NLRB v. Int'l Longshoremen's Assn.
447 U.S. 490 (1980)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

NLRB v. Int'l Longshoremen's Assn., 447 U.S. 490 (1980)

National Labor Relations Board v. International

Longshoremen's Association, AFL-CIO

No. 79-1082

Argued April 22, 1980

Decided June 20, 1980

447 U.S. 490

Syllabus

This case presents the question whether Rules on Containers (Rules) in a collective bargaining agreement between the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and employer organizations in the shipping industry which were adopted in response to the technological innovation of containerized shipping are a lawful work preservation agreement. The new technology involves the use on specially designed ships of large, reusable metal receptacles which can be moved on and off the vessel unopened and which can be attached to a truck chassis and transported intact to and from the pier, saving costs and time in loading and unloading ships and in warehousing cargo, as compared with the amount of on-pier work involved in handling loose cargo for conventional ships. The amount of work available for longshoremen has been further reduced by the shipping companies' practice of making their containers available for loading (stuffing) and unloading (stripping) away from the pier by shippers and by freight consolidators who combine the goods of various shippers into a single shipment. The Rules permit the great majority of containers to pass over the piers intact, reserving to the ILA the right to stuff and strip at the pier only those containers that would otherwise be stuffed or stripped "locally" (within a 50-mile radius of the port) by anyone except employees of the beneficial owner of the cargo, the shipping company being liable for specified liquidated damages for any container handled in violation of the Rules. Separate unfair labor practice proceedings were brought before the National Labor Relations Board (Board) by truckers and consolidators who, because of the operation against shipping companies of the Rules' liquidated damages provisions, could no longer perform local stuffing and stripping services. The Board concluded that the Rules were not valid work preservation clauses because the work of stuffing and stripping containers away from the pier had not traditionally been done by ILA members, but had instead been performed by employees of consolidators and truckers. It therefore held that the Rules violated § 8(e) of the National Labor Relations Act, which makes unlawful those collective bargaining agreements whereby the employer agrees to cease doing business with any other person, and that union action to enforce

Page 447 U. S. 491

the Rules violated § 8(b)(4)(b), which prohibits unions from engaging in secondary activities whose object is to force one employer to cease doing business with another. The Court of Appeals, consolidating the cases and holding that the Board had erred as a matter of law in defining the work in controversy, vacated the Board's decisions, denied its applications for enforcement, and remanded the cases.

Held: The Board's definition of the work in controversy in this dispute was erroneous as a matter of law. Pp. 447 U. S. 503-513.

(a) To constitute a lawful work preservation agreement, the agreement must have as its objective the preservation of work traditionally performed by employees represented by the union, and the contracting employer must have the power to give the employees the work in question. The first and most basic question is: what is the "work" that the agreement allegedly seeks to preserve? Cf. NLRB v. Pipefitters,429 U. S. 507; National Woodwork Manufacturers Assn. v. NLRB,386 U. S. 612. Pp. 447 U. S. 504-505.

(b) Identification of the work at issue in a complex case of technological displacement requires a careful analysis of the traditional work patterns that the parties are allegedly seeking to preserve, and of how the agreement seeks to accomplish that result under the changed circumstances created by the technological advance. The inquiry must focus on the bargaining unit employees' work, not on the work of other employees who may be doing the same or similar work, and must examine the relationship between the work as it existed before the innovation and as the agreement proposes to preserve it. P. 447 U. S. 507.

(c) The Board's conclusion that the "work in controversy" was the off-pier stuffing and stripping of containers erroneously focused on the work done by the employees of truckers and consolidators after the introduction of containerized shipping. That approach foreclosed, by definition, any possibility that the longshoremen could negotiate an agreement to permit them to play any part in the loading and unloading of containerized cargo. The Board's determination that the traditional work of ILA members was to load and unload ships should have been only the beginning of the analysis. The next step is to look at how the contracting parties sought to preserve that work, to the extent possible, in the face of a massive technological change that largely eliminated the need for cargo handling at intermediate stages of the intermodal transportation of goods, and to evaluate the relationship between traditional longshore work and the work which the Rules attempt to assign to ILA members. Pp. 447 U. S. 507-510.

(d) Viewing the work allegedly to be preserved by the Rules from the proper perspective, the Board on remand will be free to determine

Page 447 U. S. 492

whether the Rules represent a lawful attempt to preserve traditional longshore work or whether, instead, they are tactically calculated to satisfy union goals elsewhere. This determination must be informed by an awareness of the congressional preference for collective bargaining as the method for resolving disputes over dislocations caused by the introduction of technological innovations in the workplace, the question being not whether the Rules represent the most rational or efficient response to innovation, but whether they are a legally permissible effort to preserve jobs. If the Board finds that the Rules have a lawful work preservation objective, it must then consider the charging parties' contention that members of the employer organization did not have the right to control the stuffing and stripping of containers. Pp. 447 U. S. 510-512.

198 U.S.App.D.C. 157, 613 F.2d 890, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 447 U. S. 522.

Page 447 U. S. 493

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