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Link-Belt Co. v. National Labor Relations Board

March 2, 1940


Proceedings by the Link-Belt Company to review and set aside an order of the National Labor Relations Board, and by the Independent Union of Craftsmen to enforce such order.

Author: Kerner

Before MAJOR, TREANOR, and KERNER, Circuit Judges.

KERNER, Circuit Judge.

These cases are here on separate petitions by Link-Belt Company (hereinafter referred to as "employer" or "company") and the Independent Union of Craftsmen (hereinafter referred to as "Independent") to review and set aside, and on request by the National Labor Relations Board (hereinafter referred to as the "Board"), for the enforcement of an order*fn1 of the Board, issued pursuant to the provisions of § 10 (c) of the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 449, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., requiring the employer: (1) to cease and desist (a) from dominating or interfering with the administration of Independent; (b) from discouraging membership in Lodge No. 1604 of Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers of North America (hereinafter referred to as "Amalgamated"); (c) from engaging in any manner of espionage or surveillance; (d) from interfering with, restraining, or coercing its employees in the exercise of the right to self-organization guaranteed them by § 7 of the Act. The order further required the employer (2) to take affirmative action (a) withdraw all recognition from Independent as representative of any of its employees at the 39th Street plant, and completely disetablish Independent as such representative; (b) make whole joseph E. Novak for any loss of pay he may have suffered; (c) offer to certain employees immediate and full reinstatement to their former positions; (d) make them whole for any loss of pay they may have suffered; (e) include certain employees in the seniority list; and post the usual notices signifying compliance with the order.

The proceeding before the Board was instituted by Amalgamated. The amended complaint chared inter alia (1) that the employer instigated, promoted, and encouraged the formation and growth of the Independent, and dominated, interfered with, and contributed support to it; (2) that between September 21, 1936, and December 8, 1937, the employer discharged nine employees because of their union membership and activity, reinstated two of them upon discriminatory conditions, and has refused to reinstate others; (3) that the employer hired Frank Solinko on condition that his father join the Independent; and (4) that the employer used plant operatives for espionage concerning union membership and activity of its employees.

The employer answered, admitting certain of the jurisdictional allegations, but denied it had committed any unfair labor practices.

The principal and perhaps the only question presented for our determination is: Are the findings of the Board supported by substantial evidence. If they are, they are conclusive. 49 Stat. 453-455, § 10(e), 29 U.S.C.A. § 160(e); National Labor Relations Board v. Columbian Enameling & Stamping Co., 306 U.S. 292, 299, 300, 59 S. Ct. 501, 83 L. Ed. 660; Consolidated Edison Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S. Ct. 206, 83 L. Ed. 126, and National Labor Relations Board v. Waterman Steamship Corp., 60 S. Ct. 493, 84 L. Ed. , February 12, 1940.

The record discloses that the employer is an Illinois corporation owning and operating numerous plants, warehouses, and sales offices throughout the United States and Canada. As its 39th Street plant in Chicago, Illinois, with which the proceeding is concerned, it employs between 750 and 1,200 persons. This plant includes a complete steel and iron foundry, devoted to the manufacture and assembling of various kinds of machinery. The monthly production at this plant averages 1,100 tons, of which approximately 80 percent is shipped to purchasers outside the State of Illinois. Approximately 90 percent of the raw materials used are bought from outside the State of Illinois. The act is applicable to the company and its employees. National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 57 S. Ct. 615, 81 L. Ed. 893, 108 A.L.R. 1352; National Labor Relations Board v. Fansteel Metallurgical Corp., 306 U.S. 240, 59 S. Ct. 490, 83 L. Ed. 627, 123 A.L.R. 599.

Amalgamated is a labor organization affiliated with the Steel Workers Organization Committee, and through it with the Committee for Industrial Organization.

Independent is an incorporated labor organization whose membership is confined to employees of the employer at the 39th Street plant. The books and records of income and disbursements and cancelled checks were produced at the hearing. It has a checking account at a bank in the city of Chicago. It collects dues of fifty cents per month per member. Over $3,000 has been paid by its members into its treasury in the form of fees and dues and it has paid for the use of a hall and other expenses incidental and necessary to its operation. At least two meetings are held each month.

