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A company may suspend its operations or change its business methods so long as its change in operation is not motivated by the illegal intention to avoid its obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 151 et seq. An employer may discharge or refuse to reemploy one of his employees for any reason, just or unjust, except discrimination because of union activities and relationships, and the controlling and ultimate fact which determines such issue is what was the true reason back of the discharge. The employer may hire and discharge at will, so long as the action is not based upon opposition to union activities. As far as the Act goes, the employer may discharge for any reason except union membership, activity, or relationship. If a discharge is not arbitrarily made with a purpose, or as an excuse, to avoid the statute, it is not unlawful.
Respondent, Adkins Transfer Company, was a small truck line operator. All of its workers were union members. In 1953, respondent employed a mechanic and a helper to maintain the company's trucks in the maintenance department. The two newly hired employees joined the local union and the union began negotiating contracts for the two employees. After discovering the union wage scale for the two employees' positions, the respondent decided to close the maintenance department and discharge the employees. The respondent never filled the positions. The union filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging violations of the National Labor Relations Act (Act), 29 U.S.C.S. § 151 et seq. The NLRB ordered the company to reinstate the two employees and filed a petition in court for enforcement of its order. On appeal, respondent argued that the discharge of the two employees resulted because it determined that it could not profitably carry on the maintenance and servicing department in which the employees were engaged.
Did the respondent employer violate the National Labor Relations Act (Act), 29 U.S.C.S. § 151 et seq., when it terminated the two employees in question?
The court denied the petition, finding that the respondent company did not violate the Act. The court concluded that the company committed no unfair labor practice by choosing to discontinue its maintenance department and to discharge the two employees. The court found that the company did not discharge the employees to discourage union membership. The company simply could not afford to pay the higher union wage scale.