MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question for decision is whether a federal district court has equity jurisdiction to enjoin the National Labor Relations Board from holding a hearing upon a complaint filed by it against an employer alleged to be engaged in unfair labor practices prohibited by National Labor Relations Act, July 5, 1935, c. 372, 49 Stat. 449. The Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held in these cases that the District Court possesses such jurisdiction; and granted preliminary injunctions. Every other Circuit Court of Appeals in which the question has arisen has
The declared purpose of the National Labor Relations Act is to diminish the causes of labor disputes burdening and obstructing interstate and foreign commerce; and its provisions are applicable only to such commerce. In order to protect it the Act seeks to promote collective bargaining; confers upon employees engaged in such commerce the right to form, and join in, labor organizations; defines acts of an employer which shall be deemed unfair labor practice; and confers upon the Board certain limited powers with a view to preventing such practices. If a charge is made to the Board that a person "has engaged in or is engaging in any . . . unfair labor practice," and it appears that a proceeding in respect thereto should be instituted, a complaint stating the charge is to be filed, and a hearing is to be held thereon upon notice to the person complained of.
The Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America, Local No. 5, made to the Board a charge that the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd.,
The complaint alleged, specifically:
"The respondent in the course and conduct of its business causes and has continuously caused large quantities of the raw materials used in the production of its boats, ships and marine equipment to be purchased and transported in interstate commerce from and through states of the United States other than the State of Massachusetts to the Fore River Plant in the State of Massachusetts, and causes and has continuously caused the boats, ships and marine equipment produced by it to be sold and transported in interstate commerce from the Fore River Plant in the State of Massachusetts to, into and through states of the United States other than the State of Massachusetts, all of the aforesaid constituting a continuous flow of trade, traffic and commerce among the several states."
The Board duly notified the Corporation that a hearing on the complaint would be held on April 27, 1936, at Boston, Massachusetts, in accordance with Rules and Regulations of the Board, a copy of which was annexed to the notice; and that the Corporation "will have the right to appear, in person or otherwise, and give testimony."
On May 4, 1936, another bill in equity, herein numbered 182, against the same defendants, seeking, on largely the same allegations of fact, substantially the same relief, was brought in the same court by Charles MacKenzie, James E. Manning and Thomas E. Barker, employees of the Bethlehem Corporation and officers of the so-called Plan of Representation at the Fore River Plant.
Upon the filing of each bill, the District Court issued a restraining order and an order of notice to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not issue. In each case the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the bill of complaint and also a return to the order to show cause. The cases were heard together. In each, the District Court issued the preliminary injunction; and the decrees therefor are still in effect. They were affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on February
The two cases present, in the main, the same questions. In discussing them reference will be made, in the first instance, only to the suit brought by the Corporation.
We are of opinion that the District Court was without power to enjoin the Board from holding the hearings.
First. There is no claim by the Corporation that the statutory provisions and the rules of procedure prescribed for such hearings are illegal; or that the Corporation was not accorded ample opportunity to answer the complaint of the Board; or that opportunity to introduce evidence on the allegations made will be denied. The claim is that the provisions of the Act are not applicable to the Corporation's business at the Fore River Plant, because the operations conducted there are not carried on, and the products manufactured are not sold, in interstate or foreign commerce; that, therefore, the Corporation's relations with its employees at the plant cannot burden or interfere with such commerce; that hearings would, at best, be futile; and that the holding of them would result in irreparable damage to the Corporation, not only by reason of their direct cost and the loss of time of its officials and employees, but also because the hearings would cause serious impairment of the good will and harmonious relations existing between the Corporation
Second. The District Court is without jurisdiction to enjoin hearings because the power "to prevent any person from engaging in any unfair practice affecting commerce," has been vested by Congress in the Board and the Circuit Court of Appeals, and Congress has declared: "This power shall be exclusive, and shall not be affected by any other means of adjustment or prevention that has been or may be established by agreement, code, law, or otherwise."
