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International Union of Electrical v. National Labor Relations Board

May 15, 1962


Author: Smith

Before KALODNER, STALEY, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

SMITH, C. J.: This case is before the Court upon petitions for review filed by the Erie Resistor Corp. (the Company), and Local 613, I.U.E., AFL-CIO (the Union), and a cross-petition filed by the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) for the enforcement of its final order. These petitions were filed under Sections 10(f) and (e) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, 29 U.S.C.A. 160(f) and (e). The essential facts are not in dispute and the jurisdiction of this Court is conceded.


The Company maintained a manufacturing plant at Erie, Pennsylvania, where it was engaged in the manufacture and sale of electronic components, electro-mechanical assemblies, and custom molded plastics.The production and maintenance workers of the Company were, and had been since 1951, represented by the Union. There had been in force and effect successive collective bargaining agreements, the last of which was terminated on March 31, 1959.

Approximately two months prior to the termination of the then existing agreement, the Union notified the Company of its desire to enter into negotiations in anticipation of a new contract. The negotiators for the respective parties met from time to time thereafter but were unable to reach full agreement. When the existing agreement terminated on March 31, 1959, a strike was called. It is here admitted that at its inception the strike was economic. When the strike was called there were 478 production and maintenance workers actively employed and 450 on layoff status; of those on layoff status, approximately 400 had no reasonable expectation of being recalled. All of the workers actively employed joined the strike.

The Company attempted to maintain production operations during the month of April by using clerical employees and other personnel outside the bargaining unit. Production declined to a level between 15% and 30% of normal, and several customers cancelled their orders with the Company. On May 3, 1959, each of the strikers was notified by letter that the Company intended "to obtain replacements"; they were further notified that they would hold their positions only until replaced. The hiring of replacements commenced on May 11, and continued thereafter until June 24, 1959. The replacements included new employees, employees on layoff status, and returning strikers. When the applicants were accepted they were told that they would not be laid off or discharged by reason of the settlement of the strike.

When the negotiators met on May 11, 1959, the representatives of the Union were informed that replacements were being assured that they would not be discharged upon settlement of the strike. The Company, prompted by a desire to implement its assurances, proposed that the existing seniority system be so modified as to accord the replacements some form of preferential seniority. The Company offered to consider any plan acceptable to the Union, but the offer was rejected. The subject was discussed at five sessions held between May 11th and May 28th. The representatives of the Union remained adamant in their refusal to consider it on the ground that a preferential seniority system would be discriminatory and illegal.

On May 27, 1959, the Company formulated a preferential seniority plan under which twenty years were added to the regular length of service of all production and maintenance workers who accepted employment during the strike. The plan was limited in its application to future layoffs and recalls from layoff. The Union was informed of the plan on the following day and publicized it in radio and television broadcasts on May 30th and 31st. The strikers were informed by letter addressed to each of them by the Company on June 10th; copies of the plan were posted on the company bulletin boards on June 15th.Notwithstanding the formulation of a preferential seniority policy, the Company expressed a willingness to consider any alternative plan proposed by the Union.

The strike ended on June 25, 1959, after the Union withdrew the picket line and offered to submit the seniority issue to the Board. Thereafter the strikers who had not been replaced were recalled by the Company in the order of seniority. By July 5th, 358 production and maintenance workers had returned to work; this number increased to 442 by September 20th. Thereafter, between September of 1959 and May of 1960, 202 employees were laid off for economic reasons; many of these were recalled strikers whose seniority was insufficient only because of the operation of the preferential seniority plan.

Decision and Order of The Board

The Trial Examiner concluded that under the applicable decisions a preferential seniority policy cannot be held illegal in the absence of proof that its adoption was prompted by a wrongful motive. He found that the evidence was "wholly inadequate" to support a factual determination that the adoption of the preferential seniority policy here in question was prompted by an illegal motive, and recommended dismissal of the complaint. The Board rejected the conclusion of the Tiral Examiner and held "that superseniority However Motivated is an illegal discrimination against strikers."*fn1

The Board found: first, that the preferential seniority policy was inherently discriminatory and that its adoption was an unfair labor practice within the meaning of Sections 8(a)(3) and (1) of the Act, 28 U.S.C.A. 158(a)(3) and (1); second, that the layoff of recalled strikers was discriminatory and violated the said sections; third, that the Company's insistence upon a preferential seniority plan as a condition to settlement was tantamount to a refusal to bargain and an unfair labor practice within the meaning of Section 8(a)(5) of the Act, 28 U.S.C.A. 158(a)(5); and fourth, that the said conduct converted the strike into an unfair labor practice strike as of May 29, 1959, and, therefore, the refusal to reinstate all strikers upon termination of the strike was likewise a violation. The order directed the Company to cease and desist from the practices found to be illegal, and to take affirmative action consistent with the Board's decision.


We concede that the application of a preferential seniority policy may be discriminatory and may tend to discourage union membership. The narrow question before us for decision is ...

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