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decided*fn*: April 17, 1967.



Warren, Black, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart, White, Fortas

Author: Brennan

[ 386 U.S. Page 614]

 MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Under the Landrum-Griffin Act amendments enacted in 1959, 73 Stat. 542, § 8 (b)(4)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act, 61 Stat. 141, became § 8 (b)(4)(B) and § 8 (e) was added. The questions here are whether, in the circumstances of these cases, the Metropolitan District Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity of the United

[ 386 U.S. Page 615]

     Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, AFL-CIO (hereafter the Union), committed the unfair labor practices prohibited by §§ 8 (e) and 8 (b)(4)(B).*fn1

Frouge Corporation, a Bridgeport, Connecticut, concern, was the general contractor on a housing project in Philadelphia. Frouge had a collective bargaining agreement with the Carpenters' International Union under which Frouge agreed to be bound by the rules and regulations agreed upon by local unions with contractors in areas in which Frouge had jobs. Frouge was therefore subject to the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement between the Union and an organization of Philadelphia contractors, the General Building Contractors Association, Inc. A sentence in a provision of that agreement entitled Rule 17 provides that ". . . No member of this District Council will handle . . . any doors . . . which have been fitted prior to being furnished on the job . . . ."*fn2 Frouge's Philadelphia project called for 3,600 doors. Customarily, before the doors could be hung on such projects, "blank" or "blind" doors would be mortised for the knob, routed for the hinges, and beveled to make them fit between jambs. These are tasks traditionally

[ 386 U.S. Page 616]

     performed in the Philadelphia area by the carpenters employed on the jobsite. However, precut and prefitted doors ready to hang may be purchased from door manufacturers. Although Frouge's contract and job specifications did not call for premachined doors, and "blank" or "blind" doors could have been ordered, Frouge contracted for the purchase of premachined doors from a Pennsylvania door manufacturer which is a member of the National Woodwork Manufacturers Association, petitioner in No. 110 and respondent in No. 111. The Union ordered its carpenter members not to hang the doors when they arrived at the jobsite. Frouge thereupon withdrew the prefabricated doors and substituted "blank" doors which were fitted and cut by its carpenters on the jobsite.

The National Woodwork Manufacturers Association and another filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Union alleging that by including the "will not handle" sentence of Rule 17 in the collective bargaining agreement the Union committed the unfair labor practice under § 8 (e) of entering into an "agreement . . . whereby [the] employer . . . agrees to cease or refrain from handling . . . any of the products of any other employer . . . ," and alleging further that in enforcing the sentence against Frouge, the Union committed the unfair labor practice under § 8 (b)(4)(B) of "forcing or requiring any person to cease using . . . the products of any other . . . manufacturer . . . ." The National Labor Relations Board dismissed the charges, 149 N. L. R. B. 646.*fn3 The Board adopted the findings

[ 386 U.S. Page 617]

     of the Trial Examiner that the "will not handle" sentence in Rule 17 was language used by the parties to protect and preserve cutting out and fitting as unit work to be performed by the jobsite carpenters. The Board also adopted the holding of the Trial Examiner that both the sentence of Rule 17 itself and its maintenance against Frouge were therefore "primary" activity outside the prohibitions of §§ 8 (e) and 8 (b)(4)(B). The following statement of the Trial Examiner was adopted by the Board:

"I am convinced and find that the tasks of cutting out and fitting millwork, including doors, has, at least customarily, been performed by the carpenters employed on the jobsite. Certainly, this provision of rule 17 is not concerned with the nature of the employer with whom the contractor does business nor with the employment conditions of other employers or employees, nor does it attempt to control such other employers or employees. The provision guards against encroachments on the cutting out and fitting work of the contract unit employees

[ 386 U.S. Page 618]

     who have performed that work in the past. Its purpose is plainly to regulate the relations between the general contractor and his own employees and to protect a legitimate economic interest of the employees by preserving their unit work. Merely because it incidentally also affects other parties is no basis for invalidating this provision.

