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U.S. Supreme Court

Railway Clerks v. Employees Ass'n, 380 U.S. 650 (1965)

Brotherhood of Railway & Steamship Clerks, Freight

Handlers, Express & Station Employees v. Association

for the Benefit of Noncontract Employees

No. 138

Argued March 4, 1965

Decided April 28, 1965*

380 U.S. 650


The Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks (Brotherhood) filed with the National Mediation Board (Board) an application under § 2, Ninth of the Railway Labor Act, which, as later amended, requested investigation of a representation dispute among the "clerical, office, stores, fleet and passenger service" employees of United Air Lines (United). The Board had determined that grouping to be appropriate for collective bargaining in a case (R-1706) decided in 1947 after an extensive hearing in which United and other airlines, by invitation, gave their views. The Board found that a representation dispute existed, and scheduled a secret election, proposing to use its standard ballot providing for the printing of the names of the two labor organizations in the dispute, with a third space for a "write in" designation, but no space for a specific "no union" vote. Seeking to enjoin the Board from conducting an election unless it held a hearing on the craft or class issue and unless the ballot allowed an employee to vote against representation, United, after extensive correspondence with the Board, filed suit. The District Court dismissed the case, the Court of Appeals affirmed, and the case is here on certiorari as No. 139. The Association for the Benefit of Non-Contract Employees of United (the Association), which had been formed only to be heard by the Board in a craft or class proceeding and to have the ballot amended, brought a similar suit after United's case was dismissed, and the Brotherhood intervened. The District Court enjoined the Board from conducting an election which did not permit an employee to

Page 380 U. S. 651

vote against collective bargaining representation. The Board and the Brotherhood filed separate appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed both cases, which are here on certiorari as Nos. 138 and 369. The Board later amended the ballot form to state that no employee is required to vote, and that, if less than a majority of employees casts valid ballots, no representative will be certified.


1. The Railway Labor Act precludes judicial review of the Board's certification of a collective bargaining representative. Switchmen' Union v. National Mediation Board, 320 U. S. 297, followed. Pp. 380 U. S. 658-660.

2. The Board's action here is reviewable only to the extent of the question of the Board's performance of its statutory duty to "investigate" the representation dispute. P. 380 U. S. 661.

3. The Board performed its statutory duty to conduct an investigation and designate the craft or class in which the election should be held. P. 380 U. S. 661.

(a) The Board's duty to investigate is to make such informal, non-adversary investigation as the nature of the case may require. P. 380 U. S. 662.

(b) The Board has not failed to make sufficient investigation, and has not blindly followed its R-1706 ruling. Pp. 380 U. S. 662-665.

(c) The Board did not adhere solely to the craft or class chosen by the unions, having consistently held hearings (though not required to do so) to determine the propriety of units requested by unions which were untested by actual collective bargaining, but dispensing with such hearings where, as here, experience has shown the grouping to be satisfactory. P. 380 U. S. 665.

(d) The Act does not require that a carrier be made a party to whatever procedure the Board uses to determine the propriety of a craft or class, that status being given only to those who seek to represent employees; and whether and to what extent the carrier's views may be presented is solely within the Board's discretion. Pp. 380 U. S. 666-667.

(e) The Board does not select the bargaining representative; it only investigates, defines the scope of the electorate, holds the election, and certifies the winner. P. 380 U. S. 667.

4. The Board's decision as to the form of ballot or whether selection shall be by ballot is not subject to judicial review, and, in view of the Board's long established election procedures, the District

Page 380 U. S. 652

Court erred in enjoining the Board from holding an election with a ballot not providing opportunity, on it face, for an employee to vote against collective representation. Pp. 380 U. S. 668-669.

5. The Board's rule of election procedure that "no vote" is a vote for no representation is within the Board's statutory authority under § 2, Fourth, and was favorable to the Association's employees. Pp. 380 U. S. 670-671.

117 U.S.App.D.C. 387, 330 F.2d 853, judgments in Nos. 138 and 369 revered, judgment in No. 139 affirmed.

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