Wisconsin Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations v. Gould, Inc.

PETITIONER: Wisconsin Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations
LOCATION: Kings County Superior Court: Hanford Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 84-1484
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 475 US 282 (1986)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1985
DECIDED: Feb 26, 1986

Columbus R. Gangemi, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondent
Charles D. Hoornstra - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Wisconsin Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations v. Gould, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1985 in Wisconsin Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations v. Gould, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments now in Wisconsin Department of Industry and so forth against Gould.

Mr. Hoornstra, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Charles D. Hoornstra:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

We are here on an appeal from a decision of the Seventh Circuit.

The decision struck as unconstitutional two Wisconsin statutes.

The ground of the decision was pre-emption under the National Labor Relations Act.

The statutes in question function together as a single unit to direct the purchasing agent of the State, when purchasing goods for the internal needs of the State, not to buy the goods of violators of the National Labor Relations Act.

Those NLRA violators are defined by our statute as those who have been adjudicated by the federal courts three times in a five year period to have violated the NLRA.

The consequence of being an NLRA violator as defined is that the purchasing agent may not acquire state goods from those violators for a three-year period.

This directive aims only at the state purchasing decisions.

It does not direct itself to the purchasing decisions of counties, municipalities or any other political subdivisions of the state.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Hoornstra, what is the purpose of the statute?

Charles D. Hoornstra:

The purpose of the statute, Your Honor, is to spend the state's money on those employers that have exhibited a fidelity to the law and not to spend their money on those who have violated the law.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Did the state ever concede during the course of this litigation that the purpose of the statute was to deter private conduct, namely the conduct of the respondent and companies like it?

Charles D. Hoornstra:


The other side of the same coin, namely, if we're going to reward those employers who are exemplary by giving them our business, we necessarily will decide that we do not want to encourage labor law violations by giving those violators our business.

In either event, it remains a purchasing decision, where we are buying our goods for our purpose.

To shape the issue with some more precision, we want to be able to make the choice, the choice consumers generally enjoy, the choice trading partners in the private sector enjoy when they are engaged in proprietary conduct, to make the decision.

We want to give our business to those employers, those companies, that demonstrate the best in corporate America and we would rather not have to hire people who have violated the labor laws.

The holding of the Seventh Circuit--

John Paul Stevens:

May I ask on that point, General Hoornstra, does the Wisconsin Legislature define any other groups of ineligible suppliers other than this one?

Charles D. Hoornstra:

--Yes, Your Honor.

We have another statute that prohibits our purchasing department from buying the goods from those that have demonstrated a proclivity to discriminate against minorities, women, and a rather expanded class of protected persons within the equal rights area.

John Paul Stevens:

Is that a similar pattern, if they've been found guilty on three separate occasions or something like that?

Charles D. Hoornstra:

Basically, without that precise formulary, and without a deference to the federal machinery since we have co-equal jurisdiction to adjudicate that ourselves.

But otherwise, in substance it is the same.

John Paul Stevens:

What about violating something like the RICOH statute or, committed a lot of arsons or something like that?

Charles D. Hoornstra:

We don't have anything as express, Your Honor, but I think I can say that our catchall statute of rewarding contracts to the lowest responsible bidder, we would regard as a catchall authorization so we don't have to deal with organized crime either.

We choose not to, even though they might be the low bidder.

Similarly with an employer--