"I find that . . . [the provision] is a lawful work-protection or work-preservation provision and that Respondents have not violated Section 8 (e) of the Act by entering into agreements containing this provision and by thereafter maintaining and enforcing this provision." 149 N. L. R. B., at 657.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the Board in this respect. 354 F.2d 594, 599. The court held that the "will not handle" agreement violated § 8 (e) without regard to any "primary" or "secondary" objective, and remanded to the Board with instructions to enter an order accordingly. In the court's view, the sentence was designed to effect a product boycott like the one condemned in Allen Bradley Co. v. Local Union No. 3, 325 U.S. 797, and Congress meant, in enacting § 8 (e) and § 8 (b)(4)(B), to prohibit such agreements and conduct forcing employers to enter into them.

The Court of Appeals sustained, however, the dismissal of the § 8 (b)(4)(B) charge. The court agreed with the Board that the Union's conduct as to Frouge involved only a primary dispute with it and held that the conduct was therefore not prohibited by that section but expressly protected by the proviso "that nothing contained in this clause (B) shall be construed to make unlawful, where not otherwise unlawful, any primary strike or primary picketing . . . ." 354 F.2d, at 597.

[ 386 U.S. Page 619]

     We granted certiorari on the petition of the Woodwork Manufacturers Association in No. 110 and on the petition of the Board in No. 111. 384 U.S. 968. We affirm in No. 110 and reverse in No. 111.


[ 386 U.S. Page 620]

     Even on the doubtful premise that the words of § 8 (e) unambiguously embrace the sentence of Rule 17,*fn4 this does not end inquiry into Congress' purpose in enacting the section. It is a "familiar rule, that a thing may be within the letter of the statute and yet not within the statute, because not within its spirit, nor within the intention of its makers." Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 459. That principle has particular application in the construction of labor legislation which is "to a marked degree, the result of conflict and compromise between strong contending forces and deeply held views on the role of organized labor in the free economic life of the Nation and the appropriate balance to be struck between the uncontrolled power of management and labor to further their respective interests." Local 1976, United Brotherhood of Carpenters v. Labor Board (Sand Door), 357 U.S. 93, 99-100. See, e. g., Labor Board v. Fruit & Vegetable Packers, 377 U.S. 58; Labor Board v. Servette, Inc., 377 U.S. 46; Labor Board v. Drivers Local Union, 362 U.S. 274; Mastro Plastics Corp. v. Labor Page 620} Board, 350 U.S. 270; Labor Board v. Lion Oil Co., 352 U.S. 282; Labor Board v. International Rice Milling Co., 341 U.S. 665; Local 761, Electrical Workers v. Labor Board, 366 U.S. 667.

Strongly held opposing views have invariably marked controversy over labor's use of the boycott to further its aims by involving an employer in disputes not his own. But congressional action to deal with such conduct has stopped short of proscribing identical activity having the object of pressuring the employer for agreements regulating relations between him and his own employees. That Congress meant §§ 8 (e) and 8 (b)(4)(B) to prohibit only "secondary" objectives clearly appears from an examination of the history of congressional action on the subject; we may, by such an examination, "reconstitute the gamut of values current at the time when the words were uttered."*fn5

The history begins with judicial application of the Sherman Act (26 Stat. 209) to labor activities. Federal court injunctions freely issued against all manner of strikes and boycotts under rulings that condemned virtually every collective activity of labor as an unlawful restraint of trade.*fn6 The first congressional response to

[ 386 U.S. Page 621]

     vehement labor protests came with § 20 of the Clayton Act in 1914. That section purported drastically to limit the injunction power of federal courts in controversies "involving, or growing out of, a dispute concerning terms or conditions of employment." In terms, it prohibited restraining any person from "ceasing to perform any work or labor" or "from ceasing to patronize or to employ any party to such dispute, or from recommending, advising, or persuading others by peaceful and lawful means so to do." 38 Stat. 738. Labor hailed the law as a charter immunizing its activities from the antitrust laws. This expectation was disappointed when Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering, 254 U.S. 443, and Bedford Cut Stone Co. v. Journeymen Stone Cutters' Assn., 274 U.S. 37, held that § 20 immunized only trade union activities directed against an employer by his own employees. In Duplex, the union carried on an elaborate scheme to coerce and restrain neutral customers of the complainant manufacturer from dealing with it, with the object of using these customers as an economic lever to bring the nonunion manufacturer to terms. The Court there stated:

"The substance of the matters here complained of is an interference with complainant's interstate trade, intended to have coercive effect upon complainant, and produced by what is commonly known as a 'secondary boycott,' that is, a combination not merely to refrain from dealing with complainant, or to advise or by peaceful means persuade complainant's customers to refrain ('primary boycott'), but to exercise coercive pressure upon such customers, actual or prospective, in order to cause them

[ 386 U.S. Page 622]

     to withhold or withdraw patronage from complainant through fear of loss or damage to themselves should they deal with it." Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering, supra, at 466.

