American Broadcasting Cos. v. Writers Guild,
437 U.S. 411 (1978)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

American Broadcasting Cos. v. Writers Guild, 437 U.S. 411 (1978)

American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v.

Writers Guild of America, West, Inc.

No. 76-1121

Argued December 5, 1977

Reargued March 20, 1978

Decided June 21, 1978*

437 U.S. 411


Respondent union, which represents persons hired to perform writing functions for motion picture and television films (hereinafter respondent), had collective bargaining contracts with a producers association (petitioner in No. 76-1153) and three television networks (petitioners in No. 76-1121). Among respondent's members are a large number of persons (so-called "hyphenates") who are engaged by petitioners primarily to perform executive and supervisory functions. Though the hyphenates, who include various categories of producers, directors, and story editors, have minor writing tasks, these are not covered in the collective bargaining contracts; only if the hyphenates are employed to perform additional writing services are the rates therefor governed by those contracts. In connection with their regular, primary duties, many of the hyphenates are represented by unions other than respondent. In anticipation of an economic strike upon expiration of its contracts with petitioners, respondent distributed strike rules to its members, including the hyphenates (to whom the rules were made expressly applicable). The rules included a prohibition against crossing a picket line established by respondent at any entrance of a struck premise. After the strike began, petitioners informed the hyphenates that they were expected to continue their regular supervisory functions, though they would not be asked to perform writing duties covered by the union contract. Thereafter, respondent notified a large number of the hyphenates who had returned to work that they had violated one or more of the strike rules, including, in many instances, the ban on crossing a picket line. After ensuing disciplinary proceedings (at which there was no proof that hyphenates had performed any work covered by the recently expired

Page 437 U. S. 412

contracts) respondent imposed various penalties on the hyphenates. Meanwhile, the association and network petitioners filed charges against respondent for allegedly violating § 8(b)(1)(b) of the National Labor Relations Act, which makes it an unfair labor practice for a labor organization to restrain or coerce an employer in the selection of his representatives for the purposes of collective bargaining or the adjustment of grievances. After extensive hearings, the Administrative Law Judge made findings that the hyphenates' regular supervisory duties included the performance of grievance adjustment; that the employer insisted that hyphenates return to work, but only to perform supervisory, not rank-and-file, duties; and that the hyphenates who reported did only supervisory work and had the authority to adjust grievances, which they did when the occasion arose. He found that § 8(b)(1)(b) had been violated because, by keeping hyphenates from work, the union had deprived the employer of fully effective § 8(b)(1)(b) representatives. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) adopted these findings and conclusions, found that the union's disciplinary action was an unfair labor practice under that provision, and issued a remedial order against respondent. The Court of Appeals denied enforcement.

Held: Respondent's actions against the hyphenates violated § 8(b)(1)(b). Pp. 437 U. S. 429-438.

(a) In ruling upon a § 8(b)(1)(b) charge growing out of union discipline of a supervisory member who elects to work during a strike, the NLRB must inquire whether the sanction may adversely affect the supervisor's performance of his collective bargaining or grievance adjustment tasks, and thereby coerce or restrain the employer contrary to that provision. See Florida Power & Light Co. v. Electrical Workers, 417 U. S. 790. Pp. 42431.

(b) The NLRB's findings were based on substantial evidence that the hyphenates were coerced or restrained from reporting to work; that the employer was thereby deprived of the opportunity to choose particular supervisors as his collective bargaining or his grievance adjustment representatives during the strike; and that, as to the hyphenates who reported to work, there was adequate basis for concluding that the discipline would adversely affect the performance of their grievance adjustment duties either during or after the strike. Moreover, since, as the evidence showed, the union's policy was not to permit a member to resign during a strike and for six months thereafter, the employer could not free a supervisor from further threats of union discipline by requiring him to leave the union. Pp. 437 U. S. 431-437.

547 F.2d 159, reversed.

Page 437 U. S. 413

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. STEWART J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 437 U. S. 438.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.