National Labor Relations Board v. Stowe Spinning Company/Dissent Jackson

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United States Supreme Court

336 U.S. 226

National Labor Relations Board  v.  Stowe Spinning Company

 Argued: Dec. 9 and 10, 1948. --- Decided: Feb 28, 1949

Mr. Justice JACKSON, dissenting in part.

I find myself unable to join the Court's opinion because I have a different view as to the nature of the unfair labor practice involved which leads me to a different conclusion as to the remedy that the Board may prescribe.

The employers' plant was located in a company-owned town. It contained only three buildings suitable for use for a public meeting. The Union needed a meeting place and sought to use any one of the three.

One is a motion picture theater owned and controlled by the employers but operated by a lessee. The Union was refused its use upon the ground that it was available only for motion pictures.

Another was a school building publicly owned but controlled by a school board composed entirely from officers of the employers. The Union sought to use the schoolhouse but, after some negotiations, was told by its custodian that an officer of one of the employers had issued instructions not to permit such use.

The third was a building owned and controlled by the employers, occupied by the post office and a grocery store on the first floor and by a meeting hall on the second. This hall for some time had been the quarters of the Patriotic Order Sons of America, a fraternal organization which in practice had exercised full control over it and had permitted various other organizations to use it for community purposes. Its officers consented to the Union's use of the hall on the payment of a nominal janitor's fee. Before the scheduled meeting, however, an officer of the employers told the head of the fraternal order that he should not have allowed the use of the hall and caused the permission to be withdrawn. While the tenure of the fraternal organization is somewhat shadowy, it appears that it had been given at least such control of the use of the hall that its consent would have constituted a license so that the Union would not have been trespassing.

But for the interference of the employers, either the schoolhouse or the Patriotic Sons hall might have been obtained. I agree with the Court that the Board was justified in finding that the employers' action in preventing the Union from obtaining this place of assembly constituted an unfair labor practice. But I do not think this finding is or can be based on discrimination. The employers, having permitted the Patriotic Sons to control use of the hall, could not properly interfere and command reversal of the Sons' approval of the Union's application. On these facts, such conduct would amount to an unfair labor practice, even though no other organization had ever been allowed to use the hall. The interference to oust the Union was enough without a discrimination, which could hardly occur unless some other union had been allowed to use the hall. Consequently, I think the Board could require the employer to notify the Patriotic Sons that it has been unfair in the objections heretofore made and that it will make no objections in the future, and that the Patriotic Sons are free to allow such temporary use if they see fit.

But the Board's order goes beyond this. It has ordered that the employers take affirmative action to place the hall of the Patriotic Sons at the disposal of the Union. It is one thing to forbid the employers to bring pressure on the custodian of the hall to shut out the Union; it is another thing to order them to bring pressure on the custodian to admit the Union, or to order the employers to repossess the hall and turn it over to the Union. If the employers were controlling the hall directly, I would have serious doubts whether denial of union use of the hall could be an unfair labor practice, and equally serious doubts whether it would not be an unfair labor practice under § 8(2) of the Act to allow it. Neither the complaining Union nor any other has yet been chosen as bargaining agent for these employees. For the employers to provide this Union a hall, by direct permission or by indirect pressure on the Patriotic Sons, may readily convey to employees an impression of favoring the Union thus indulged. As the court below pointed out, the policy of the Act as heretofore applied is one of preventing the employer from extending financial aid or support to any union. I think in the longrun interpretation of the Act to require a complete hands-off attitude on the part of employers will better effectuate the purposes of the Act than an occasional departure from it to require some kind of aid to a union as an expedient for correcting or punishing an unfair labor practice.

If the Act permitted imposing such a penalty upon the employers, it would perhaps be appropriate to compel them to provide a meeting hall in lieu of those it kept the Union from obtaining. However, it is well established by decisions of this Court that § 10(c) of the Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 160(c), is remedial, not punitive. Consolidated Edison Co. of New York v. National Labor Relations Board, 305 U.S. 197, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126; Republic Steel Corporation v. National Labor Relations Board, 311 U.S. 7, 61 S.Ct. 77, 85 L.Ed. 6. In both cases, Chief Justice Hughes said for the Court 'this authority to order affirmative action does not go so far as to confer a punitive jurisdiction enabling the Board to inflict upon the employer any penalty it may choose because he is engaged in unfair labor practices, even though the Board be of the opinion that the policies of the Act might be effectuated by such an order.' 305 U.S. 197, 235, 59 S.Ct. 206, 219, 83 L.Ed. 126, and 311 U.S. 7, 11, 61 S.Ct. 77, 79, 85 L.Ed. 6.

Consequently, I think the order should be modified to provide that the employer shall cease and desist from interfering in any manner with the discretion of the Patriotic Sons with respect to use of the hall and that appropriate notices shall be posted.


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).