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U.S. Supreme Court

Labor Board v. Waterman Steamship Corp., 309 U.S. 206 (1940)

Labor Board v. Waterman Steamship Corp.


Argued January 3, 1940

Decided February 12, 1940

309 U.S. 206


1. Certiorari granted to determine whether there was substantial evidence to sustain an order of the National Labor Relations Board which the court below declined to enforce as based on mere suspicion. Pp. 309 U. S. 207-209.

2. The requirement of the Act that "The findings of the Board, as to the facts, if supported by evidence, shall . . . be conclusive," must be scrupulously obeyed by the courts. P. 309 U. S. 208.

3. An employer-employee relationship within the scope of the National Labor Relations Act may subsist through mutual understanding between the owner of a vessel and members of its crew after its return from a foreign voyage and after the crew, appearing with the master before a shipping commissioner, have been paid off and "discharged" and have executed with the master a mutual release of "all claims for wages in respect of past voyage or engagement," as provided by 46 U.S.C. §§ 564, 641, 644. P. 309 U. S. 211.

4. A contract between an employer and a labor union for preferential treatment of the latter in filling vacancies held not to require the former to discharge employees because of their having joined another union. P. 309 U. S. 213.

5. In forbidding an employer to terminate an employee's tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment because of union activity or affiliation, § 8(1)(3) of the Labor Act embraces all elements of the employment relationship which in fact customarily attend employment and with respect to which an employer's discrimination may as readily be the means of interfering with employees' right of self-organization as if these elements were precise terms of a written contract of employment. P. 309 U. S. 218.

Page 309 U. S. 207

6. For the purpose of the Act, it is immaterial that employment is at will, and terminable at any time by either party. P. 309 U. S. 219.

7. There was substantial evidence to support the findings of the Board:

(1) That, by custom recognized by the respondent ship company, crews of ships returned from abroad, notwithstanding expiration of their shipping articles, have, unless discharged for cause, a continuing tenure or relationship with their employer entitling them to resign for future voyages. P. 309 U. S. 213.

(2) That the employment or "tenure" of crews and of two licensed officers was terminated because of their affiliations with a union other than that with which the employer had made a preferential contract. P. 309 U. S. 220.

(3) That, pending an election directed by the Board to permit the ships' crews to select their bargaining agencies, the employer had interfered with its employees' free right to elect a union of their own choosing under § 7 of the Act by refusing to grant ships' passes to representatives of the rival union, while at the same time issuing passes to representatives of the union having the preferential contract. P. 309 U. S. 224.

103 F.2d 157 reversed.

Certiorari, 308 U.S. 534, to review a decision declining to enforce an order of the National Labor Relations Board and setting it aside.

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