National Labor Relations Board v. Indiana & Michigan Electric Company/Dissent Black
United States Supreme Court
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD v. INDIANA & MICHIGAN ELECTRIC COMPANY
Argued: Nov. 13-16, 1942. --- Decided: Jan 18, 1943
Mr. Justice BLACK, with whom Mr. Justice DOUGLAS and Mr. Justice MURPHY concur, dissenting.
A desire to punish dynamiters does not justify a failure to protect respondent's employees, innocent of wrongdoing, in their freedom either to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing or to be represented by no one at all. Without relying in the slightest degree on the evidence of persons convicted of or charged with dynamiting, the Board found the Association to be company-dominated. Its order gave no benefit to anyone even remotely suspected of complicity in the crimes charged. Instead it carefully eliminated such individuals, and the Union, from the scope of its award and gave no credence to the suspect witnesses. The sole issue for the courts to determine is whether there is, in the testimony of witnesses untainted by any suspicion, sufficient evidence to support the Board findings that the employer has (1) set up a company-dominated union contrary to Sec. 8(2) of the Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 158(2), and (2) interfered with, restrained and coerced its employees in exercising their right to belong to the union of their choice contrary to Sec. 8(1). The Board order, requiring disestablishment of the dominated union and cessation of interference, contemplates only that this Company shall not intimidate or coerce its employees-that it shall leave them free. This freedom is their legal right; and crime by some of them cannot justify the company in destroying the freedom of all, or even a few of them. Underour government guilt is personal; it cannot, or at least should not attaint the innocent; it cannot, or should not provide an excuse for one injured by it to invade the liberty of others. In short, the crimes of some of these employees, or of the non-employee members of a union, cannot have relevance to the two issues the Board decided.
I agree with the Court that alleged errors in the administration of the hearing by the trial examiner or by the Board officials are not properly before us. Such questions can be considered when the case is properly reviewed by the court below. Having agreed with the Court that this question is now irrelevant, I cannot join in discussing, as the Court does, the propriety of alleged statements to one Boyle, and reserve all opinion in this phase of the case.
If the evidence respondent asks to offer has any relevance whatever, it must be for one of two reasons: that (a) the Union's purposes in filing the complaint were not salutary and that the character of its activities was such that the Board might upon hearing the proffered evidence decline to exercise any jurisdiction to protect the rights of employees, even the innocent; or (b) that the Board's witnesses were of such character as to be unworthy of belief.
The first of these grounds surely has no real merit. There is of course no reason why a meritorious complaint should be dismissed merely because of the bad character of one who makes the charge. The ill character of a complainant, or of witnesses, provides no excuse for leaving the public interest unprotected. A witness can be impeached in a proper manner; but the opinion here seems to suggest that administrative agencies should hereafter spend a large part of their time in trying complainants instead of those charged with violating the law. Now, four years after this proceeding began, it is broadly hinted that the Board should permit the employer to try the informer and it is clearly implied that if the complaining union is proved evil, the employees should not be free of company-domination no matter how extreme it may be. If the practice here suggested is not soon repudiated, a new method will have been provided in which to paralyze administrative agencies by discursive delay.
As has been noted, the Board has carefully eliminated from its order all provisions which would specifically benefit the Union, and I see no reason for ordering it to take new evidence of the character of a union to which it has granted nothing at all. Despite this there is a premise, vaguely stated but nonetheless permeating the opinion of the Court, that evidence of the bad character of the Union would require the Board to take some other action; that somehow, as a practical matter, the Board, despite its careful effort to avoid such a result, has aided the Union which brought the charges. But if the desire be to punish the Union, I cannot agree that this should be done by compelling innocent employees to remain in a dominated Association. If the Board's order requiring the disestablishment of the Association is found to be supported by evidence, the employees may form a genuine independent union, they may join some other organization, or they may choose to remain unorganized. A requirement that, for their own good, they must remain in a company-dominated union to avoid any possibility of their aiding the wrongdoers denies them the freedom of choice which the Act preserves. Whatever character the Union may be found to have, the Board's protection to respondent's employees should not be disturbed because of it.
The motion for permission to offer new evidence attacking the credibility of witnesses raises a different question-one going to the quality of evidence on which a conclusion is to be reached. The Board, after full consideration, denied the motion because it found that the proffered evidence even if true had no relation to the issue of Company coercion of its employees. Whether a case shall be reopened after the evidence is closed, is, in courts, ordinarily a matter of discretion. I think the Board's action in this proceeding can not be said to be an unfair exercise of discretion and that in any event it was correct in holding the evidence irrelevant to the limited issues it decided.
