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NLRB v. Bell Aerospace Co. Div. of Textron, Inc. - 416 U.S. 267, 94 S. Ct. 1757 (1974)


The National Labor Relations Board's early decisions, the purpose and legislative history of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, the Board's subsequent and consistent construction of the Act for more than two decades, and the decisions of the courts of appeals all point unmistakably to the conclusion that "managerial employees" are not covered by the Act. The U.S. Supreme Court agrees with the Court of Appeals below that the Board is not now free to read a new and more restrictive meaning into the Act. 


Upon petition of a labor union for a representation election to determine whether the union would be certified as the bargaining representative of 25 buyers in the purchasing and procurement department at the employer's plant, the National Labor Relations Board held that the buyers constituted an appropriate unit and directed an election which resulted in the Board's certification of the union as the exclusive bargaining representative for the buyers. The employer's motion for reconsideration of the Board's earlier order was denied by the Board on the ground that the employer had not shown that union organization of its buyers would create a conflict of interest in labor relations. However, the employer refused to bargain with the union and the Board found that the employer was guilty of an unfair labor practice in violation of 8(a)(5) and (1) of the amended National Labor Relations Act (29 USCS 158(a)(5 and 1)) and the Board issued an order compelling the company to bargain with the union. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the Board's cross petition for enforcement of this order on the grounds that (1) it was not certain that the Board's decision rested on a factual determination that the buyers were not true "managerial employees" rather than on its new, and in the court's view, erroneous holding, that the Board was free to regard all managerial employees as covered by the Act unless their duties met the conflict of interest touchstone and (2) the Board was required to proceed by rulemaking rather than by adjudication in determining the status of the buyers as "managerial employees".


Was the National Labor Relations Board limited to rulemaking procedures when determining whether the employees at issue were managerial employees within the meaning of the statute?




The Court held that managerial employees were not covered under the Act but expressed no opinion as to whether the buyers fell into the category of managerial employees. Further, National Labor Relations Board was not limited to rulemaking procedures under § 156 if it should so determine that the buyers were not managerial employees on remand, but instead had discretion to decide that the adjudicative procedures could also produce the relevant information necessary to a mature and fair consideration of the issues.

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