There was no labor organization in the plant prior to 1933, no unrest over union matters, and the employer-employee relation was friendly. That year, after the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act, a plan of employee representation was established. It had as its functioning body a board of seven employees, elected by secret ballot. Louis Salmons was one of the seven. The employer participated to the extent of having one non-voting representative. The expenses of the plan were borne by the employer, and it was in existence until April 19, 1937, when it was completely dissolved and abandoned.

In September of 1936 a movement to organize Amalgamated among the employees was commencd by Salmons, and during the period of September, 1936, to April, 1937, a number of the employees joined, largely due to the efforts of Salmons, who upon the employer's premises, during working hours, solicited memberships. In September, 1936, he induced seven of the employees to assist him. These employees held a meeting a which Salmons stated that "no doubt he would be discharged, and in that event it would be up to them to keep the thing going on the inside."

Shortly after Salmons began soliciting for Amalgamated, a growing dissension was noticeable among the employees; the men discussed the merits and demerits of various forms of organization, and the advisability of organizing their own union.

On April 12, 1937, when information was brought to the plant that the National Labor Relations Act had been declared to apply to manufacturing concerns, George F. Linde, an employee, who had never approved of the Employees Representative Plan, and who enjoyed considerable popularity among the employees, together with Hubert Brucks, John Litster and Arthur H. Rosenbaum, three other employees (none of whom were employed in any supervisory capacity), held a conference and discussed the question of organizing an inside union of employees to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, drafted what they denominated an application, stating that those signing it desired to form an organization within the ranks of the employees. On the following day, this committee interviewed a number of men they believed would be willing to sponsor this form of organization and obtain the signatures of the employees. April 14 the applications were distributed, the employees solicited, and by Friday. April 16, 760 out of approximately 1,000 eligible employees had signed the application. Some of the signatures were obtained during working hours, but the majority were obtained outside of working hours.

On April 17 Linde and Brucks consulted an attorney at law having no connection with the Employees Representative Plan or with the employer. After hearing their case, he advised them concerning the National Labor Relations Act, drew up a proposed constitution and by-laws, and suggested that the employees of the plant hold a general meeting. On Sunday, April 18, Linde and seven other employees held a meeting and made arrangements for the holding of a general meeting of the employees. On Monday, April 19, Linde, Litster, and Ray Frohling, as the organizing committee of Independent, informed Edward L. Berry, Assistant General Manager of the employer, that they (Linde, Litster and Frohling) represented a majority of the employees; that the employees had adopted the name of Independent Union of Craftsmen, and requested that the employer recognize them as the exclusive bargaining representative of the employees at the 39th Street plant. Berry refused, stating he would have to take the matter up with the executive officers of the company.

On Wednesday, April 21, he called this committee into his office and advised them he had been authorized to act for the company. He then asked that he be permitted to inspect the cards evidencing membership in the Independent; after examination thereof, being convinced that they represented a majority of the employees, he recognized the Independent as the collective bargaining agent of the employees. It is well to note here that up to this time the Amalgamated had not made a demand for recognition.

On April 22 a general meeting of the employees was held at the Lithuanian Hall, a public hall rented by the Independent for the occasion, at which were present some 550 employees. Litster presided. Linde was secretary and recorded the proceedings. Wham, attorney for Independent, explained that under the law the employer could in no way interfere, aid, or abet in the formation of a union; that it was entirely up to the employees to decide whom they wished to represent them; that the employer could not contribute anything financially; that the members would have to defray the expenses of the Independent by the payment of dues; and explained the purpose and meaning of the constitution and by-laws. Many questions were asked by those in attendance and finally a motion was made, debated, and carried that the constitution and by-laws be adopted and the actions of the committee ratified.

On May 4, 1937, an election was held at a hall rented for that purpose, at which there were present 400 to 450 eemployees. Officers of the Independent were elected by secret ballot (none of these officers was a former Employees Plan representative), and the manner of electing shop stewards was agreed upon. The various departments were to hold an ...

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