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GUSS v. UTAH LABOR RELATIONS BOARD

decided: March 25, 1957.

GUSS, DOING BUSINESS AS PHOTO SOUND PRODUCTS MANUFACTURING CO
v.
UTAH LABOR RELATIONS BOARD



APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF UTAH.

Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Burton, Clark, Harlan, Brennan; Whittaker took no part in the consideration or decision of this case

Author: Warren

[ 353 U.S. Page 2]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented by this appeal and by No. 41, post, p. 20, and No. 50, post, p. 26, also decided this day, is whether Congress, by vesting in the National Labor

[ 353 U.S. Page 3]

     Relations Board jurisdiction over labor relations matters affecting interstate commerce, has completely displaced state power to deal with such matters where the Board has declined or obviously would decline to exercise its jurisdiction but has not ceded jurisdiction pursuant to the proviso to § 10 (a) of the National Labor Relations Act.*fn1 It is a question we left open in Building Trades Council v. Kinard Construction Co., 346 U.S. 933.

Some background is necessary for an understanding of this problem in federal-state relations and how it assumed its present importance. Since it was first enacted in 1935, the National Labor Relations Act*fn2 has empowered the National Labor Relations Board "to prevent any person from engaging in any unfair labor practice . . . [defined by the Act] affecting commerce."*fn3 By this language and by the definition of "affecting commerce" elsewhere in the Act,*fn4 Congress meant to reach to the full extent of its power under the Commerce Clause. Labor Board v. Fainblatt, 306 U.S. 601, 606-607. The Board, however, has never exercised the full measure of its jurisdiction. For a number of years, the Board decided case-by-case whether to take jurisdiction. In 1950, concluding that "experience warrants the establishment and announcement of certain standards" to govern the exercise of its jurisdiction, Hollow Tree Lumber Co., 91 N. L. R. B. 635, 636, the Board published standards, largely in terms

[ 353 U.S. Page 4]

     of yearly dollar amounts of interstate inflow and outflow.*fn5 In 1954, a sharply divided Board, see Breeding Transfer Co., 110 N. L. R. B. 493, revised the jurisdictional standards upward.*fn6 This Court has never passed and we do not pass today upon the validity of any particular declination of jurisdiction by the Board or any set of jurisdictional standards.*fn7

How many labor disputes the Board's 1954 standards leave in the "twilight zone" between exercised federal jurisdiction and unquestioned state jurisdiction is not known.*fn8 In any case, there has been recently a substantial volume of litigation raising the question stated at the beginning of this opinion, of which this case is an example.*fn9

Appellant, doing business in Salt Lake City, Utah, manufactures specialized photographic equipment for the Air Force on a contract basis. To fulfill his government contracts he purchased materials from outside Utah in an amount "a little less than $50,000." Finished products

[ 353 U.S. Page 5]

     were shipped to Air Force bases, one within Utah and the others outside. In 1953 the United Steelworkers of America filed with the National Labor Relations Board a petition for certification of that union as the bargaining representative of appellant's employees. A consent election was agreed to, the agreement reciting that appellant was "engaged in commerce within the meaning of Section 2 (6), (7) of the National Labor Relations Act." The union won the election and was certified by the National Board as bargaining representative. Shortly thereafter the union filed with the National Board charges that appellant had engaged in unfair labor practices proscribed by § 8 (a)(1), (3) and (5) of the Act.*fn10 Meanwhile, on July 15, 1954, the Board promulgated its revised jurisdictional standards. The Board's Acting Regional Director declined to issue a complaint. He wrote on July 21:

"Further proceedings are not warranted, inasmuch as the operations of the Company involved are predominantly local in character, and it does not appear that it would effectuate the policies of the Act to exercise jurisdiction."

The union thereupon filed substantially the same charges with the Utah Labor Relations Board, pursuant to the Utah Labor Relations Act.*fn11 Appellant urged that the State Board was without jurisdiction of a matter within the jurisdiction of the National Board. The State Board, however, found it had jurisdiction and concluded on the merits that appellant had engaged in unfair labor practices as defined by the Utah Act. It granted relief through a remedial order. On a Writ of Review, the Utah Supreme Court affirmed the decision and order of

[ 353 U.S. Page 6]

     the state administrative agency.*fn12 We noted probable jurisdiction. 352 U.S. 817.

On these facts we start from the following uncontroverted premises:

(1) Appellant's business affects commerce within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act and the National Labor Relations Board had jurisdiction. Labor Board v. Fainblatt, supra.

(2) The National Act expressly deals with the conduct charged to appellant which was the basis of the state tribunals' actions. Therefore, if the National Board had not declined jurisdiction, state action would have been precluded by our decision in Garner v. Teamsters Union, 346 U.S. 485.

(3) The National Board has not entered into any cession agreement with the Utah Board pursuant to § ...


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