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U.S. Supreme Court

Labor Board v. Truck Drivers Union, 353 U.S. 87 (1957)

Labor Board v. Truck Drivers Local Union

No. 449, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs,

Warehousemen and Helpers of America, A.F.L.

No. 103

Argued January 17, 22, 1957

Decided April 1, 1957

353 U.S. 87


A group of employers had formed a multiemployer association to bargain jointly with a single union which represented their employees. During contract negotiations between the union and the association, the union struck and picketed the plant of one of the employers belonging to the association. Thereupon, the other members of the employers' association, as a defense to the strike against one of their members which imperiled the employers' common interest in bargaining on a group basis, closed their plants and locked out their employees until the strike was terminated.

Held: In the circumstances of this case, the National Labor Relations Board properly found that such action by the non-struck members of the employers' association did not constitute an unfair labor practice within the meaning of §§ 8(a)(1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended. Pp. 353 U. S. 89-97.

(a) Although there is no express provision of the Act either prohibiting or authorizing a lockout, the Act does not make a lockout unlawful per se, and the legislative history of the Wagner Act indicates that there was no intent to prohibit lockouts as such. P. 353 U. S. 92.

(b) The unqualified use of the term "lockout" in several sections of the Taft-Hartley Act is a statutory recognition that there are circumstances in which employers may lawfully resort to a lockout as an economic weapon, and this conclusion is supported by the legislative history of the Act. Pp. 353 U. S. 92-93.

(c) A temporary lockout may lawfully be used as a defense to a union strike tactic which threatens the destruction of the employers' interest in bargaining on a group basis. Pp. 353 U. S. 93-96.

(d) The history of the Taft-Hartley Act compels the conclusion that Congress intended that the National Labor Relations Board chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 353 U. S. 88

should continue its established administrative practice of certifying multiemployer groups and intended to leave to the Board's specialized judgment the inevitable questions concerning multiemployer bargaining bound to arise in the future. Pp. 353 U. S. 94-96.

(e) Although the Act protects the right of the employees to strike in support of their demands, this protection is not so absolute as to deny self-help by employers when legitimate interests of employees and employers collide. P. 353 U. S. 96.

(f) The function of balancing conflicting legitimate interests so as to effectuate national labor policy is often a difficult and delicate responsibility, which Congress committed primarily to the National Labor Relations Board, subject to limited judicial review. P. 353 U. S. 96.

(g) The exercise of discretion by the Board in permitting lockouts is not to be narrowly confined to cases of economic hardship. P. 353 U. S. 97.

(h) In the circumstances of this case, the Board correctly balanced the conflicting interests in deciding that a temporary lockout to preserve the multiemployer bargaining basis from the disintegration threatened by the union's strike action was lawful. P. 353 U. S. 97.

231 F.2d 110 reversed. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 353 U. S. 89

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