Marine Engineers Beneficial Association v. Interlake Steamship Company/Dissent Douglas

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Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

370 U.S. 173

Marine Engineers Beneficial Association  v.  Interlake Steamship Company

 Argued: April 16, 1962. --- Decided: June 11, 1962

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting.

While I agree with the principles announced by the Court, I disagree with the result that is reached on the facts of this case. The record contains an affidavit of the President of this union, the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA), which states that all members of the union, including the local involved in this case, perform supervisory functions. [1]

'Local 101 of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association is comprised of those men who are licensed as marine engineers by the United States Coast Guard, and those men who perform the engineering duties of engineers, whether or not they are licensed by the Coast Guard.'

The record makes clear that a licensed engineer has supervisory duties whenever there is someone working under him. That status is grounded in the historic distinction between licensed and unlicensed personnel and is shown by this record. [2] A union of masters and mates would plainly be a union of supervisors and under present law not be qualified to represent ordinary seamen. If there are rare instances when an engineer on a tug, for example, is nothing more than an employee, that has not been shown in the record and is directly contrary to the affidavit of this union's president.

The trial court in this case said that the record 'does not show' that this MEBA Local 'admits to membership any non-supervisory employee, and in any event it is clear that its membership is composed primarily and almost exclusively of supervisors.' That finding is not challenged here. Petitioners, placing all their hopes on the words of the trial court that this local is composed 'primarily and almost exclusively of supervisors,' say it may therefore be arguably and reasonably contended that the local is a labor organization within the meaning of the Act.

Section 2(5) defines 'labor organization' as any organization 'in which employees participate' for the purpose 'of dealing with employers concerning grievances,' etc.

The word 'employee' was redefined by Congress [3] following our decision in Packard Motor Car Co. v. Labor Board, 330 U.S. 485, 67 S.Ct. 789, 91 L.Ed. 1040, so as to exclude 'any individual employed as a supervisor.' § 2(3). And § 14(a) provides that 'Nothing herein shall prohibit any individual employed as a supervisor from becoming or remaining a member of a labor organization, but no employer subject to this Act shall be compelled to deem individuals defined herein as supervisors as employees for the purpose of any law, either national or local, relating to collective bargaining.' There is not a shred of evidence in this record showing that any employee not a supervisor is a member of this union. There is therefore not a shred of evidence to show that this local of MEBA is a 'labor organization.' Since there is not, it has made no showing that it is entitled to any of the protections of the Federal Act. Such a showing is within its power to make. It apparently claims to be a 'labor organization' when it is to its advantage to do so and protests against being so labeled when that position serves its end. [4]

If it desires the protection of the Federal Act, it should be required to come forth with evidence showing who its members are. In absence of such a showing, we should not disturb the rulings of the Minnesota courts, which on this record were fully justified in enjoining the picketing. It was indeed conceded by counsel for MEBA at the trial that the purpose of the picketing was 'to improve the wages, hours and working conditions' of the 'licensed engineers,' not the wages, hours and working conditions of those few undisclosed individuals who it is now intimated may have been members of the union.

Since this local is not on this record a 'labor organization,' it does not come within the purview of § 8(b)(2) or § 8(b)(4), which makes certain practices, alleged to have taken place here, unfair labor practices. For § 14, quoted above, returned supervisors to the basis which they enjoyed prior to the Federal Act. A. H. Bull S.S.C.o. v. National Marine Eng. B. Ass'n, 2 Cir., 250 F.2d 332.

It matters not that at other times this local or MEBA may have been a 'labor organization' for purposes of the Federal Act. [5] Apparently an engineer may at times be only an ordinary employee. [6] So for one operation this local may have members doing the work of nonsupervisory employees. Whether its status would therefore change from day-to-day or week-to-week might be presented in some case. It is not presented here, for, on a record showing only supervisors among the membership list, the union has no claim to shelter under the Federal Act.


^1  'I can state most categorically that licensed marine engineers who comprise the entire members of MEBA, without a single exception in the nature of their work, have authority in the interests of the employer for whom they may be working to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, fine, reward or discipline the unlicensed personnel who work in the engine department, over which the licensed engineers have supervision or responsibility to direct such unlicensed personnel in the engine department or adjust the grievances of the unlicensed personnel in the engine department, or to effectively recommend any such action. In furtherance of their duties, licensed engineers do not exercise the authority just described merely as a routine or clerical nature, but they must exercise the use of independent judgment. Every single member of MEBA performs work of the nature which I have just described. The type of marine personnel over whom the MEBA assumes jurisdiction and takes in as members, is precisely that which I have just described We do not have any members who do not fall within such description, insofar as their duties and responsibilities are concerned.'

^2  The findings state: 'All engineers and assistant engineers employed on Interlake vessels stand watches during which they are in charge of and responsible for the operation and condition of the vessel's propulsion mechanism and responsibly direct, control and supervise the work of the firemen, oilers and coal passers on duty during such watch; they hire, fire, transfer and change the status of and discipline the persons working under them and have authority to and do make effective employment and tenure of employment of employment and tenure of employment the people working under them; they handle initially grievances of the employees who are subject to their supervision; the exercise of authority by the engineers and assistant engineers requires the use of independent judgment and discretion; and all such engineers are required to be licensed by the United States Coast Guard.'

^3  See H.R.Rep. No. 245, 80th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 23; S.Rep. No. 105, 80th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 28.

^4  Cf. with the decision below the contentions of MEBA in National Marine Engineers Beneficial Ass'n v. Labor Board, 2 Cir., 274 F.2d 167, 170 ('MEBA says its membership is composed exclusively of supervisors') and Schauffler v. Local 101, Marine Engineers Ben. Ass'n, D.C., 180 F.Supp. 932, 935 (where the local involved in the present case argued that it was not a labor organization within the meaning of the Act). In National Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots of America et al., 116 N.L.R.B. 1787, MEBA admitted it was a 'labor organization' within the meaning of the Act.

^5  The finding of the Labor Board in National Marine Engineers Ben. Ass'n v. Labor Board, 274 F.2d 167, that MEBA was a 'labor organization' turned on a narrow procedural point mentioned by the Court of Appeals: 'MEBA and MMP know who their members are and, if they do not know what their members do, certainly they can find out. The Board could properly have thought that the matters placed in the record by the general counsel justified an inference that nonsupervisors do participate in MEBA and MMP, and that this sufficed for the Board's finding to that effect unless they were rebutted by more convincing evidence than the unions offered here. We therefore cannot say the Board's finding that MEBA and MMP were labor organizations did not meet the standards laid down in Universal Camera Corp. v. N.L.R.B., 1951, 340 U.S. 474, 71 S.Ct. 456, 95 L.Ed. 456.' 274 F.2d, at 175.

^6  See National Marine Engineers Ben. Ass'n v. Labor Board, 274 F.2d 167, 172-173: 'The Board's general counsel did not dispute that two of the three engineers on the Franklin D. Roosevelt, the chief engineer and the relief chief engineer, were supervisors; but there was much argument whether the third should be so considered since he exercised supervisory duties only when neither the chief engineer nor the relief chief engineer was about. See N.L.R.B. v. Quincy Steel Casting Co., 1 Cir., 1952, 200 F.2d 293. The general counsel claimed that at least one of the engineers on the Sandra Marie could not have been a supervisor since he had no one to supervise. See General Foods Corporation, 110 N.L.R.B. 1088 (1954). MEBA disputed this, as well as the contention relating to the third engineer on the Franklin D. Roosevelt, claiming that these engineers were qualified and on these ships normally would have someone to supervise.'

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).