JIM MCNEFF, INC. V. TODD, 461 U. S. 260 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Jim McNeff, Inc. v. Todd, 461 U.S. 260 (1983)

Jim McNeff, Inc. v. Todd

No. 81-2150

Argued January 17, 1983

Decided April 27, 1983

461 U.S. 260


Section 8(f) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) authorizes construction industry employers and unions to enter into so-called "prehire" agreements setting the terms and conditions of employment for workers hired by the signatory employer without the union's majority status first having been established under § 9 of the Act. Section 8(f) also provides that such an agreement shall not bar a petition for a representative election under § 9. A local union and a contractors association entered into a Master Labor Agreement which provided that work at jobsites was to be performed only by subcontractors who had signed a labor agreement with the union and that covered employees, including those of subcontractors, must become union members. The agreement also required employers to make monthly contributions to fringe benefit trust funds on behalf of covered employees. When petitioner subcontractor began work on a jobsite, it was not a signatory to a labor agreement with the union, and none of its employees on the jobsite were union members. Upon being notified by representatives of the union and the general contractor that it was required to do so, petitioner became a signatory to the Master Labor Agreement, and its employees signed union cards. After petitioner submitted monthly reports to the union trust funds, falsely stating that "no members of this craft were employed during this month," petitioner on several occasions postponed audits requested by respondents, the trustees of the funds, to verify the monthly reports. Respondents then filed suit in Federal District Court under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act to compel an accounting and to recover payment of any trust fund contributions found to be due. The District Court entered summary judgment for respondents and ordered payment of unpaid contributions. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Monetary obligations assumed by an employer under a prehire contract authorized by § 8(f) may be recovered in a § 301 action brought by a union prior to repudiation of the contract by the employer, even though the union has not obtained majority support in the relevant unit. Pp. 461 U. S. 265-272.

(a) In authorizing § 8(f) prehire contracts even though the union's majority status was not first established, Congress recognized that, because of the uniquely temporary, transitory, and sometimes seasonal nature of

Page 461 U. S. 261

construction industry employment, unions often would not be able to establish majority support with respect to many bargaining units. Congress also recognized that an employer must know labor costs in preparing contract bids, and must have available a supply of skilled craftsmen for quick referral. Pp. 461 U. S. 265-267.

(b) The question presented was not decided by NLRB v. Iron Workers, 434 U. S. 335, which held that § 8(b)(7)(C) of the NLRA, prohibiting picketing to force an employer to recognize a union that is not the certified representative of the employees in the relevant unit, was violated by a union's picketing to enforce a § 8(f) contract with the employer where the union had failed to request a timely representative election. That decision was based on Congress' intent, when it enacted § 8(f), to protect employees' rights to select their own bargaining representatives, and to ensure that prehire agreements are arrived at voluntarily and are voidable until the union attains majority support in the relevant unit. However, union enforcement, by way of a § 301 suit, of monetary obligations incurred by an employer under a prehire contract prior to its repudiation does not impair the right of employees to select their own bargaining agent, or trench on the voluntary and voidable characteristics of a 8(f) prehire agreement. Allowing an action such as respondents' vindicates Congress' policies in authorizing prehire contracts to meet problems unique to the construction industry. When a § 8(f) agreement is voluntarily executed, as here, both parties must abide by its terms until it is repudiated. Pp. 461 U. S. 267-271.

667 F.2d 800, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 461 U. S. 262

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