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National Labor Relations Board v. Stackpole Carbon Co.

April 30, 1942


Appeal from National Labor Relations Board.

Author: Biggs

Before BIGGS, MARIS, CLARK, JONES and GOODRICH, Circuit Judges.

BIGGS, Circuit Judge.

This case arises on a petition filed by the National Labor Relations Board for a rule to show cause why certain purported assignments to the Department of Public Assistance of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania of back pay by employees of Stackpole Carbon Company should not be declared invalid and of no effect against the Board and its agents. The rule issued. The respondents under the rule, the Commonwealth and the Department, filed an answer and argument was had. The facts are not in dispute. It appears that back pay is due to these employees under an order of the National Labor Relations Board which this court enforced by a decree. See 105 F.2d 167, 177, certiorari denied 308 U.S. 605, 60 S. Ct. 142, 84 L. Ed. 506. The proceeding at bar is ancillary to the main proceeding which arose under Section 10(c) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 160(c). The controversy presently at bar raises the question whether the order of the Board directing payment of back wages to workmen may be affected by the assignments and, if so, to what extent.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Department of Public Assistance and the public officials of the Commonwealth charged with responsibility under the "Public Assistance Law", the Act of June 24, 1937, P.L. 2051, 62 P.S. § 2501 and "The Support Law", the Act of June 24, 1937, P.L. 2045, 62 P.S. § 1971, by answer have submitted to this court's jurisdiction and have asked for the determination of the issues.

The pertinent facts may be stated as follows. Pursuant to a stipulation entered into between the Board and the Company after the entry of our decree, the Company deposited to an account entitled "Stackpole Carbon Company Labor Board Account, Regional Director, Sixth Region, National Labor Relations Board, Trustee" in a bank at St. Marys, Pennsylvania, the sum of $50,000 to be distributed in stipulated amounts, in twelve instalments from December 13, 1940 to November 13, 1941, to the employees of Stakpole named in a list attached to the stipulation. Since we ordered the stipulation filed in substance we approved it and its provisions therefore have the effect of a decree entered in the proceedings.

Some of the employees of Stackpole, including many of the employees named in the stipulation, executed assignments of back wages. Each contains a recital stating that the employee is presently anticipating the receipt of back wages from the Company and that, in consideration of the employees' indebtedness to the Commonwealth for assistance given to him by the Department, the employee transfers and assigns to the Department "such part of my salary, now due or to become due from said employer, as would have been received concurrently with assistance, had the wages been paid in the usual method of payment and, as shall be necessary to repay the total amount of assistance * * * ."

Both the Board and the Department take the position that this court has jurisdiction to determine the controversy. The Board cites Section 274d of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C.A. § 400, the Declaratory Judgments Act, and asserts that the instructions prayed for by the board are necessary to effectuate this court's decree and the provisions of the stipulation; that therefore the relief sought by the Board is within our jurisdiction and we may exercise the powers conferred upon us by Section 262 of the Judicial Code, the All Writs Section, 28 U.S.C.A. § 377, to preserve that jurisdiction.

We have jurisdiction to effectuate our own decree and it is unnecessary in the case at bar to evoke the provisions of the All Writs Section. In the Case at bar by our decree and the stipulation, complied with by the Company, a fund was created from which Stackpole's workmen were to be paid in accordance with the Board's order.

The Commonwealth and the Department concede that no "private" right of action is created in employees under Section 10(c) of the Act, but both take the position that as a result of the Board's awards enforced by the decree of this court, a "private" substantive right vested in each of the workmen to the sum awarded him by the Board and that the workman could assign, sell or dispose of that right in any way that he saw fit. To put this in other words, the Commonwealth and the Department contend that once the Board has required reimbursement to the employee for back wages and the employer has carried out the provisions of the order, at least to the extent in the case at bar, the duty of the Board is at an end. The Board has fulfilled its duty under the Act and the claim of a workman for back wages becomes like any other claim which comes into his hands.

Numerous cases are cited by the Commonwealth and the Department but none of them bears out their contentions. Two Supreme Court cases, however, one of them cited by the respondents under the rule, and a decision of this court, point the other way. We will discuss these first.

In Amalgamated Utility Workers v. Consolidated Edison Company, 309 U.S. 261, 267-269, 60 S. Ct. 561, 564, 84 L. Ed. 738, Mr. Chief Justice Hughes held that the Board is a public agency which can act only in the public interest as an instrument to assure employees protection from unfair conduct in order to remove obstructions to interstate commerce. He quoted from the report by the Committee on Labor of the House of Representatives upon the bill (See H.R. No. 972, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 21) as follows, "No private right of action is contemplated [by the bill]. Essentially the unfair labor practices listed are matters of public concern, by their nature and consequences, present or potential; the proceeding is in the name of the Board, upon the Board's formal complaint. The form of injunctive and affirmative order is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the bill to remove obstructions to interstate commerce which are by the law declared to be detrimental to the public weal."

In National Licorice Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 309 U.S. 350, 362, 60 S. Ct. 569, 576, 84 L. Ed. 799, Mr. Justice Stone said, "The proceeding authorized to be taken by the Board under the National Labor Relations Act is not for the adjudication of private rights. * * * It has few of the indicia of a private litigation and makes no requirement for the presence in it of any private party other than the employer charged with an unfair labor practice. The Board acts in a public capacity to give effect to the declared public policy of the Act to eliminate and prevent obstructions to interstate commerce by encouraging collective bargaining and by protecting the 'exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, * * * '."

In National Labor Relations Board v. Newark Morning L. Co., 3 Cir., 120 F.2d 262, 268, 137 A.L.R. 849, this court, passing upon the right of an employee to reinstatement with back pay stated its conclusion that rights under the Act were public rights, though expressly reserving judgment upon the question whether the law of New Jersey might afford the claimant in the cited case a forum for the redress of her private grievances. We indicated our belief that the Board has exclusive jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of the Act, citing the provisions of Section 10(a) that the power of the Board to prevent unfair labor practices is ...

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