NLRB V. IBEW, 481 U. S. 573 (1987)

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U.S. Supreme Court

NLRB v. IBEW, 481 U.S. 573 (1987)

National Labor Relations Board v. International Brotherhood

of Electrical Workers

No. 85-1924

Argued February 25, 1987

Decided May 18, 1987

481 U.S. 573


Respondent Union fined two of its members (Schoux and Choate), who worked as supervisors, for violating its constitution by working for employers that did not have a collective bargaining agreement with the Union. The employers filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that the Union had violated § 8(b)(1)(B) of the National Labor Relations Act (Act), which makes it an unfair labor practice for a union

"to restrain or coerce . . . an employer in the selection of his representatives for the purposes of collective bargaining or the adjustment of grievances."

An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) agreed, finding, inter alia, that (1) Schoux and Choate were supervisors within the meaning of § 2(11) of the Act, (2) under the "reservoir doctrine," they were also employer representatives for the purposes of "collective bargaining or the adjustment of grievances" covered by § 8(b)(1)(B), even though neither performed such duties, since § 2(11) supervisors form the logical "reservoir" from which the employer is likely to select his future representatives for collective bargaining or grievance adjustment, and (3) the Union had restrained or coerced the employers within the meaning of § 8(b)(1)(B) even though the Union did not have a collective bargaining relationship with the employers at the time of the fines, since the Union's action could have the effect of forcing the representatives to quit, and since, in any event, the Union intended to represent the employers' employees in the future. The NLRB adopted the ALJ's findings and conclusions, entered an order against the Union, and sought enforcement of its order in the Court of Appeals. Reversing the finding of a § 8(b)(1)(B) violation, the court agreed that Schoux and Choate were employer representatives for § 8(b)(1)(B) purposes, but rejected the NLRB's conclusion that the Union intended to represent the employers' employees. T he court held that, if a union does not represent or intend to represent the complaining employer's employees, there can be no § 8(b)(1)(B) violation when the union disciplines its members who are the employer's designated bargaining representatives.

Page 481 U. S. 574

Held: A union does not violate § 8(b)(1)(B) when it disciplines a supervisor union member who does not participate as the employer's representative in collective bargaining or grievance adjustment, and whose employer has not entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the union. Pp. 481 U. S. 580-596.

(a) Union discipline of a supervisor-member is prohibited under § 8(b)(1)(B) only when that member engages in § 8(b)(1)(B) activities -- that is, collective bargaining, grievance adjustment, or some other closely related activity, such as contract interpretation. Union discipline violates § 8(b)(1)(B) only when it may adversely affect the supervisor's future conduct in performing § 8(b)(1)(B) duties, and such an adverse effect exists only when the supervisor is disciplined for behavior that occurs while the supervisor has § 8(b)(1)(B) duties. The general impact of union discipline on the supervisor's loyalty to the employer is insufficient to create a § 8(b)(1)(B) violation. Florida Power & Light Co. v. Electrical Workers, 417 U. S. 790; American Broadcasting Cos. v. Writers Guild, West, Inc., 437 U. S. 411. The NLRB's "reservoir doctrine," involving discipline of supervisors who have no § 8(b)(1)(B) duties, cannot be reconciled with the Act's structure or the limited construction of § 8(b)(1)(B) in Florida Power and American Broadcasting Cos. Thus, the Union's discipline of Schoux and Choate was not an unfair labor practice. Pp. 481 U. S. 580-589.

(b) Furthermore, the absence of a collective bargaining relationship between the employers and the Union when the latter enforced its no-contract-no-work rule against its supervisor-members made the possibility that the Union's discipline of the supervisors would coerce the employers too attenuated to form the basis of an unfair labor practice charge. Such discipline will not affect the manner in which employer representatives perform grievance adjustment or collective bargaining tasks. Nor did the Union's discipline of the supervisors coerce the employers in their selection of § 8(b)(1)(B) representatives. Although any union member who valued union membership would be less willing to serve if the cost of service were loss of membership, which, in turn, would limit the size of the supervisor pool from which an employer could select its representatives, this minimal effect on the employer's selection of § 8(b)(1)(B) representatives is insufficient to support a § 8(b)(1)(B) charge. Moreover, an employer is not restrained or coerced in the selection of its representatives because a union member must accept union expulsion or other discipline to continue in a supervisory position. Since union members have a right to resign from a union at any time and avoid imposition of union discipline, the employer may require that its representatives leave the union. Pp. 481 U. S. 589-596.

780 F.2d 1489, affirmed.

Page 481 U. S. 575

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 481 U. S. 596. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J.,and O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 481 U. S. 598.

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