It must be remembered that the fundamental issue which the Board decided here is whether the Association is company-dominated. We are told that testimony concerning the misdeeds of the electrical workers are material to this conclusion because the Board relied on witnesses Marks, Freeman, and Guy; because the Board 'must have relied' on other union witnesses; because the Board's decision may drive the employees into the offending Union; because an Association official was asked hypothetical questions about bombing; and because Company witnesses might have been more credible if the full facts of violence had been known.
To support its view that the Board might have disbelieved certain of its witnesses had the full facts been known, the Court has gone not only to the testimony which has been printed by the Board and the Company and offered by the Board as the basis of its case, but has searched evidence to which the Board has made no reference in its findings and which it has not offered as of any credibility at all. Evidently the Board is to be required to re-examine that evidence in which it has already, by rejection of it, expressed disbelief. I think no possible good can come from reconsidering evidence once rejected for the purpose of re-rejecting it.
The Board called sixteen Union witnesses. The three most under suspicion for dynamiting were Guy, Marks, and Freeman. Guy's testimony, as submitted by the Board in support of its finding, is that two company supervisors kept a Union meeting under surveillance, a fact conceded by the supervisors. Marks testified that the Company did not interfere with union organization, and Freeman testified that Holmes, president of the Association, was respected by his fellow employees. A more innocuous or colorless collection of evidence can scarcely be imagined. The testimony of six other Union witnesses, as reflected by the printed record, is equally trifling, while that of the other seven, which fills about four per cent of the printed record, was not relied on by the Board in its findings.
The ultimate Board holding before the Circuit Court of Appeals for review is that the Association was company-dominated. This holding rests almost exclusively on the testimony of Company witnesses or witnesses affiliated with the Association. There is not even a hint that these witnesses were intimidated or interfered with in any way, or that they told anything but the truth. If it be assumed that Guy, Freeman, and Marks are wholly unworthy of belief, this basic testimony given by Company witnesses would still be unaffected. The suggestion made by the Court, not raised by the Company either in its petition for rehearing to the Board or in its motion for remand in the Circuit Court of Appeals, that examination into the dynamiting will reflect on the attitude of the employees toward the Union during the earlier organizational period, therefore misses the heart of the case. If the Company's supervisory representatives did organize and dominate the Association, the Association is company-dominated and the Board's order should be upheld, International Association of Machinists v. National Labor Relations Board, 311 U.S. 72, 79, 80, 61 S.Ct. 83, 88, 89, 85 L.Ed. 50; if it did not, the Board's order should not be enforced. The character of organizers of a separate and distinct union contributes nothing to the issue of Company conduct.
The last suggestion as to the materiality of further investigation into the dynamiting is that for some reason the trial examiner asked Holmes questions concerning his view on violence in labor disputes. Holmes expressed a proper respect for law and order, and it is incredible that a new hearing would either cause him to alter his view in this regard or change the Board's respect for his conclusion.
It will not seem odd that so much of the evidence originally introduced by the Board was eventually deemed irrelevant to the final decision when it is realized that the original charge against the respondent was much broader than the final holding. This evidence, directed to the support of these peripheral charges, lost all consequence for this case when the Board declined to believe the charges themselves. For example, the original complaint alleged that one Elkins was wrongfully discharged. Since both the trial examiner and the Board found the charge unsupported, Elkins' testimony in this respect and all that supports it drops completely from the case. The opinion of the Court appears to require re-assessment of such surplus testimony offered in behalf of charges concluded to be unfounded.
Of course no Court should shelter dynamiters from exposure and inquiry. But compelling the Board to digress from the adjudication of a labor dispute in which such dynamiting has no part into a pursuit of the guilty, punishes the innocent employees of respondent rather than the evildoers themselves. The Labor Board is no fair substitute for a grand jury or a criminal court.
If the Board had denied respondents an opportunity to offer newly discovered evidence which tended to show that witnesses to material facts relied on by the Board had since the hearing been convicted of serious crimes affecting their credibility, I would not object to sending the matter back to the Board. But analysis of the record demonstrates that no such thing occurred. I think we should send the case back to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the normal review procedure.
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