MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.
This petition tests the validity of an order of the National Labor Relations Board of February 14, 1936, directing respondent to discharge from its service employees who were not employed by it on July 22, 1935; to reinstate, to the vacancies so created, those who were employed on that date and have not since received substantially equivalent employment elsewhere; and to desist from refusing to bargain collectively with Enameling and Stamping Mill Employees Union No. 19694 as the exclusive representative of respondent's production employees with respect to rates of pay, wages, hours, and other conditions of employment. Unless the finding of the Board that respondent had refused to bargain collectively with the Union on July 23, 1935, is sustained by the evidence, the order is invalid.
Pursuant to a charge lodged with it by the Union, the Board issued its complaint charging respondent with unfair
Between the date of the signing of the agreement, July 14, 1934, and March 23, 1935, respondent's officers held numerous meetings with representatives of the Union, usually the Union Scale Committee, for the consideration and adjustment of various demands of the Union. At a meeting on January 4, 1935, the committee presented a number of requests, among them the demand that respondent should discharge any employees who might be suspended by the Union. This and the other demands were rejected by respondent, and a later request that the demands of January 4th be arbitrated was likewise refused on the ground that they were not arbitrable under the agreement. The committee afterward presented new demands at other meetings and then at a meeting on March 11th renewed the demands of January 4th, which respondent again rejected. On March 17th the Union passed resolutions reciting grievances and demanding a closed shop, and on March 23rd ordered a
The strike was in effect July 5, 1935, when the National Labor Relations Act was approved, and continued until about July 23rd, when respondent resumed operations at its plant. By August 19th it had received three thousand applications for employment and had reemployed one hundred and ninety of its production employees. By the end of the second week in September respondent had employed a full force. On July 23rd two labor conciliators from the Department of Labor appeared in Terre Haute and were requested by the Union "to try and open up negotiations with the respondent." On that day the conciliators met and conferred with respondent's president, who agreed to meet them with the Scale Committee. Several days later he informed them that he would not meet with them or with the Scale Committee. Later respondent received, but did not answer, letters of the Union of September 20th and October 11th, asking for a meeting to settle the controversy between them.
The Board concluded that on July 23rd the "union represented a majority of the respondent's employees, that it sought to bargain with the respondent, that the respondent refused to so bargain, and that this constituted an unfair labor practice" within the meaning of § 8, subdivision (5) of the Act. It ordered respondent to discharge all of its production employees who were not employed by it on July 22, 1935, to reinstate its employees as of that date, and thereupon to desist from refusing to bargain with the Union as the exclusive representative of respondent's production employees.
Application by the Board for a decree enforcing its order was denied by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 96 F.2d 948, on the ground that as
The Board's order is without support unless the date of the refusal to bargain collectively be fixed as July 23, 1935. The evidence and findings leave no doubt that later, in September, respondent ignored the Union's request for collective bargaining, but as at that time respondent's factory had been reopened and was operating with a full complement of production employees, the refusal to bargain could afford no basis for an order by the Board directing, as of that date, the discharge of new employees and their replacement by strikers. Restoration of the strikers to their employment, by order of the Board, under § 10 (c) of the Act, could as a practical matter be effected only if respondent had failed in its statutory duty to bargain collectively at some time after the approval of the National Labor Relations Act on July 5th, and before respondent had resumed normal operation of its factory. The date fixed by the Board was July 23rd, when respondent reopened its factory, and the occasion was the personal interview on that day and a later telephone conversation of respondent's president with the conciliators from the Labor Department, who were not members or official representatives of the Union and who, so far as the testimony discloses, did not then appear to the president to be authorized to speak for the Union.
In appraising these transactions between the conciliators and respondent's president, it is important to bear
However desirable may be the exhibition by the employer of a tolerant and conciliatory spirit in the settlement of labor disputes, we think it plain that the statute does not compel him to seek out his employees or request their participation in negotiations for purposes of collective bargaining, and that he may ignore or reject proposals for such bargaining which come from third persons not purporting to act with authority of his employees, without violation of law and without suffering the drastic consequences which violation may entail. To put the employer in default here the employees must at
During the eight months preceding the strike respondent had, upon request, entered into negotiations with the Union on some eleven different occasions. Such meetings, always with some known representatives of the Union, were customarily with the Union Scale Committee and on its written request. All negotiations were broken off by the Union by the strike which followed almost immediately its resolutions of March 17th. On July 23rd the strike had continued for about four months, accompanied by picketing, violence and destruction of property, and had culminated, on July 22nd, in a proclamation of martial law. A meeting on June 11th had resulted in no change of attitude on either side. From then until July 23rd no attempt appears to have been made on either side to resume negotiations.
While there was before the Board testimony of the secretary of the Union that on July 23rd he had asked the conciliators to "try and open up negotiations," there was no testimony that respondent or its officers had ever been informed of that fact or that they were advised in any way of the willingness of the Union to enter into negotiations. This was pointedly brought to the attention of the Board and the trial examiner by a motion to strike the testimony of the secretary and that of respondent's president, giving his account of his interview with the conciliators. But the conciliators were not called as witnesses and no attempt was made to supply the omission.
