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National Labor Relations Board v. Algoma Net Co.

December 9, 1941


Petition for the Enforcement of an Order of the National Labor Relations Board.

Author: Kerner

Before KERNER and MINTON, Circuit Judges, and LINDLEY, District Judge.

KERNER, Circuit Judge.

This is a petition to enforce an order of the National Labor Relations Board. The Board found that the respondent, the Algoma Net Company, by interfering with, restraining, and coercing its employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed them by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 157, had engaged in unfair labor practices within the meaning of § 8(1), and by the discriminatory discharge of 3 and the lockout of 34 employees had violated § 8(3) of the Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 158(1, 3). Upon these findings the Board ordered respondent to cease and desist from the unfair labor practices, to reinstate the employees with back pay, and to post appropriate notices.

The Algoma Net Company is a Wisconsin corporation, engaged in the manufacture and sale of fly nets, hammocks, and related products at Algoma, Wisconsin, employing about 150 persons. During the year ending July 31, 1938, it purchased raw materials valued at $140,000 and sold finished products valued at $282,000. Approximately ninety percent in value of these raw materials and finished products came from and were shipped to points outside of the state of Wisconsin. The interstate character of respondent's business is admitted; the jurisdiction of the Board, however, is questioned on the ground that the Wisconsin Labor Relations Board assumed jurisdiction and dismissed the case before the National Labor Relations Board took or attempted to assume jurisdiction.

The record discloses that on February 8, 1939, a representative of the Wisconsin Labor Relations Board and a representative of the American Federation of Labor, hereinafter referred to as the Union, conferred with J. C. Anderegg, respondent's superintendent, to discuss charges which had been filed alleging that respondent had engaged in unfair labor practices by laying off Kaus, Ferron, and Trainor.

At a second conference on February 9, Anderegg agreed to reinstate Kaus on February 13, to reinstate Trainor and Ferron within 20 days or as soon as work was available, and to post a notice stating that respondent would not interfere in the employees' rights to self-organization. Kaus was reinstated, the notice was posted, and on February 16 Rauch, the representative of the Wisconsin Labor Relations Board, notified respondent that in view of the settlement he would recommend that the charges pending before the Wisconsin Board be withdrawn.

On February 20, respondent's manager, who had been absent from Algoma, returned. Upon receiving a report from the superintendent concerning the 3 employees, the manager directed that the 3 men be forthwith discharged and that 34 employees in Plant A be laid off until further notice. At the same time he wrote a letter to the Wisconsin Board requesting the Board to send a representative to Algoma. On February 25, Hendricks, representing the Wisconsin Board, conferred with manager E. W. Anderegg. At this conference Hendricks did not advise or request reinstatement of the 3 employees, but he did state, "I would forget about the whole thing just as if nothing had ever happened." On February 27 Plant A was reopened and the 34 employees were reinstated.

It is upon this state of the record that respondent rests its contention that the Board lacked jurisdiction. The argument is that the Wisconsin Board took jurisdiction of the case, thoroughly investigated it, and closed the matter, thereby foreclosing the jurisdiction of the National Board. In support of its contention counsel for the respondent cites, among other cases, Wisconsin Labor Relations Board v. Fred Rueping Leather Co., 228 Wis. 473, 279 N.W. 673, 117 A.L.R. 398.

In the Rueping Leather case, supra, the Wisconsin Board filed a complaint against the Leather Company charging that the defendant had violated the Wisconsin Labor Relations Act. Over defendant's objections to the jurisdiction of the Wisconsin Board, the Board considered the merits of the charges and filed findings of fact. On appeal in the Supreme Court of Wisconsin the contention was that the National Labor Relations Act applied to the defendant and covered the same ground as the Wisconsin Labor Relations Act, § 111.01 et seq., Wis. St., that it superseded the state act, and that the Wisconsin Board had no jurisdiction to enter the order which it sought to enforce. The court held that the National Labor Relations Act had not superseded the Wisconsin Labor Relations Act, but that the Wisconsin Board and the National Board had concurrent jurisdiction over interstate commerce labor disputes in Wisconsin, and stated page 492 of 228 Wis., page 681 of 279 N.W., 117 A.L.R. 398: "With the possibility of conflict in the administration of the state and national labor relations acts, we find no occasion to deal further than to state what is obvious: That in case there is conflict in a matter properly within the scope of the national act, the state must yield. * * * We see no reason to anticipate and determine when and under what circumstances the state board is ousted of jurisdiction. That question is not here under the facts of this case, * * * When they do, it will be time enough to attack the problems they present."

In our case, the nature of the charges filed before the Wisconsin Board does not appear in the record. The record is equally silent as to whether any witnesses were heard and findings of fact made. Save for the letter written by Rauch in which he stated he would recommend that the charges be withdrawn and the testimony of manager Andergg that Hendricks said "I would forget about the whole thing," no charges or disposition of the matter by the Wisconsin Board appears. Under this state of the record, we believe the National Board had jurisdiction.

We now proceed to a consideration of the merits. The respondent contends that there was no substantial evidence to support the fidings of the Board. Our examination and consideration of the record has convinced us that the evidence amly sustains the finding that the respondent's coercion and interference with the union activities of its employees was a violation of § 8(1) of the Act. We pass to the question of violations of § 8(3) by discriminatory discharges.

The respondent contends that it laid off Gerald Kaus, Manuel Ferron, and Louis Trainor on February 6, because an accumulation lation of surplus stock in the beamer and cord department made necessary temporary adjustments in the working force. In support of this contention it emphasizes the following: That late in January and early in February, 1939, it was apparent that layoffs would be necessary; that the supply of raw materials on hand was low and that no shipments were due; that little or no yarn for nets and hammocks was available and that this condition was reported to the foreman in charge approximately two weeks prior to February 4; that there was on hand in the cord department a large stock of material; that the customers' orders were at an extreme low and the seasonal production slump was at hand; that the plant's history indicated that this situation had occurred almost annually and had necessitated lay-offs; and that Kaus, Ferron, and Trainor had been frequently laid off for similar reasons.

Respondent also claims that these 3 employees were discharged for good cause and points to the fact that the testimony tended to prove that on the evening of February 7 Kaus and Ferron entered the boiler room of Plant "A" where they met Trainor; that Kaus, after stealing a key, entered Plant "B", demanded that employee Lumaye sign a Union application card, beat him up when he refused, and damaged respondent's goods; that Ferron entered the basement of Plant "A", invited employee Vincent away from his work and ...

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