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decided*fn*: June 24, 1974.



Stewart, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Douglas, Brennan, Marshall, and Powell, JJ., joined. White, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Burger, C. J., and Blackmun and Rehnquist, JJ., joined, post, p. 813.

Author: Stewart

[ 417 U.S. Page 791]

 MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 8 (b)(1)(B) of the National Labor Relations Act, 61 Stat. 141, 29 U. S. C. § 158 (b)(1)(B), makes it an unfair labor practice for a union "to restrain or coerce . . . an employer in the selection of his representatives for the purposes of collective bargaining or the adjustment of grievances." The respondent unions in these consolidated cases called economic strikes against the employer companies. During the strikes, supervisory employees of the companies, some of whom were members of bargaining units and some of whom were not, but all of whom were union members, crossed

[ 417 U.S. Page 792]

     the picket lines and performed rank-and-file struck work, i. e., work normally performed by the nonsupervisory employees then on strike. The unions later disciplined these supervisors for so doing. The question to be decided is whether the unions committed unfair labor practices under § 8 (b)(1)(B) when they disciplined their supervisor-members for crossing the picket lines and performing rank-and-file struck work during lawful economic strikes against the companies.


Since 1909, Local 134, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO, one of the respondents in No. 73-795, has been recognized by the Illinois Bell Telephone Co. (Illinois Bell) and its predecessors as the exclusive bargaining representative for both rank-and-file and certain supervisory personnel, including general foremen, P. B. X. installation foremen, and building cable foremen. Rather than exercise its right to refuse to hire union members as supervisors, the company agreed to the inclusion of a union security clause in the collective-bargaining agreement which required that these supervisors, like the rank-and-file employees, maintain membership in Local 134. In addition, the bargaining agreement in effect at the time of this dispute contained provisions for the conditions of employment and certain wages of these foremen.

Other higher ranking supervisors, however, were neither represented by the union for collective-bargaining purposes nor covered by the agreement, although they were permitted to maintain their union membership.*fn1

[ 417 U.S. Page 793]

     By virtue of that membership, these supervisors, like those within the bargaining units, received substantial benefits, including participation in the International's pension and death-benefit plans and in group life insurance and old-age-benefit plans sponsored by Local 134.

Under the International's constitution, all union members could be penalized for committing any of 23 enumerated offenses, including "working in the interest of any organization or cause which is detrimental to, or opposed to, the I. B. E. W.," App. 76, and "working for any individual or company declared in difficulty with a [local union] or the I. B. E. W." Id., at 77.

Between May 8, 1968, and September 20, 1968, Local 134 engaged in an economic strike against the company. At the inception of the strike, Illinois Bell informed its supervisory personnel that it would like to have them come to work during the stoppage but that the decision whether or not to do so would be left to each individual, and that those who chose not to work would not be penalized. Local 134, on the other hand, warned its supervisor-members that they would be subject to disciplinary action if they performed rank-and-file work during the strike. Some of the supervisor-members crossed the union picket lines to perform rank-and-file struck work. Local 134 thereupon initiated disciplinary proceedings against these supervisors, and those found guilty were

[ 417 U.S. Page 794]

     fined $500 each.*fn2 Charges were then filed with the NLRB by the Bell Supervisors Protective Association, an association formed by five supervisors to obtain counsel for and otherwise protect the supervisors who worked during the strike. The Board, one member dissenting, held that in thus disciplining the supervisory personnel, the union had violated § 8 (b)(1)(B) of the Act,*fn3 in accord with its decision of the same day in Local 2150, IBEW (Wisconsin Electric Power Co.), 192 N. L. R. B. 77 (1971), enforced, 486 F.2d 602 (CA7 1973), cert. pending No. 73-877, holding:

"The Union's fining of the supervisors who were acting in the Employer's interest in performing the struck work severely jeopardized the relationship between the Employer and its supervisors.

