MR. JUSTICE MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.
Upon the usual proceedings
For years prior to the events in this case the Virginia Electric and Power Company (hereinafter called the Company)
While the Independent was in the process of organization, Edwards, a supervisor, kept meetings, of a rival C.I.O. union under surveillance and warned employees that they would be discharged for "messing with the C.I.O." On June 1, Mann, a member of the C.I.O. who had openly protested against an "inside" union at one of the May 11 meetings (see note 6 ante) attended by Superintendent Bishop's son, Warren, was discharged for union activities.
Upon the basis of these findings and the entire record in the case, the Board concluded that the Company had committed unfair labor practices within the meaning of § 8 (1), (2) and (3) of the Act. Its order directed the Company to cease and desist from its unfair labor practices and from giving effect to its contract with the Independent, to withdraw recognition from and disestablish that organization, to reinstate with back pay the four wrongfully discharged employees, to reimburse each of its employees who was a member of the Independent in the amount of the dues and assessments checked off his wages by the Company on behalf of the Independent, and to post appropriate notices.
The Company is engaged in the business of generating and distributing electrical energy in eastern Virginia and north-eastern North Carolina. It also furnishes illuminating gas to customers in the vicinity of Norfolk, Virginia, and operates transportation services in Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Petersburg. It does not here renew the contention, correctly decided against it by the court below,
Domination of the Independent
The command of § 10 (e) of the Act that "the findings of the Board as to the facts, if supported by evidence, shall be conclusive," precludes an independent consideration of the facts. Bearing this in mind, we must ever guard against allowing our views to be substituted for those of the agency which Congress has created to administer the Act. But here the Board's conclusion that the Independent was a company-dominated union seems based heavily upon findings which are not free from ambiguity and doubt. We believe that the Board, and not this Court, should undertake the task of clarification.
The Board specifically found that the bulletin of April 26 and the speeches of May 24 "interfered with, restrained
If the Board's order here may fairly be said to be based on the totality of the Company's activities during the period in question, we may not consider the findings of the Board as to the coercive effect of the bulletin and the speeches in isolation from the findings as respects the other conduct of the Company. If the Board's ultimate conclusion is based upon a complex of activities, such as the anti-union background of the Company, the activities of Bishop, Edwards' warning to the employees that they would be discharged for "messing with the
But, from the Board's decision, we are far from clear that the Board here considered the whole complex of activities, of which the bulletin and the speeches are but parts, in reaching its ultimate conclusion with regard to the Independent. The Board regarded the bulletin, on its face, as showing a marked bias against national unions by implying that strikes and unrest are caused by the organizational campaigns of such bodies, by stressing the "happy relationship of mutual confidence and understanding" prevailing in the absence of organization since the defeat of the Amalgamated in 1922, and by emphasizing the negative "right" of the employees to refrain from exercising their rights guaranteed under the Act, after paying "lip service" to those rights. Summing up its conclusions, the Board said: "We interpret the bulletin as an appeal to the employees to bargain with the respondent directly, without the intervention of any `outside' union. We find that by posting the bulletin the respondent interfered with, restrained, and coerced its employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the Act."
The Board was of the view that the speeches delivered in the meetings of May 24 provided the impetus for the formation of a system-wide organization, that they reemphasized
It is clear that the Board specifically found that those utterances were unfair labor practices, and it does not appear that the Board raised them to the stature of coercion by reliance on the surrounding circumstances. If the utterances are thus to be separated from their background, we find it difficult to sustain a finding of coercion with respect to them alone. The bulletin and the speeches set forth the right of the employees to do as they please without fear of retaliation by the Company. Perhaps the purport of these utterances may be altered by imponderable subtleties at work, which it is not our function to appraise. Whether there are sufficient findings and evidence of interference, restraint, coercion, and domination, without reference to the bulletin and the speeches, or whether the whole course of conduct, evidenced in part by the utterances, was aimed at achieving objectives forbidden by the Act, are questions for the Board to decide upon the evidence.
Here, we are not sufficiently certain from the findings that the Board based its conclusion with regard to the Independent upon the whole course of conduct revealed by this record. Rather, it appears that the Board rested heavily upon findings with regard to the bulletin and the speeches, the adequacy of which we regard as doubtful. We therefore remand the cause to the Circuit Court of Appeals with directions to remand it to the Board for a
Reversed and remanded.
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS and MR. JUSTICE JACKSON took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
To the Employees of the Company:
As a result of recent national labor organization activities and the interpretation of the Wagner Labor Act by the Supreme Court, employees of companies such as ours may be approached in the near future by representatives of one or more such labor organizations to solicit their membership. Such campaigns are now being pressed in various industries and in different parts of the country and strikes and unrest have developed in many localities. For the last fifteen years this Company and its employees have enjoyed a happy relationship of mutual confidence and understanding with each other, and during this period there has not been any labor organization among our employees in any department, so far as the management is aware. Under these circumstances, we feel that our employees are entitled to know certain facts and have a statement as to the Company's attitude with reference to this matter.
The Company recognizes the right of every employee to join any union that he may wish to join, and such membership will not affect his position with the company. On the other hand, we feel that it should be made equally clear to each employee that it is not at all necessary for him to join any labor organization, despite anything he may be told to the contrary. Certainly, there is no law which requires or is intended to compel you to pay dues to, or to join any organization.
This Company has always dealt with its employees in full recognition of the right of every individual employee, or group of employees, to deal directly with the Company with respect to matters affecting their interests. If any of you, individually or as a group, at any time, have any matter which you wish to discuss with us, any officer or department head will be glad, as they always have been, to meet with you and discuss them frankly and fully. It is our earnest desire to straighten out in a friendly manner, as we have done in the past, whatever questions you may have in mind. It is reasonable to believe that our interests are mutual and can best be promoted through confidence and cooperation.
"In a company such as ours, if an individual operator, for example, should ask for himself better working conditions or wages, this Company could not comply with his request without also making the same concessions to other similar operators. In such a case the operator who appealed individually would, as a practical matter, be bargaining collectively for all of his group, which is not the logical procedure.
"This Company is willing to consider the requests mentioned above but feels that, in fairness to all of its employees and to itself, it should at the same time consider other groups who have not yet come to it. If the approaching negotiations are to be intelligent and fair to all properly concerned, they should be conducted in an orderly way, and all interested groups should be represented in these discussions by representatives of their own choosing, as provided in the Wagner National Labor Relations Act, which provides as follows:
"`SEC. 7. Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.'
"The Wagner Act applies only to employees whose work is in or directly affects interstate commerce and to companies engaged in interstate commerce. Counsel for this Company advise us that in their opinion the provisions of the Act do not apply to local transportation employees, to gas employees in Norfolk, or to certain strictly local employees of the light and power department. In spite of this, the Company wants to make it perfectly clear that its policy is one of willingness to bargain with its employees in any manner satisfactory to the majority of its employees and that no employee will be discriminated against because of any labor affiliations he desires to make.
"The petitions and representations already received indicate a desire on the part of these employees at least to do their own bargaining, and we are taking this means of letting you know our willingness to proceed with such bargaining in an orderly manner. In order to progress, it would seem that the first step necessary to be taken by you is the formation of a bargaining agency and the selection of authorized representatives to conduct this bargaining in such an orderly manner.
"The Wagner Labor Act prohibits a company from `dominating or interfering with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contributing financial or other support to it.'
"In view of your request to bargain directly with the Company and, in view of your right to self-organization as provided in the law, it will facilitate negotiations if you will proceed to set up your organization, select your own officers and advisers, adopt your own by-laws and rules, and select your representatives to meet with the Company officials whenever you desire."