This testimony, on which the Board relies to support its finding, shows on its face that there was no indication until sometime later than July 23rd of any unwillingness on the part of respondent's president to meet the Union. Furthermore, it contains no hint that the Union at any time after July 5th and before September communicated to respondent its willingness to bargain, or that the conciliators, in asking a meeting and discussing the matter with respondent's president, purported to speak for the Union. The testimony is consistent throughout with the inference, and indeed supports it, that the conciliators, so far as known to respondent, appeared in their official role as mediators to compose the long-standing dispute between respondent and its employees; that the employer first consented in advance to attend a meeting, and later withdrew its consent when they had failed for some days to arrange a meeting. Whether in the meantime the Scale Committee or any other representative of the Union was in fact willing to attend a meeting does not appear.
Section 10 (e) of the Act provides: ". . . The findings of the Board as to the facts, if supported by evidence, shall be conclusive." But as has often been pointed out, this, as in the case of other findings by administrative bodies, means evidence which is substantial, that is, affording a substantial basis of fact from which the fact in issue can be reasonably inferred. Washington, V. & M. Coach Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 301 U.S. 142; Consolidated Edison Co. v. National Labor Relations
Judged by these tests or any of them we cannot say that there was substantial evidence that respondent at any time between July 5, 1935, and September, 1935, was aware that the Union desired or sought to bargain collectively with respondent, or that there is support in the evidence for the Board's conclusion that on or about July 23, 1935 respondent refused to bargain collectively with the Union.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK, dissenting.
The Labor Board was given jurisdiction by Congress to hear and weigh evidence and to determine the inferences from it; to make findings of fact; and to issue orders necessary to effectuate the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act. In apt language, Congress
I believe that "The inferences to be drawn were for the Board and not the courts,"
The Labor Board, the Federal Trade Commission, the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and many other administrative agencies were all created to deal with problems of regulation of ever increasing complexity in the economic fields of trade, finance and industrial conflicts. Congress thus sought to utilize procedures more expeditious and administered by more specialized and experienced experts than courts had been able to afford. The decision here tends to nullify this Congressional effort.
The Labor Board concluded that "On or about July 23, 1935, the company refused to bargain collectively with the union as the representative of its employees, or at all, . . ." This conclusion is here set aside only because the Court believes the evidence before the Board did not support its particular underlying finding that "It seems clear that . . . [the] president of the respondent, knew that the union was seeking through the [federal] conciliators to bargain with the respondent with respect to the settlement of the strike."
Undisputed evidence disclosed that on July 23, 1935, the conciliators — at the express instance of the Union — conferred for three or four hours with the president of respondent; that the only purpose of the conciliators
For thirty-three years prior to July, 1934, the company ran a non-Union plant. About that date, a majority of the employees were organized by an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor. The company first refused to sign an agreement with the Union but did so, July 14, 1934, upon the intervention of the Regional Labor Board functioning under the National Industrial Recovery Act. This agreement was to continue a year, was subject to modification by mutual consent, and provided for arbitration of disputes arising under it. Thereafter, pursuant to the agreement, meetings were held between the Union and respondent and the Union submitted repeated requests
To conclude that the company — through its president — was unaware the conciliators were acting at the instance of the Union, and, therefore, is not to be held responsible for its flat refusal to meet with its employees, is both to ignore the record and to shut our eyes to the realities of the conditions of modern industry and industrial strife. The atmosphere of a strike between an employer and employees with whom the employer is familiar does not
Not only did the Labor Board find the evidence sufficient to show that the company refused to bargain with the Union on or about July 23, but the court below reached the same conclusion. The rule is well settled that findings of fact concurred in by two lower courts will not "be disturbed unless plainly without support."
Respondent's striking employees remained employees — while on strike — within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act (§ 2 (3)) because their work had ceased "as a consequence of . .. [and] in connection with . . . [a] current labor dispute. . .." The statutory rights of these striking employees could not be destroyed, and respondent could not commit unfair labor practices and then escape liability by reopening the plant with a full complement of non-Union men.
Second. The court below was of opinion that the strike of March 22, 1935, violated the particular provision of the July 14, 1934, contract
In this, I believe the court below was in error. A disagreement over the terms of a contract governing employer-employee relations is a labor dispute within the terms of the Act. Such a disagreement can — as it did here — produce industrial strife which the Act was expressly designed to prevent. Had Congress provided that violation of a private contract would deprive employees and the public of the benefits of the law, a different question would be presented. But Congress did not so provide and, in addition, the Union did not violate its contract. It contracted not to strike "pending decision by the Committee of Arbitration" but there was no decision "pending." There was no arbitration pending because the company would not arbitrate. If the contract was broken, it was the company — not the Union — that broke it.
I believe the judgment of the court below should be reversed and that the Board's order should be enforced.
MR. JUSTICE REED joins in this dissent.