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U.S. Supreme Court

American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382 (1950)

American Communications Assn. v. Douds

No. 10

Argued October 10-11, 1949

Decided May 8, 1950*

339 U.S. 382


Section 9(h) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, which imposes certain restrictions on, and denies the benefits of certain provisions of the National Labor Relations Act to, any labor organization the officers of which have not filed with the National Labor Relations Board the so-called "non-Commmist" affidavits prescribed by § 9(h), is valid under the Federal Constitution. Pp. 339 U. S. 385-415.

1. One of the purposes of the Labor Management Relations Act was to remove the obstructions to the free flow of commerce resulting from "political strikes" instigated by Communists who had infiltrated the management of labor organizations and were subordinating legitimate trade union objectives to obstructive strikes when dictated by Communist Party leaders, often in support of the policies of a foreign government. Pp. 339 U. S. 387-389.

2. Section 9(h) does not merely withhold from noncomplying unions benefits granted by the Government; it also imposes on them a number of restrictions which would not exist if the National Labor Relations Act had not been enacted. However, it does not prohibit persons who do not sign the prescribed affidavit from holding union office. Pp. 339 U. S. 389-390.

3. The remedy provided by § 9(h) bears reasonable relation to the evil which it was designed to reach, since Congress might reasonably find that Communists, unlike members of other political parties, and persons who believe in the overthrow of the Government by force, unlike persons of other beliefs, represent a continuing danger of disruptive political strikes when they hold positions of union leadership. Pp. 339 U. S. 390-393.

Page 339 U. S. 383

4. Section 9(h) is designed to protect the public not against what Communists and others identified therein advocate or believe, but against what Congress has concluded they have done and are likely to do again, and the probable effects of the statute upon the free exercise of the right of speech and assembly must be weighed against the congressional determination that political strikes are evils of conduct which cause substantial harm to interstate commerce, and that Communists and others identified by § 9(h) pose continuing threats to that public interest when in positions of union leadership. Pp. 339 U. S. 393-400.

5. In view of the complexity of the problem of political strikes and how to deal with their leaders, the public interest in the good faith exercise of the great powers entrusted by Congress to labor bargaining representatives under the National Labor Relations Act, the fact that § 9(h) touches only a relatively few persons who combine certain political affiliations or beliefs with the occupancy of positions of great power over the economy of the country, and the fact that injury to interstate commerce would be an accomplished fact before any sanctions could be applied, the legislative judgment that interstate commerce must be protected from a continuing threat of political strikes is a permissible one in this case. Pp. 339 U. S. 400-406.

6. The belief identified in § 9(h) is a belief in the objective of overthrow by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods of the Government of the United States as it now exists under the Constitution and laws thereof. The sole effect of the statute upon one who holds such beliefs is that he may be forced to relinquish his position as a union leader. So construed, in the light of the circumstances surrounding the problem, § 9(h) does not unduly infringe freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Pp. 339 U. S. 406-412.

7. Section 9(h) is not unconstitutionally vague; it does not violate the prohibition of Article I, § 9 of the Constitution against bills of attainder or ex post facto laws, and it does not require a "test oath" contrary to the provision of Article VI that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." Pp. 339 U. S. 412-415.

79 F.Supp. 563, 170 F.2d 247, affirmed.

No. 10. Although the officers of appellant union had not filed with the National Labor Relations Board the affidavit prescribed by § 9(h) of the National Labor

Page 339 U. S. 384

Relations Act, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, 61 Stat. 136, 146, 29 U.S.C. (Supp. III) §§ 141, 159(h), appellant, claiming hat the section was unconstitutional, sued to restrain the Board from holding a representation election in a bargaining unit in which appellant was the employee representative, until a hearing was granted to appellant. The three-judge district court dismissed the complaint. 79 F.Supp. 563. On appeal to this Court, affirmed, p. 339 U. S. 415.

No. 13. On an unfair labor practice complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board by petitioner unions, the Board found that the employer had violated the National Labor Relations Act in refusing to bargain on the subject of pensions; but the Board postponed the effective date of its order compelling the employer to bargain, pending the unions' compliance with § 9(h). 77 N.L.R.B. 1. The Court of Appeals sustained the Board's action on both counts. 170 F.2d 247. This Court denied certiorari on the pension issue, 336 U.S. 960, but granted certiorari on an issue regarding the constitutionality of § 9(h). 335 U.S. 910. Affirmed, p. 339 U. S. 415.

Page 339 U. S. 385

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