As was said in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 46, 47, the procedural provisions,
"do not offend against the constitutional requirements governing the creation and action of administrative bodies. See Interstate Commerce Commission v. Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 227 U.S. 88, 91. The Act establishes standards to which the Board must conform. There must be complaint, notice and hearing. The Board must receive evidence and make findings. The findings as to the facts are to be conclusive, but only if supported by evidence. The order of the Board is subject to review by the designated court, and only when sustained by the court may the order be enforced. Upon that review all questions of the jurisdiction of the Board and the regularity of its proceedings, all questions of constitutional right or statutory authority, are open to examination by the court. We construe the procedural provisions as affording adequate opportunity to secure judicial protection against arbitrary action in accordance with the well-settled rules applicable to administrative agencies set up by Congress to aid in the enforcement of valid legislation."
It is true that the Board has jurisdiction only if the complaint concerns interstate or foreign commerce. Unless the Board finds that it does, the complaint must be dismissed. And if it finds that interstate or foreign commerce
Third. The Corporation contends that, since it denies that interstate or foreign commerce is involved and claims that a hearing would subject it to irreparable damage, rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution will be denied unless it be held that the District Court has jurisdiction to enjoin the holding of a hearing by the Board.
Obviously, the rule requiring exhaustion of the administrative remedy cannot be circumvented by asserting that the charge on which the complaint rests is groundless and that the mere holding of the prescribed administrative hearing would result in irreparable damage.
Fourth. The Circuit Court of Appeals should have reversed the decrees for a preliminary injunction. It is true that ordinarily the decree of a District Court granting or denying a preliminary injunction will not be disturbed on appeal. But that rule of practice has no application where, as here, there was an insuperable objection to the maintenance of the suit in point of jurisdiction and where it clearly appears that the decree was the result of an improvident exercise of judicial discretion.
Fifth. In No. 182, also, the Circuit Court of Appeals should have reversed the decree for a preliminary injunction and directed dismissal of the bill. The plaintiffs, officers of the so-called Plan of Representation of Employees, alleged, in addition to the facts already stated, that the employees are satisfied with their existing contracts of employment and desire to retain the existing Plan without change; that the holding of the proposed hearing will discredit the Plan and destroy its usefulness to the employees; that they will be deprived of their right to negotiate by the method of their choice, the value of which has been proved by years of operation; that alteration of the Plan will cause dissatisfaction among the employees; that operation of plant will be disrupted by labor disturbances; that employment will be interrupted; and that the damage to the employees will be irreparable. These additional allegations furnish no reason why the Board should be prevented from exercising the exclusive initial jurisdiction conferred upon it by Congress.
Decrees for preliminary injunction reversed with direction to dismiss the bills.
MR. JUSTICE CARDOZO took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Clark v. Lindemann & Hoverson Co., 88 F.2d 59 (C.C.A. 7); Chamber of Commerce v. Federal Trade Comm'n, 52 App. D.C. 40; 280 Fed. 45 (C.C.A. 8); Heller Bros. Co. v. Lind, 66 App. D.C. 306; 86 F.2d 862; and Pittsburgh & W. Va. Ry. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Comm'n, 280 Fed. 1014 (App. D.C.). Cf. United States v. Los Angeles & S.L.R. Co., 273 U.S. 299, 314; Lawrence v. St. Louis-San Francisco Ry. Co., 274 U.S. 588; Dalton Adding Machine Co. v. State Corporation Comm'n, 236 U.S. 699; McChord v. Louisville & Nashville Ry. Co., 183 U.S. 483; Richmond Hosiery Mills v. Camp, 74 F.2d 200, 201 (C.C.A. 5).
The cases cited by the Corporation are not opposed. Watson v. Sutherland, 5 Wall. 74; Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510; Walla Walla v. Walla Walla Water Co., 172 U.S. 1; Vicksburg Waterworks Co. v. Vicksburg, 185 U.S. 65, 82; Hitchman Coal & Coke Co. v. Mitchell, 245 U.S. 229, 248; Pennsylvania v. West Virginia, 262 U.S. 553, 592, 593; City Bank Farmers Trust Co. v. Schnader, 291 U.S. 24; Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33; Terrace v. Thompson, 263 U.S. 197, 215-16.