NLRB v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation U. S. Supreme Court 1937
What is the Issue in Jones and Laughlin? • Is the National Labor Relations Act Constitutional? • Does the federal government have the constitutional authority to establish a scheme for the regulation of labor relations among the employees of a private company when those employees do not move across state lines in the course of their employment?
What was the disposition of the case at the Board and Court of Appeals levels?
Issue • Is the National Labor Relations Act Constitutional? Yes! • Congress did not exceed authority under commerce clause • Size and scope of J&L’s activities means that its labor relations problems would affect interstate commerce • Board will determine effect on interstate commerce
What was Jones and Laughlin’s behavior before the Board? • Why do you think J & L behaved this way?
What was Jones and Laughlin’s Response to the Interstate Commerce Argument? • Why is this so important to the case? • Why do you think the Court went through the detailed description of Jones and Laughlin’s operations on p. 102 of OHN?
What was the Supreme Court’s Response to J & L’s argument that it had the right to conduct its business in an orderly manner free from arbitrary restraints?
How did the Court respond to J & L’s argument that the NLRA should be declared unconstitutional because it denied it due process?
Other Issues • Right to Self-Organization a Fundamental Right • Er may still exercise its legitimate rights to select and discharge employees, but may not discriminate on basis of exercise of Sec. 7 rights • One-sidedness of Act does not make it unconstitutional - Congress need not address all evils at once • Procedures are fair - • complaint • notice • hearing • evidence • court review
Summary • Represented a broadening of the powers of the federal government to regulate all economic activity. • Balancing of Rights of Employer with Rights of Employees.
Dissent in Jones & Laughlin • “The Court . . . departs from well-established principles. . . . Upon the authority of those decisions, the Circuit Courts of Appeals of the Fifth, Sixth and Second Circuits in the causes now before us have held the power of Congress under the commerce clause does not extend to relations between employers and their employees engaged in manufacture . . .. The three respondents happen to be manufacturing concerns-one large, two relatively small. The act is now applied to each upon grounds common to all. Obviously what is determined as to these concerns may gravely affect a multitude of employers who engage in a great variety of private enterprises-mercantile, manufacturing, publishing, stock-raising, mining, etc. It puts into the hands of a Board power of control over purely local industry beyond anything heretofore deemed permissible.” (301 U.S. 76-77, 78)
Reconsideration: Return to “Flow Concept?” • “The Congress shall have Power . . . To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes . . . (U.S. Constitution)” • Originalism – interpretations of constitution should be based on what the authors of the constitution meant when they wrote it • Textualism – interpretations of the constitution should be based on the text, nothing more
“Because there may be but indirect and remote effects upon interstate commerce in connection with a host of local enterprises throughout the country, it does not follow that other industrial activities do not have such a close and intimate relation to interstate commerce as to make the presence of industrial strife a matter of the most urgent national concern. When industries organize themselves on a national scale, making their relation to interstate commerce the dominant factor in their activities, how can it be maintained that their industrial labor relations constitute a forbidden field into which Congress may not enter when it is necessary to protect interstate commerce from the paralyzing consequences of industrial war? We have often said that interstate commerce itself is a practical conception. It is equally true that interferences with that commerce must be appraised by a judgment that does notignore actual experience.”(CJ Hughes for Majority, NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin, 301 U.S. 1, 41-42, 1937) “At the time the original Constitution was ratified, "commerce" consisted of selling, buying, and bartering, as well as transporting for these purposes. . . . . As one would expect, the term "commerce" was used in contradistinction to productive activities such as manufacturing andagriculture. . . .Moreover, interjecting a modern sense of commerce into the Constitution generates significant textual and structural problems. For example, one cannot replace "commerce" with a different type of enterprise, such as manufacturing. . . .. Parts may come from different States or other nations and hence may have been in the flow of commerce at one time, but manufacturing takes place at a discrete site. Agriculture and manufacturing involve the production of goods; commerce encompasses traffic in such articles(U.S. v. Lopez, U.S. Supreme Court, 1995, No. 93-1260, Justice Thomas dissent, all citations omitted) Compare Hughes (1937) and Thomas (1995): “To regulate Commerce . . . among the several States. . ..”
Canadian Labor Law Based on the Flow Concept • Most labor relations regulation in Canada under jurisdiction of the provinces. • All industries that do not directly move goods and services between the provinces are regulated by the provinces for labor relations purposes. • Auto manufacturing - provinces • Telecommunications - federal government • British North American Act of 1867