SOBELOFF, Chief Judge.
The National Labor Relations Board has petitioned for enforcement of its orders entered against the Randolph Electric Membership Corporation and the Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation in two separate proceedings, requiring them to bargain with the union it had certified.
Both Randolph and Tri-County are incorporated under the provisions of the Electric Membership Corporation Act of North Carolina
Following Board certification of Local Union No. 485 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers as bargaining representative of the employees of both Randolph and Tri-County, the union requested the start of bargaining negotiations. Both refused to grant recognition and bargain with the union on the sole ground that they are not "employers" within section 2 of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 152 (1956), but "political subdivisions" of the state of North Carolina and thus expressly excluded from coverage by the terms of the Act.
The case turns then on the sole issue, whether Randolph and Tri-County are "political subdivisions" within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act.
The term "political subdivision" is not defined in the Act and its legislative history is silent as to the purpose of Congress in using these words. We do not, however, write on a clean slate in construing their meaning. Congress has assigned that function to the National Labor Relations Board, and we look to what it has decided in this and in earlier cases. Here the Board's initial determination as to the specific application of broad statutory terms rests on its familiarity with labor problems and its experience in the administration of the Act. To the extent that it has taken into account economic realities as well as the statutory purposes, the Board's determination is entitled to great respect. National Labor Relations Board v. E. C. Atkins & Co., 331 U.S. 398, 67 S.Ct. 1265, 91 L.Ed. 1563 (1947). Our function as a reviewing court is limited to determining whether the Board's conclusion has "warrant in the record" and "a reasonable basis in law." National Labor Relations Board v. Hearst Publications, 322 U.S. 111, 131, 64 S.Ct. 851, 88 L.Ed. 1170 (1944); National Labor Relations Board v. E. C. Atkins & Co., supra.
For the reasons to be stated we conclude that the Board's orders were properly issued and are entitled to enforcement.
The main thrust of the electric corporations' argument is that by excepting "political subdivisions" from the Act's coverage, Congress wished to disclaim federal jurisdiction and also evidenced an intention that state law declarations and interpretations should control in determining whether an organization is a "political subdivision." The corporations assert that it is only in situations:
Their argument then continues that, because North Carolina's legislature declared and several successive Attorneys General have ruled that corporations formed under the Electric Membership Corporation Act of North Carolina are "political subdivisions," it follows that they are exempt from coverage by the National Labor Relations Act.
There are, of course, instances in which the application of certain federal statutes may depend on state law. Examples are seen in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation Act,
But this is controlled by the will of Congress. In the absence of a plain indication to the contrary, however, it is to be assumed when Congress enacts a statute that it does not intend to make its application dependent on state law. Jerome v. United States, 318 U.S. 101, 104, 63 S.Ct. 483, 87 L.Ed. 640 (1943).
The argument of the electric corporations fails to persuade us that Congress intended the result for which they contend. Furthermore, it ignores the teachings of the Supreme Court as to the congressional purpose in enacting the national labor laws. In National Labor Relations Board v. Hearst Publications, 322 U.S. 111, 123, 64 S.Ct. 851, 857, 88 L.Ed. 1170 (1944), the Court dealt with
Thus, it is clear that state law is not controlling
Like all other North Carolina electric membership corporations, Randolph and Tri-County are organized and operate pursuant to the provisions of the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation Act. This authorizes the formation of a rural electric membership corporation upon approval of its feasibility by the North Carolina Rural Electrification Authority. The Authority is an agency created directly by the state, whose members are appointed by the Governor; and after the Authority has found the feasibility of the proposed formation of an electric membership corporation and approved any application for loans from the federal Rural Electrification Administration, the Authority exercises no regulatory control over the corporation. The directors of each rural electric corporation are elected independently of the Authority by the corporation's own members. The directors of the corporation, not the Authority, conduct the corporate business. Each electric membership corporation possesses the usual powers of a private corporation except that it is under a duty to make membership available without arbitrary or unreasonable limitations.
The Board held that Randolph and Tri-County are not "political subdivisions" because they are neither created directly by the state nor administered by state-appointed or publicly elected officials.
In a series of cases beginning with Gibson County Electric Membership Corporation, 65 N.L.R.B. 760 (1946), involving a Tennessee rural electric cooperative, the Board has taken jurisdiction over nonprofit cooperative associations located in various sections of the country which received financial assistance from the federal Rural Electrification Administration.
Randolph and Tri-County concede that their operations are similar to those of electric cooperatives in other states. They are neither owned nor operated by the state; their officers are not publicly appointed but elected by their own members, as in every privately owned utility; they are regulated in their day-to-day operations in the same manner as other privately owned public service corporations. They stress, however, that, unlike other states, North Carolina has labeled them "political subdivisions." The fact that North Carolina sees fit to characterize such corporations as "political subdivisions" and to accord them certain benefits in respect to state taxation and otherwise, which are normally enjoyed only by municipal corporations, counties and political subdivisions, is not decisive of the question before us, since their relation to the state and their actual methods of operation do not fit the label given them.
The argument is made that several rulings of the United States Treasury Department indicate that Randolph and Tri-County are "political subdivisions." These rulings, however, point in several
Nor do we perceive any force in the argument advanced by Randolph and Tri-County that it would be illegal under the law of North Carolina
Urging that they are truly "political subdivisions," Randolph and Tri-County further show that upon dissolution their assets would revert to the state.
For these reasons, we are of the firm opinion that there was ample support in fact and in law for the Board's order. It will therefore be
Because the purpose of Congress in enacting the National Labor Relations Act was to deal with national problems [National Labor Relations Board v. Hearst Publications, 322 U.S. 111, 123, 64 S.Ct. 851, 88 L.Ed. 1170, (1944)], the Board in New Bedford was in error in applying the holding but not the ratio decidendi of Beaver County.
In these cases the Board has consistently applied the rule that, for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act, rural electric cooperatives shall be treated as public utilities, and it has exercised its jurisdiction over all such cooperatives as meet the Board's jurisdictional standards. Since Sioux Valley, supra, the jurisdictional standard has been a gross volume of business of at least $250,000.00 per annum.
In none of these cases, however, did the Board deal with the issue of whether these rural electric cooperatives are "political subdivisions" within section 2 (2).