"The purpose of Section 8 (b)(1)(B) is to assure to the employer that its selected collective-bargaining representatives will be completely faithful to its desires. This cannot be achieved if the union has an effective method, union disciplinary action, by which it can pressure such representatives to deviate from the interests of the employer. . . ." 192 N. L. R. B., at 78.

Accordingly, the Board ordered the unions to rescind the fines, to expunge all records thereof, and to reimburse the supervisors for any portions of the fines paid.

The Florida Power & Light Co. (Florida Power), the petitioner in No. 73-556, has maintained a collective-bargaining agreement with the International

[ 417 U.S. Page 795]

     Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO and Locals 641, 622, 759, 820, and 1263, represented by the System Council U-4,*fn4 since 1953. That agreement does not require employees to become union members as a condition of employment, but many of its supervisory personnel have in fact joined the union. The company has elected to recognize the union as the exclusive bargaining representative of these supervisors, and certain aspects of their wages and conditions of employment are provided for in the agreement.*fn5 In addition, other higher supervisory personnel not covered by the agreement were allowed to maintain union membership,*fn6 and, although not represented by the union for collective-bargaining purposes, received substantial benefits as a result of their union membership, including pension, disability, and death benefits under the terms of the International's constitution.

[ 417 U.S. Page 796]

     Since the same International union was involved in both No. 73-556 and No. 73-795, the union members of Florida Power bore the same obligations under the International's constitution as did the union members of Illinois Bell. See supra, at 793. With respect to union discipline of supervisor members, however, the Florida Power collective-bargaining agreement itself provided:

"It is further agreed that employees in [supervisory] classifications have definite management responsibilities and are the direct representatives of the Company at their level of work. Employees in these classifications and any others in a supervisory capacity are not to be jacked up or disciplined through Union machinery for the acts they may have performed as supervisors in the Company's interest. The Union and the Company do not expect or intend for Union members to interfere with the proper and legitimate performance of the Foreman's management responsibilities appropriate to their classification. . . ." App. 47.

From October 22, 1969, through December 28, 1969, the International union and its locals engaged in an economic strike against Florida Power. During the strike, many of the supervisors who were union members crossed the picket lines maintained at nearly all the company's operation facilities, and performed rank-and-file work normally performed by the striking nonsupervisory employees. Following the strike, the union brought charges against those supervisors covered by the bargaining agreement as well as those not covered, alleging violations of the International union constitution. Those found guilty of crossing the picket lines to perform rank-and-file work, as opposed to their usual supervisory functions, received fines ranging from $100 to $6,000 and most were expelled from the union, thereby

[ 417 U.S. Page 797]

     terminating their right to pension, disability, and death benefits. Upon charges filed by Florida Power, the Board, in reliance upon its prior decisions in Wisconsin Electric and Illinois Bell, held that the penalties imposed "struck at the loyalty an employer should be able to expect from its representatives for the adjustment of grievances and therefore restrained and coerced employers in their selection of such representatives," in violation of § 8 (b)(1)(B) of the Act. Accordingly, the Board ordered the union to cease and desist, to rescind and refund all fines, to expunge all records of the disciplinary proceedings, and to restore those disciplined to full union membership and benefits.*fn7

The Illinois Bell case was first heard by a panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 159 U. S. App. D.C. 242, 487 F.2d 1113 (1973), and then on rehearing was consolidated with Florida Power and considered en banc. In a 5-4 decision, the court held that "section 8 (b)(1)(B) cannot reasonably be read to prohibit discipline of union members -- supervisors though they be -- for performance of rank-and-file struck work," 159 U. S. App. D.C. 272, 300, 487 F.2d 1143, 1171 (1973), and accordingly refused to enforce the Board's orders.*fn8 Section 8 (b)(1)(B), the court held, was intended to proscribe only union efforts to discipline supervisors for their actions in representing management in collective bargaining and the adjustment of grievances. It was the court's view that when a supervisor forsakes his supervisory ...

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