Law School Case Brief
Ilgwu v. NLRB - 366 U.S. 731, 81 S. Ct. 1603 (1961)
In their selection of a bargaining representative, § 9(a) of the Wagner Act, which is also known as the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 151 et seq., guarantees employees freedom of choice and majority rule. The Wagner Act places a nonconsenting minority under the bargaining responsibility of an agency selected by a majority of the workers. However, where an employer grants exclusive bargaining status to an agency selected by a minority of its employees, thereby impressing that agent upon the nonconsenting majority, there can be no clearer abridgment of § 7 of the Act, assuring employees the right to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing or to refrain from such activity. It follows that such employer activity violates § 8(a)(1) of the Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 158(a)(1), which prohibits employer interference with, and restraint of, employee exercise of right under § 7 of the Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 157. Section 8(a)(2) of the Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 158(a)(2), makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to contribute support to a labor organization.
An employer extended, and a union, ILGWU, accepted recognition as exclusive collective bargaining representative of the employer's production and shipping employees, without checking to ascertain the fact that in actuality the ILGWU represented only a minority of such employees. Subsequently, the employer and the ILGWU entered into a formal collective bargaining agreement, at which time the ILGWU did represent a majority of the employees in question. The National Labor Relations Board held the employer and the ILGWU guilty of unfair labor practices under 8(a) (1), 8(a)(2), and 8(b)(1)(A) of the amended National Labor Relations Act (29 USC 158(a)(1), 158(a)(2), and 158(b)(1)(A)), which proscribe, respectively, employers' interference with employees' rights to bargain collectively or refrain therefrom, employers' contribution of support to labor organizations, and unions' interference with employees' rights to bargain collectively or refrain therefrom. The board ordered the unfair labor practices discontinued, and directed the holding of a representation election. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted enforcement of the Board's order.
Did the extension of recognition to the minority union as the exclusive bargaining representative of employees, and the corresponding acceptance of the latter, constitute unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act?
According to the United States Supreme Court, by granting exclusive bargaining status to a union selected by a minority of its employees, thereby impressing that union upon the non-consenting majority, the employer violated both § 8 (a) (1) and § 8 (a) (2) of the National Labor Relations Act. The Court averred that such activity interfered with and restrained the employees’ exercise of their rights under § 7 of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C.S. § 157. The Court further held that the employer's bona fide belief in the majority status of the union was no defense.
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