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U.S. Supreme Court

Automobile Workers v. Wisconsin Board, 336 U.S. 245 (1949)

International Union, U.A.W.A, A. F. of L, Local 232 v.

Wisconsin Employment Relations Board

Nos. 14 and 15

Argued November 17-18, 1948

Decided February 28, 1949

336 U.S. 245


Negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement between an employer, engaged in interstate commerce, and a labor union, certified under the National Labor Relations Act as collective bargaining representative of the employees, became deadlocked. In order to bring pressure on the employer, the union adopted a plan whereby union meetings were called at irregular times during working hours, without advance notice to the employer or any notice as to whether or when the employees would return. In a period of less than 5 months, 27 such work stoppages occurred. The employer was not informed during this period of any specific demands which these tactics were designed to enforce, nor what concessions it could make to avoid them. In a proceeding under the Wisconsin Employment Peace Act, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board issued an order which was construed and upheld by the State Supreme Court as forbidding the individual defendants and members of the union from engaging in concerted effort to interfere with production by those methods.

Held: it was within the power of the State to prohibit the particular course of conduct described. Pp. 336 U. S. 247-265.

1. Upon review here, the construction placed upon the State Board's order by the State Supreme Court is conclusive. Pp. 336 U. S. 250-251.

2. As thus applied, the state statute does not have the purpose or effect of imposing any form of involuntary servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. P. 336 U. S. 251.

3. The statute as applied does not invade rights of free speech and public assemblage guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Lincoln Labor Union v. Northwestern Iron & Metal Co., 335 U. S. 525; American Federation of Labor v. American Sash & Door Co., 335 U. S. 538. Pp. 336 U. S. 251-252.

4. The statute as applied does not violate the Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution. P. 336 U. S. 252.

5. This recurrent or intermittent unannounced stoppage of work to win unstated ends was neither forbidden by federal statute nor was it legalized and approved thereby, and there is no basis for

Page 336 U. S. 246

denying to the State the power, in governing her internal affairs, to regulate an activity having such an obviously coercive effect. Pp. 336 U. S. 252-265.

(a) Neither by the National Labor Relations Act nor by the Labor Management Relations Act has Congress clearly manifested an intention to exclude the state power sought to be exercised in this case. Pp. 336 U. S. 252-254.

(b) There is no existing or possible conflict or overlapping between the authority of the Federal and State Boards, because the Federal Board has no authority to investigate, approve or forbid the union conduct in question. Pp. 336 U. S. 252-254.

(c) The order of the State Board does not conflict with the provision of § 7 of the National Labor Relations Act that employees shall have the right to engage in "concerted activities" for the purpose of "collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection." Pp. 336 U. S. 254-258.

(d) Nor does the order of the State Board conflict with § 13 of the National Labor Relations Act, which provides that nothing in that Act shall be construed so as to "interfere with or impede or diminish" the right to strike -- even when read in connection with the definition of "strike" in the Labor Management Relations Act. Pp. 336 U. S. 258-265.

250 Wis. 550, 27 N.W.2d 875, affirmed.

In a proceeding under state law, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board ordered a labor union and members thereof to cease and desist from instigating certain intermittent and unannounced work stoppages in the plants of an employer engaged in interstate commerce. Separate proceedings were instituted in the state courts by the Board to enforce the order and by the union and individual defendants to obtain review. The State Supreme Court, reversing judgments of the trial court, upheld the validity of the order. 250 Wis. 550, 27 N.W.2d 875. This Court granted certiorari. 333 U.S. 853. Affirmed, p. 336 U. S. 265.

Page 336 U. S. 247

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