Thus "primary" but not "secondary" pressures were excepted from the antitrust laws. Truax v. Corrigan, 257 U.S. 312, 330, defined "secondary boycott" as one "where many combine to injure one in his business by coercing third persons against their will to cease patronizing him by threats of similar injury. . . . The question in such cases is whether the moral coercion exercised over a stranger to the original controversy by steps in themselves legal becomes a legal wrong." See 1 Teller, Labor Disputes and Collective Bargaining § 145 (1940).*fn7 Commentators of the day, while noting the ambiguity which lurked in the definition, discerned its core concept: union pressure directed at a neutral employer the object of which was to induce or coerce him to cease doing business with an employer with whom the union was engaged in a labor dispute.*fn8

[ 386 U.S. Page 623]

     In 1932 Congress enacted the Norris-LaGuardia Act and tipped the scales the other way. Its provisions "established that the allowable area of union activity was not to be restricted, as it had been in the Duplex case, to an immediate employer-employee relation." United Page 623} States v. Hutcheson, 312 U.S. 219, 231.*fn9 Congress abolished, for purposes of labor immunity, the distinction between primary activity between the "immediate disputants" and secondary activity in which the employer disputants and the members of the union do not stand "in the proximate relation of employer and employee . . . ." H. R. Rep. No. 669, 72d Cong., 1st Sess., 8 (1932). Thus, in Hutcheson, supra, the Court held that the Norris-LaGuardia Act immunized a jurisdictional strike trapping a neutral employer in the middle of an "internecine struggle between two unions seeking the favor of the same employer," supra, at 232. Commentators of the post-Norris-LaGuardia era, as those before, while continuing to deplore the chameleon-like qualities of the term "secondary boycott," agreed upon its central aspect: pressure tactically directed toward a neutral employer in a labor dispute not his own.*fn10

Labor abuses of the broad immunity granted by the Norris-LaGuardia Act resulted in the Taft-Hartley Act prohibitions against secondary activities enacted in § 8 (b)(4)(A), which, as amended in 1959, is now § 8 (b)(4)(B). As will appear, the basic thrust of the

[ 386 U.S. Page 624]

     accommodation there effected by Congress was not expanded by the Landrum-Griffin amendments. The congressional design in enacting § 8 (b)(4)(A) is therefore crucial to the determination of the scope of §§ 8 (e) and 8 (b)(4)(B). Senator Taft said of its purpose:

"This provision makes it unlawful to resort to a secondary boycott to injure the business of a third person who is wholly unconcerned in the disagreement between an employer and his employees. . . . Under the provisions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, it became impossible to stop a secondary boycott or any other kind of a strike, no matter how unlawful it may have been at common law. All this provision of the bill does is to reverse the effect of the law as to secondary boycotts."*fn11 (Emphasis supplied.)

Senator Taft and others frequently sounded this note that § 8 (b)(4)(A) was designed to eliminate the "secondary boycott,"*fn12 and its proponents uniformly cited examples of union conduct which evidenced labor efforts to draw in neutral employers through pressure calculated to induce them to cease doing business with the primary employer.*fn13 And the Senate Committee Report carefully

[ 386 U.S. Page 625]

     characterized the conduct prohibited by § 8 (b)(4)(A) in the same terms:

"Thus, it would not be lawful for a union to engage in a strike against employer A for the purpose of forcing that employer to cease doing business with employer B; nor would it be lawful for a union to Aboycott employer A because employer A uses or otherwise deals in the goods of or does business with employer B (with whom the union has a dispute)." S. Rep. No. 105, 80th Cong., 1st Sess., 22, I 1947 Leg. Hist. 428.*fn14

