The conclusion of the National Labor Relations Board in this
case that an association of employees which, prior to the passage
of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, was a
company-dominated and supported union had not ceased to be such,
notwithstanding the reorganization of the association and efforts
to dissipate the effect of such early domination, was supported by
substantial evidence, and the order directing the company to
disestablish completely the association as bargaining
representative, and to cease and desist
Page 319 U. S. 51
from giving effect to the contractual arrangements resulting
from the association's former representation of the employees, was
within the authority of the Board. P. 319 U. S.
129 F.2d 410 reversed.
Certiorari, 317 U.S. 618, to review judgments setting aside an
order of the National Labor Relations Board, 35 N.L.R.B. 621, and
denying the Board's petition for enforcement.
MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.
On this certiorari, the question is whether the order of the
Board herein is supported by substantial evidence. Upon charges
filed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, A.F.
of L., the Board issued a complaint on February 17, 1941, against
respondent Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company, charging
that respondent company was dominating and
supporting respondent Southern Association of Bell Telephone
Employees, hereafter referred to as the Association, as a labor
organization of its employees in violation of section 8(2) of the
act, and that, in other ways, respondent company had interfered
with the rights of its employees in the exercise of rights
guaranteed them by section 7 in violation of section 8(1) of the
act.* After hearing, the Board made findings
Page 319 U. S. 52
and conclusions in support of the stated charges and ordered
that respondent cease and desist from dominating or interfering
with the Association, from contributing financial and other
support, recognizing it as the collective bargaining agency of its
employees and giving effect to or entering into any collective
bargaining contract with the Association, and further that it cease
and desist from interfering with its employees in the exercise of
their rights, including the right to organize and bargain
collectively, as guaranteed by section 7 of the act. Affirmative
action ordered was that respondent withdraw all recognition from
the Association and post appropriate notices to its employees.
Separate petitions were filed in the court below by respondent
and the Association to review this order, and
Page 319 U. S. 53
the Board answered, requesting enforcement. The court below held
that the Board's findings were without support in the evidence and
that the Board's order requiring the respondent to withdraw
recognition from and to disestablish the Association as the
collective bargaining agency of its employees was an abuse of
discretion and contrary to the policy of the act. It accordingly
vacated the order of the Board and denied the Board's petition for
enforcement. We turn immediately to the facts of the case and the
Respondent does a general telephone business in nine
southeastern states, furnishing local and long distance
communication facilities, both interstate and intrastate. It has
23,000 employees and 1,375,000 subscribers.
The Association was organized in 1919 by respondent Company to
represent its employees as a labor organization, and admittedly,
until July 5, 1935, the date of the passage of the National Labor
Relations Act, respondent liberally contributed support to the
Association. The factual center of controversy here, resolved by
the Board against the respondent, is whether this domination and
interference came to an end with the reorganization of the
Association in the spring and summer of 1935 or at any later date
before the complaint. Another act of disassociation is alleged by
respondent to have taken place on February 14, 1941.
There is testimony that, in April and May, 1935, just before the
passage of the National Labor Relations Act, the Association's
president, Askew, in anticipation of the passage of the act,
successfully canvassed the membership for fifty-cent contributions
so that the Association would have its own funds and be able to
operate after the bill became a law. The Company aided the
solicitation with advice, automobile transportation, and expenses
for the solicitors. Over five thousand dollars was raised. Three
Association officials actively engaged in the fundraising.
Page 319 U. S. 54
Askew, the President, Weil, the vice-president and soon to be
president, and Wilkes, the acting treasurer, were employees having
close touch with the company management. Askew was a state cashier,
Wilkes was secretary to key officials, and Weil plant practice
supervisor, a position described by him as covering the
distribution and explanation to the proper employees of printed
routine job instructions.
On July 16, 1935, immediately after the passage of the Labor
Act, Warren, respondent's vice-president in charge of operations,
called a meeting of his chief supervisory employees, attended by
Askew and Wilkes as Association officers. At this meeting. the
Wagner Act was discussed and a "hands-off" policy announced by the
Company as to the organization of its workers. The supervisory
employees were instructed to and did transmit these views down to
the ranks by word of mouth, superior supervisors speaking to their
inferiors. No mention was made at this meeting of the
disestablishment or dissolution of the Association. A few days
later, a memorandum on the "Wagner Bill Interpretations" was issued
by the Company and called to its employees' attention. It read as
"The Company can continue to pay salaries of Association
officers who are filling their regular jobs and doing Association
work incidental to their regular duties."
"The Company can continue to pay the salaries of Association
officers while engaged in conferring with Management and while they
are meeting among themselves before or after these conferences to
discuss their presentation or disposition of the matters involved.
Salaries cannot be paid when Association officers are devoting
their time solely to internal affairs of the Association."
