and the union bargained from time-to-time about the level of ceilings, because the employer recognized this is as a fact of life in the plant.

He recognized that the union had these ceilings.

The employer recognized that it was in his interest to have the ceilings increased from time-to-time and he bargained for that objective.

He tried to get the ceilings removed, not totally successfully.

The union tried to get the employer to agree to the ceilings and they failed in that.

The employer never agreed to put a ceiling on the earnings of these men.

We have in essence a standoff in the bargaining.

Neither side got what it wanted, but as far as these employees are concerned, they worked under a collective bargaining agreement that permitted them to exceed the ceiling, to earn more and to collect their pay and the employer had to pay them, employer could not refuse to pay them.

This is their complaint that the union fine is bypassing the collective agreement and the collective bargaining process.