NLRB V. ACTION AUTOMOTIVE, INC., 469 U. S. 490 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

NLRB v. Action Automotive, Inc., 469 U.S. 490 (1985)

National Labor Relations Board v. Action Automotive, Inc.

No. 83-1416

Argued October 29, 1984

Decided February 19, 1985

469 U.S. 490


Respondent, a retail automobile parts and gasoline dealer, is a closely held corporation owned equally by three brothers, who serve as officers and are actively involved in running the business. In 1981, a union filed with the National Labor Relations Board a petition requesting that a representation election be held among respondent's employees. Thereafter, an election was held and the union received a plurality of the votes, but enough ballots were challenged on each side to place the outcome in doubt. Among the ballots challenged by the union were those of one owner's wife, who works as a clerk at the same location as her husband and occasionally takes coffee breaks in his office, and of the owners' mother, who is a cashier at one of respondent's stores and lives with one of the owners. Concluding that the wife's interests were different from those of other clerical employees and that the mother's interests were more closely aligned with management than with the employees, but without making a finding that the wife and mother enjoyed special job-related benefits, the Board's hearing officer recommended that the union's challenge to the ballots be sustained. The Board adopted this recommendation and, after all qualified votes were counted, certified the union as the exclusive bargaining representative. When respondent refused to bargain, the union filed charges with the Board, which held that respondent had violated §§ 8(a)(1) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act (Act), and ordered respondent to bargain. The Court of Appeals denied enforcement of the Board's order, holding that the Board had no authority under § 9(b) of the Act to exclude employees from a bargaining unit based solely on their close family relationship with those who own and operate the business, that an employee's family ties may be a factor justifying exclusion only when the employee receives job-related benefits that flow from the relationship, and that, in this case, there was insufficient evidence that the wife and mother enjoyed such benefits.

Held: The Board did not exceed its authority in excluding from collective bargaining units close relatives of management, without making a finding that the relatives enjoy special job-related privileges. Pp. 469 U. S. 494-499.

(a) The Board's policy of considering a variety of factors in deciding whether an employee's familial ties are sufficient to align his interests

Page 469 U. S. 491

with management so as to warrant his exclusion from a bargaining unit, is a reasonable application of the Board's standard whereby, in defining bargaining units, its focus is on whether the employees share a "community of interest." The Board's decision to exclude some family members is entitled to deference, and is not inconsistent with the Act's fundamental structure or policies. Nor does the Board's policy of excluding close relatives of management without a showing of special job-related benefits run afoul of the Act's mandate that the Board remain "wholly neutral" as between the contending parties in a representation election. Pp. 469 U. S. 494-498.

(b) On the facts of this case, the Board could reasonably conclude that the wife's and mother's interests were more likely to be aligned with the family's business interests than with the employees' interests. Pp. 469 U. S. 498-499.

717 F.2d 1033, reversed.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined,post, p. 469 U. S. 499.

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