The other subsections of § 8 (b)(4) of the Act were similarly limited to protecting employers in the position of neutrals between contending parties. The prohibition of subsection (B) against a non-certified union's forcing recognition from an employer was designed to protect the employer trapped between the union and his employees, a majority of whom may not desire to choose the union as their representative. The prohibition of subsection (C) against a demand for recognition when another union has been certified protects the employer trapped between the non-certified and the certified unions. The prohibition of subsection (D) against coercion to force an employer to assign certain work to one of two unions contesting for it protects the employer trapped between the two claims. The central theme pervading these provisions of protection for the neutral employer confirms the assurances of those sponsoring the section that in subsection (A) Congress likewise meant to protect the

[ 386 U.S. Page 626]

     employer only from union pressures designed to involve him in disputes not his own.*fn15

Judicial decisions interpreting the broad language of § 8 (b)(4)(A) of the Act uniformly limited its application to such "secondary" situations.*fn16 This limitation was in "conformity with the dual congressional objectives of preserving the right of labor organizations to bring pressure to bear on offending employers in primary labor disputes and of shielding unoffending employers and

[ 386 U.S. Page 627]

     others from pressures in controversies not their own." Labor Board v. Denver Bldg. Trades Council, 341 U.S. 675, 692. This Court accordingly refused to read § 8 (b)(4)(A) to ban traditional primary strikes and picketing having an impact on neutral employers even though the activity fell within its sweeping terms. Labor Board v. International Rice Milling Co., 341 U.S. 665; see Local 761, Electrical Workers v. Labor Board, 366 U.S. 667. Thus, however severe the impact of primary activity on neutral employers, it was not thereby transformed into activity with a secondary objective.

The literal terms of § 8 (b)(4)(A) also were not applied in the so-called "ally doctrine" cases, in which the union's pressure was aimed toward employers performing the work of the primary employer's striking employees. The rationale, again, was the inapplicability of the provision's central theme, the protection of neutrals against secondary pressure, where the secondary employer against whom the union's pressure is directed has entangled himself in the vortex of the primary dispute. "The union was not extending its activity to a front remote from the immediate dispute but to one intimately and indeed inextricably united to it." Douds v. Metropolitan Federation of Architects, 75 F.Supp. 672, 677 (D.C. S. D. N. Y. 1948); see Labor Board v. Business Machine & Office Appliance Mechanics, 228 F.2d 553 (C. A. 2d Cir. 1955). We summarized our reading of § 8 (b)(4)(A) just a year before enactment of § 8 (e):

"It aimed to restrict the area of industrial conflict insofar as this could be achieved by prohibiting the most obvious, widespread, and, as Congress evidently judged, dangerous practice of unions to widen that conflict: the coercion of neutral employers, themselves not concerned with a primary labor dispute, through the inducement of their employees to engage

[ 386 U.S. Page 628]

     in strikes or concerted refusals to handle goods. " Local 1976, United Brotherhood of Carpenters v. Labor Board (Sand Door), 357 U.S. 93, 100.

Despite this virtually overwhelming support for the limited reading of § 8 (b)(4)(A), the Woodwork Manufacturers Association relies on Allen Bradley Co. v. Local Union No. 3, 325 U.S. 797, as requiring that the successor section, § 8 (b)(4)(B), be read as proscribing the District Council's conduct in enforcing the "will not handle" sentence of Rule 17 against Frouge. The Association points to the references to Allen Bradley in the legislative debates leading to the enactment of the predecessor § 8 (b)(4)(A). We think that this is an erroneous reading of the legislative history. Allen Bradley held violative of the antitrust laws a combination between Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and both electrical contractors and manufacturers of electrical fixtures in New York City to restrain the bringing in of such equipment from outside the city. The contractors obligated themselves to confine their purchases to local manufacturers, who in turn obligated themselves to confine their New York City sales to contractors employing members of the local, and this scheme was supported by threat of boycott by the contractors' employees. While recognizing that the union might have had an immunity for its contribution to the trade boycott had it acted alone, citing Hutcheson, supra, the Court held immunity was not intended by the Clayton or Norris-LaGuardia Acts in cases in which the union's activity was part of a larger conspiracy to abet contractors and manufacturers to create a monopoly.

The argument that the references to Allen Bradley in the debates over § 8 (b)(4)(A) have broader significance in the determination of the reach of that section is that there was no intent on Local 3's part to influence ...

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