Scofield v. NLRB
394 U.S. 423 (1969)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Scofield v. NLRB, 394 U.S. 423 (1969)

Scofield v. National Labor Relations Board

No. 273

Argued January 14, 1969

Decided April 1, 1969

394 U.S. 423




Petitioners, union members employed by the Wisconsin Motor Corp. on a piecework basis, were each fined and suspended by their union (without endangering their job retention) for violating a union rule relating to production ceilings. The union and employer had bargained over the ceiling level, but the collective bargaining agreement does not foreclose the employer's paying employees for work performed over the ceiling. Petitioners refused to pay the fines, the union brought suit in a state court to collect them, and petitioners then initiated charges before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), arguing that union enforcement of the rule through collection of fines was an unfair labor practice. The NLRB found no violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Court of Appeals upheld its ruling.


1. Petition for certiorari in this case, filed within 90 days of the decree but not of the opinion, where no notice of entry of any judgment at time of the opinion had been given petitioners, was timely. P. 394 U. S. 427.

2. Section 8(b)(1) of the NLRA permits a union to enforce a properly adopted rule which reflects a legitimate union interest, impairs no statutory labor policy, and is reasonably enforced against union members who are free to leave the union and escape the rule, while maintaining job security under the union shop clause by paying dues. NLRB v. Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co.,388 U. S. 175. Pp. 394 U. S. 428-430.

3. Arguments that the union rule in this case contravened a statutory labor policy were inadequate here. That rule did not demonstrably impede the collective bargaining process, cause a breach of the collective bargaining agreement, establish featherbedding within the meaning of the statute, induce discrimination by the employer against any class of employees, or represent any dereliction by the union of its duty of fair representation, and, in view of the acceptable manner of its enforcement by reasonable

Page 394 U. S. 424

fines to vindicate a proper union concern it does not constitute the restraint or coercion prohibited by § 8(b)(1)(A). Pp. 394 U. S. 430-436.

393 F.2d 49, affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Half the production employees of the Wisconsin Motor Corporation are paid on a piecework or incentive basis. They and the other employees are represented by respondent union, which has had contractual relations with the company since 1937. [Footnote 1] In 1938, the union initiated a ceiling on the production for which its members would accept immediate piecework pay. This was done at first by gentlemen's agreement among the members, but, since 1944, by union rule enforceable by fines and expulsion. As the rule functions now, members may produce as much as they like each day, but may only draw pay up to the ceiling rate. The additional production is "banked" by the company; that is, wages due for it are retained by the company and paid out to the employee for days on which the production ceiling has not been

Page 394 U. S. 425

reached because of machine breakdown or for some other reason. If the member demands to be paid in full each pay period over the ceiling rate the company will comply, but the union assesses a fine of $1 for each violation, and in cases of repeated violation may fine the member up to $100 for "conduct unbecoming a union member." Failure to pay the fine may lead to expulsion. As the trial examiner found, the company's complaint is not and cannot be that "the employee, for the pay he receives, has not given the requisite quid pro quo in production." 145 N.L.R.B. 1097, 1120. Rather, the question is the extent to which the group will forgo for pay the rest periods it has bargained for, and the discipline which the union may invoke to achieve unity toward this end which, the trial examiner found, was

"manifestly a matter affecting the interest of the group and in which its collective bargaining strength hinges upon the cooperation of its individual components."


The collective bargaining contract between employer and union defines a "machine rate" of hourly pay guaranteed to the employees. The piecework rate, as defined by the contract, is set at such a level that

"the average competent operator working at a reasonable pace [as determined by a time study] shall earn not less than the machine rate of his assigned task. [Footnote 2]"

Allowances are made in the time study for setting up machinery, cleaning tools, fatigue, and personal needs. By ignoring these allowances or by speed and efficiency it is possible for an industrious employee to produce faster than the machine rate. If he does so, he is entitled to additional pay. Union members, however, are subject to the banking procedures imposed by the union rule.

Page 394 U. S. 426

The margin between the "machine" rate set by the contract and the ceiling rate set by the union was 10

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