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LOCAL 926 v. JONES

decided: April 4, 1983.

LOCAL 926, INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS, AFL-CIO, ET AL
v.
JONES



APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF GEORGIA.

White, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Burger, C. J., and Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, and Stevens, JJ., joined. Rehnquist, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Powell and O'connor, JJ., joined, post, p. 684.

Author: White

[ 460 U.S. Page 671]

 JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether a state-court action brought by one who is a "supervisor"*fn1 within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act § 2 (11), 29 U. S. C. § 152(11), for interference by a union with his contractual relationships with his employer is pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act).

I

Respondent Robert C. Jones*fn2 was offered a supervisory position by the Georgia Power Co. (Company). Jones reported for work on June 12, 1978. By agreement, he took vacation time after his second day on the job and reported for work again on June 20, 1978. On this latter date he was discharged.

[ 460 U.S. Page 672]

     Jones believed that the Company had been persuaded to discharge him by the union bargaining agent, Local 926 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (Union). The reason for the Union's hostility, he believed, was his decision years ago to work for a nonunion employer. On June 28, 1978, Jones filed a charge with the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (Board) against the Union, alleging that the Union had "procured" his discharge, "and thereby coerced [the Company] in the selection of its supervisors and bargaining representative, because [Jones] had not been a member in good standing of said labor organization." Allegedly, this action violated §§ 8(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the Act.*fn3 App. to Juris. Statement 25a.

In a letter dated July 19, 1978, the Regional Director said that further proceedings on respondent's charge were unwarranted and that he would not issue a complaint.*fn4 He explained

[ 460 U.S. Page 673]

     that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the Union had caused Jones' discharge; there was also a lack of evidence indicating that the Union had restrained or coerced the Company in the selection of its representative for purposes of collective bargaining. The Regional Director had instead come to the conclusion that Jones' discharge had been a part of changes in the Company's supervisory structure and that the Union had merely participated in discussions regarding the changes.

Instead of appealing to the General Counsel,*fn5 Jones proceeded to state court, suing both the Union and the Company. Count I of his complaint claimed that the Union had interfered with the contract between him and the Company. The allegations were simple. He pleaded that he had been a member of Local 926 from 1969 to 1974, when he resigned

[ 460 U.S. Page 674]

     from the Union. More recently, the Company had offered him the job of equipment supervisor at one of its plants, and he and the Company had entered into a contract in reliance on which he had terminated his prior employment. The crucial allegation was that petitioner Thomas D. Archer, the business agent and representative of the Union, had "maliciously and with full intent, intimidated and coerced Georgia Power Company, or caused Georgia Power Company to be intimidated and coerced, into breaching its employment contract with the Plaintiff." Respondent prayed for a judgment of $80,000 against petitioners, to be composed of $25,000 in lost wages, $50,000 in punitive damages, and $5,000 in attorney's fees, interest, and costs. Count II of his complaint sought relief against the Company and alleged that the Company had breached its employment contract.

The Georgia trial court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the common-law tort action had been pre-empted because the subject matter of the complaint was arguably within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Board. The court observed that there was no justification for allowing joint federal-state control over the alleged conduct, since the state interest in protecting state citizens from the alleged conduct was insignificant and the risk of interference with the Board's jurisdiction was substantial.

The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of the case against the Union.*fn6 159 Ga. App. 693, 285 S. E. 2d 30 (1981). Following Georgia precedent it considered to be controlling, Sheet Metal Workers International Assn. v. Carter, 133 Ga. App. 872, 212 S. E. 2d 645 (1975), and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Briscoe, 143 Ga. App. 417, 239 S. E. 2d 38 (1977), the State Court of Appeals held the cause of action not pre-empted because Georgia had a deep and abiding interest in protecting its citizens' contractual rights and because the cause of action, which sounded in

[ 460 U.S. Page 675]

     tort, was so unrelated to the concerns of the federal labor laws that it would not interfere with the administration of those laws. As an additional reason for not finding pre-emption, the court stated that the Union's acts were not even arguably within the ambit of § 7 or § 8 of the NLRA, thus purporting to distinguish Iron Workers v. Perko, 373 U.S. 701 (1963). The Georgia Supreme Court denied review, and petitioners appealed.

We postponed to the hearing on the merits consideration of our appellate jurisdiction. 456 U.S. 987 (1982). Petitioners now acknowledge that this is not a mandatory appeal.*fn7 We agree, but, treating the papers as a petition for writ of certiorari, we grant the petition. Concluding that the Georgia Court of Appeals erred, we reverse.

II

The issue before us "is a variant of a familiar theme." San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 U.S. 236, 239 (1959). The Court has often been asked to determine whether particular state causes of action or regulations may coexist with the comprehensive amalgam of ...


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