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U.S. Supreme Court

NLRB v. Retail Store Employees Union, 447 U.S. 607 (1980)

National Labor Relations Board v. Retail Store Employees Union

No. 79-672

Argued April 15, 1980

Decided June 20, 1980

447 U.S. 607


Safeco Title Insurance Co. does business with several title companies that derive over 90% of their gross incomes from the sale of Safeco insurance policies. When contract negotiations between Safeco and respondent Union, the bargaining representative for certain Safeco employees, reached an impasse, the employees went on strike. The Union picketed each of the title companies, urging customers to support the strike by canceling their Safeco policies. Safeco and one of the title companies filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that the Union had engaged in an unfair labor practice by picketing in order to promote a secondary boycott against the title companies. The Board agreed and ordered the Union to cease picketing. The Board held that the Union's secondary picketing violated § 8(b)(4)(ii)(B) of the National Labor Relations Act, which makes it an unfair labor practice for a union to coerce a person not party to a labor dispute with the object of "forcing or requiring [him] to cease . . . dealing in the [primary] produc[t] . . . or to cease doing business with" the primary employer. The Court of Appeals set aside the Board's order. Although the court held that the title companies were neutral parties entitled to the benefit of § 8(b)(4)(ii)(B), it concluded that the Union's activity was lawful product picketing.


The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded. Pp. 447 U. S. 611-616; 447 U. S. 616-618; 447 U. S. 618-619.

194 U.S.App.D.C. 400, 600 F.2d 280, and 201 U.S.App.D.C. 147, 627 F.2d 1133, reversed and remanded.

MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I and II, concluding that respondent Union's secondary picketing violated § 8(b)(4)(ii)(B). NLRB v. Fruit Packers, 377 U. S. 58, distinguished. Secondary product picketing, such as respondent Union conducted, that reasonably can be expected to threaten neutral parties with ruin or substantial loss does not square with § 8(b)(4)(ii)(B)'s

Page 447 U. S. 608

language or purpose. Since successful secondary picketing would put the title companies to a choice between their survival and the severance of their ties with Safeco, the picketing plainly violated the statutory ban on the coercion of neutral parties with the object of forcing them to cease dealing in the primary product or to cease doing business with the primary employer. Pp. 447 U. S. 611-615.

MR. JUSTICE POWELL, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE STEWART, and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, concluded in Part III that, as applied to picketing that predictably encourages consumers to boycott a secondary business, § 8(b)(4)(ii)(B) imposes no unconstitutional restrictions upon speech protected by the First Amendment. P. 447 U. S. 616.

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concurring in the result, expressed a reluctance to hold unconstitutional Congress' striking of the delicate balance between union freedom of expression and the ability of neutral employers, employees, and consumers to remain free from coerced participation in industrial strife. Pp. 447 U. S. 616-618.

MR. JUSTICE STEVENS concluded that the statute in question is consistent with the First Amendment because the restrictions on picketing it imposes are sufficiently justified by the purpose to avoid embroiling neutrals in a third party's labor dispute. Pp. 447 U. S. 618-619.

POWELL, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I and II, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part III, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., post, p. 447 U. S. 616, and STEVENS, J., post, p. 447 U. S. 618, filed opinions concurring in part and in the result. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 447 U. S. 619.

Page 447 U. S. 609

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