APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF WISCONSIN.*fn*
Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge, Burton
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
These cases, here on appeal from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, 28 U. S. C. § 344 (a), 43 Stat. 937, 45 Stat. 54, present the question whether a certification of a union by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board, Wis. Stats. 1947, ch. 111, as the collective bargaining representative of the employees of appellant company, conflicts with the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 449, 29 U. S. C. §§ 151 et seq.
Prior to 1945 the appellant company recognized the appellant union as the collective bargaining representative of its plant and traffic department employees. The company and the union entered into a collective bargaining agreement which by its terms was to continue from year to year unless terminated by either party on a specified notice. At a time when certain provisions of that agreement were being renegotiated a rival union, the Telephone Guild, filed a petition with the National Board asking that it certify the collective bargaining representative of these employees. Before the National Board acted, the Guild withdrew its petition and filed a petition with the Wisconsin Board seeking the same relief.
The Wisconsin Board held a hearing and directed that separate elections be held among the employees in the plant, traffic, and office departments of the company to determine whether they desired to be grouped in a single unit or in departmental units and what representative, if any, they desired to elect. After the election the Wisconsin Board certified that the employees in the plant and traffic departments had elected to combine in a single bargaining unit and had chosen the Guild as their collective bargaining representative, and that the employees in the office department had elected to constitute themselves as a separate unit and had chosen not to have any collective bargaining representative.
Each appellant brought an action in the Wisconsin courts to have the certification set aside. The Circuit Court, relying on Bethlehem Steel Co. v. New York Labor Relations Board, 330 U.S. 767, held that the Wisconsin Board was without jurisdiction to issue the certification. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin reversed. 251 Wis. 583, 30 N. W. 2d 241.
First. We are met at the outset with a contention that the certification of the Wisconsin Board which has been sustained by the Wisconsin Supreme Court is not a "final judgment" within the meaning of § 237 (a) of the Judicial Code, 28 U. S. C. § 344. The argument is that under Wisconsin law the certification is no more than a report on the results of an investigation made known to the parties for such use as they may desire, that nothing can be done by any state agency to enforce observance of the certification, that the company cannot be required to bargain with the certified union until and unless an unfair practice charge is lodged against it, and that in such proceeding all the issues involved in the certification proceeding can be relitigated. If that contention is correct, the case is of course not ripe for the intervention of the federal judicial power. See Rochester Telephone Corp. v. United States, 307 U.S. 125, 130-131 and cases cited.
But it has not been shown that the Wisconsin law gives such slight force to the certification. The statute provides that the representative chosen by the employees shall be the exclusive one for purposes of collective bargaining. § 111.05 (1). Provision is made for the board to take a secret ballot of the employees and to certify the results thereof, whenever a question arises concerning the representation of employees in a collective bargaining unit. § 111.05 (3). And the statute contains the following direction: "The board's certification of the results of any election shall be conclusive as to the findings included
therein unless reviewed in the same manner as provided by subsection (8) of section 111.07 for review of orders of the board."*fn1 § 111.05 (3). The certification in these cases has been reviewed and sustained by the highest court of Wisconsin. While that certification is not irrevocable for all time,*fn2 it fixes a status to which Wisconsin provides a sanction. For it is an unfair labor practice for an employer to refuse to bargain with the representative of a majority of the employees.*fn3 § 111.06 (d). And since § 111.05 (3) makes the certification, subject to judicial review, "conclusive as to the findings included therein," it would seem that the certification cannot be collaterally attacked in that proceeding or heard de novo. We are pointed to no Wisconsin authority to the effect that it can be.
On this phase of the case we are, indeed, referred to only one Wisconsin authority and that is United R. & W. D. S. E. v. Wisconsin Board, 245 Wis. 636, 15 N. W. 2d 844. But that case merely held that an order of the Wisconsin Board that a referendum of employees by secret ballot be held to determine ...