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U.S. Supreme Court

South Prairie Constr. Co. v. Operating Engineers, 425 U.S. 800 (1976)

South Prairie Construction Co. v. Local No. 627,

International Union of Operating Engineers, AFL-CIO

No. 75-1097

Decided May 24, 1976*

425 U.S. 800


Respondent union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that two highway contractors (South Prairie and Kiewit), the wholly owned subsidiaries of another corporation, had committed an unfair labor practice in violation of §§ 8(a)(1) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to apply to South Prairie's employees the collective bargaining agreement between the union and Kiewit, that South Prairie and Kiewit constituted a single "employer" under the Act for purposes of applying the agreement, and that, hence, under § 9 of the Act, South Prairie was obligated to recognize the union as the bargaining representative of its employees. The NLRB held that South Prairie and Kiewit were separate employers, and dismissed the complaint. But the Court of Appeals held that South Prairie and Kiewit were a "single employer," that their combined employees constituted the appropriate bargaining unit under § 9, and that, therefore, they had committed an unfair labor practice as charged, and remanded the case to the NLRB for enforcement of an order.

Held: The Court of Appeals invaded the NLRB's statutory province when it proceeded to decide the § 9 "unit" question in the first instance, instead of remanding the case to the NLRB so that it could make the initial determination. Since the selection of an appropriate bargaining unit lies largely within the discretion of the NLRB, whose decision, if not final, is rarely to be disturbed, the Court of Appeals' function ended when the NLRB's error on the "single employer" issue was "laid bare."

Certiorari granted; 171 U.S.App.D.C. 102, 518 F.2d 1040, affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

Page 425 U. S. 801

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