"The Company cannot pay traveling expenses. However, all
Management Representatives are anxious to cooperate, and will
endeavor to meet Association officers
Page 319 U. S. 55
at such times and places as will be most convenient and
"The Association may continue to use Company premises for their
meetings without charge. Space for the exclusive full time use of
the Association could not be provided without proper charge."
"Association Local meetings cannot be held on Company time."
"The Association may use Company typewriters and other office
facilities when such is incidental to the regular Company use of
these facilities. Out-of-pocket expenses such as stamps, stationery
and supplies cannot be borne by the Company."
"Association Representatives may make limited use of toll lines
upon the same basis as is effective for employees generally."
"The expense of preparation and distribution of the Minutes of
Joint Conferences will be borne by the Company."
This memorandum was revised in accordance with the Company's
views of developments in the interpretation of the National Labor
Relations Act. The most significant changes occurred in the
revision of April, 1937, when the paragraph as to salaries was
changed to read:
"1. The Company can pay salaries of association officers while
engaged in conferring with Management. The Company cannot pay
salaries of association officers under the following
"(a) While they are meeting among themselves before and after
joint conferences to discuss their presentation or disposition of
the matters involved."
"(b) While association officers are devoting their time solely
to internal affairs of the association."
In that issue, it was made clear that the Association must pay
for services rendered by the Company, such as
Page 319 U. S. 56
space, long distance calls, and collection of dues. The
"The provisions of this Act make it illegal for an employer to
dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any
labor organization, and the Management of this Company should
conscientiously observe these provisions."
No disestablishment of the Association as the representative of
the employees in their negotiations with the management appears
from this evidence, and the Board found none.
Respondents urge that the historical continuity between the
Company organized and financed employee association of 1919 to 1936
and the reorganized association of 1936 to date is not controlling
in determining whether the Association was dominated by the Company
in 1941. There was certainly sufficient evidence of continuity to
form a basis for the Board's conclusion that the reorganization did
not so completely displace the original association as to amount at
that time to the creation of a "free and uninspired" employee
agency. The reorganization was guided by the principal officers of
the existing association. The vice-president of the old became the
president of the new. Two of these active reorganizers continued in
the higher offices of the Association through 1939. A new agreement
with the Company, which for the first time provided for a check-off
for association dues, was negotiated before the ratification of the
changes in the association constitution, which were made in an
attempt to conform to the National Labor Relations Act. The
reorganization proceeded by revision, rather than by original
creation. Members were ineligible for election to offices in locals
until a year from their admission, and to the presidency until five
years. In asking for new applications for membership, it was
explained by the Association that it would provide a complete
Page 319 U. S. 57
membership "and it is not to be considered as a new application
for membership." Until the March, 1940, meeting, the preamble of
the revised constitution referred to the formation of the
Association in 1919. At that date, the preamble was changed so that
it recited the date of the formation to be August 30, 1935.
The revision of the constitution was important from the
standpoint of the Labor Act. The Company could no longer properly
pay the expenses of the Association. Consequently, the membership
had to pay dues to meet the expenses. These changes were made.
Even though this continuity of the employee organization as a
matter of law may not be controlling as to the continuance of
dominance by the Company, it is at least evidence of such
dominance, entitled to consideration by the Board. The effects of
long practice persist. Notwithstanding freedom from labor
difficulties, the disestablishment of an employee organization may
be necessary to give untrammeled freedom for the creation of a
bargaining unit. Labor Board v. Greyhound Lines,
303 U. S. 261
303 U. S. 271
Labor Board v. Newport News Co., 308 U.
, 308 U. S. 250
Westinghouse Electric & Mfg. Co. v. Labor Board,
F.2d 657, 660, aff'd,
312 U.S. 660.
So much the respondents concede, or at least assume. They agree
that a cleavage is necessary, but they deny that the Board may
decide that all that happened between the passage of the Act in
1935 and the issuance of the complaint in 1941 does not overcome
the lawful domination prior to the enactment of the Act. Formal
disestablishment is not, the Company, says, the only act which will
comply with the law, and the evidence after the passage of the
Labor Act shows without contradiction, so the respondents contend,
that the Company was neutral, and the Association the choice of the
The Board called attention to minor favors shown the Association
after 1935 by the Company. The use of a
Page 319 U. S. 58
Company bulletin board to post association notices, the limited
use of employer space or facilities, the deduction of dues without
charge, all without discrimination between employee organizations
and prior to administrative and judicial clarification of the Labor
Act, may be of little importance, but they are a part of the
circumstances from which the Board is to draw conclusions.
There is also evidence that, in 1940, a long distance supervisor
at Shreveport, Louisiana at a superior's suggestion, undertook to
influence two subordinates to favor the Association against the
efforts of an outside union to secure members. While only a single
incident, it is entitled to consideration by the Board.
The respondents' evidence shows further that, when an outside
union sought members among the Company employees, and while the
Labor Board was investigating charges of Association dominance by
the Company, the Association wrote the Company in part as
"Because such a charge clouds this Association's right to
represent the employees of the Company, and that, under such
circumstances, the best interests of the employees may not
adequately be served, the Association will not undertake to act as
their collective bargaining agent pending a canvass of its
membership by signed ballot."
Immediately, the Company, on February 14, 1941, posted notice to
its employees which quoted sections 7 and 8 of the Labor Act and
"The Company Recognizes Its Employees' Right to Join, Form, or
Affiliate With Any Labor Organization of Their Own Choice and
Freely to Exercise All Rights Secured to Them by This Act."
"The Company Guarantees Its Strict Compliance With All the
Provisions of This Act, and That No Employee Will Be Discriminated
Against or Suffer Any Other Penalty Because of His or Her Exercise
of Any Right Secured by This Act. "
Page 319 U. S. 59
"The Company Is Not Interested in Whether Its Employees Join or
Do Not Join Any Labor Organization."
Thereafter, by means of a signed ballot poll, a majority of the
employees indicated their desire to continue their membership in
the Association and their choice of the Association as their
representative for collective bargaining. Pending the poll, the
Company continued in effect its 1940 agreement with the
Association. After the poll and subsequent to a certification to it
of the manner of voting and the result, the Company, on March 6,
1941, recognized the Association as the "authorized collective
bargaining agent of the employees of this company." The same
agreement continued to govern the relations between the Company and
the Association until the present hearing.
The respondents' evidence shows also that, in the years 1936 to
1940, inclusive, the Association represented the employees in
bargaining conferences over wages, hours, and working conditions.
Out of these conferences came substantial concessions to the
employees, estimated by witnesses as worth more than three million
dollars annually to the employees.
From the group of circumstances heretofore detailed in this
opinion, the Board concluded that the Company had continued to
countenance the Association. It held that:
"The effect of the domination and support of the Association by
the respondent prior to and during the years since 1935 could not,
under the circumstances, be dissipated except by an explicit
announcement to the employees that the respondent would no longer
recognize or deal with the Association. In the absence of such
action by the respondent, its employees were not afforded the
opportunity to start afresh in organizing for the adjustment of
their relations with the employer which they must have if the
policies of the Act are to be effectuated. "
Page 319 U. S. 60
We are of the opinion that there was substantial evidence to
justify this conclusion. Since the Association, prior to the
passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, was obviously
a company dominated and supported union, the question of the weight
to be given the passage of time or subsequent efforts to dissipate
the effect of this early domination is for the Board. Its
conclusion is an inference of fact which may not be set aside upon
judicial review because the courts would have drawn a different
inference. Labor Board v. Greyhound Lines, 303 U.
, 303 U. S. 270
Labor Board v. Falk Corp., 308 U.
, 308 U. S.
Management control over company sponsored employee organizations
runs the entire scale of intensity. It may be slight or complete. A
genuinely free union composed of employees of one corporation alone
may satisfy the requirements of section 7, but where, as here,
evidence exists of original employer interference, the Board may
appraise the situation and even forbid the appearance of such a
union on the ballot to select bargaining representatives where, in
the Board's judgment, the evidence does not establish the union's
present freedom from employer control. Labor Board v. Falk
Corp., supra, 308 U. S.
-462. In the present case, the Board ordered the
Company to completely disestablish the Association as bargaining
representative and to cease and desist from giving effect to the
contractual arrangements resulting from the Association's former
representation of the employees. For the reasons given, this order
was, in our opinion, within the discretion of the Board.
The order of the Circuit Court of Appeals is reversed, and the
cause is remanded to that Court with instructions to enforce the
order of the Board.
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS took no part in the consideration or
decision of this case.
* Together with No. 461, Labor Board v. Southern Association
of Bell Telephone Employees,
also on writ of certiorari, 317
U.S. 618, to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth
* The pertinent provisions of the National Labor Relations Act,
49 Stat. 449, 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.,
are as follows:
"SEC. 7. Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to
form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively
through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in
concerted activities, for the purpose of collective bargaining or
other mutual aid or protection."
"SEC. 8. It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer
"(1) To interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the
exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7."
"(2) To dominate or interfere with the formation or
administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or
other support to it: Provided,
That. subject to rules and
regulations made and published by the Board pursuant to section
6(a), an employer shall not be prohibited from permitting employees
to confer with him during working hours without loss of time or
"* * * *"
"SEC. 10. . . ."
"* * * *"
"(c) . . . If, upon all the testimony taken, the Board shall be
of the opinion that any person named in the complaint has engaged
in or is engaging in any such unfair labor practice, then the Board
shall state its findings of fact and shall issue and cause to be
served on such person an order requiring such person to cease and
desist from such unfair labor practice, and to take such
affirmative action, including reinstatement of employees with or
without back pay, as will effectuate the policies of this Act."
"* * * *"
"(f) . . . the findings of the Board as to the facts, if
supported by evidence, shall . . . be conclusive."