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REPUBLIC STEEL CORPORATION v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD ET AL.

decided: November 12, 1940.

REPUBLIC STEEL CORPORATION
v.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

Hughes, McReynolds, Stone, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy; Roberts took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Hughes

[ 311 U.S. Page 8]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The National Labor Relations Board, finding that the Republic Steel Corporation had engaged in unfair labor practices in violation of § 8(1), 8(2) and 8(3) of the National Labor Relations Act, ordered the company to desist from these practices, to withdraw recognition from a labor organization found to be dominated by the company, and to reinstate certain employees, with back pay, found to have been discriminatorily discharged or denied reinstatement. The Board, in providing for back pay, directed the company to deduct from the payments to the reinstated employees the amounts they had received for work performed upon "work relief projects" and to pay over such amounts to the appropriate governmental agencies. Except for a modification, not now important, the Circuit Court of Appeals directed enforcement of the Board's order. 107 F.2d 472.

[ 311 U.S. Page 9]

     In view of conflict with decisions in National Labor Relations Board v. Leviton Manufacturing Co., 111 F.2d 619 (C. C. A. 2d) and National Labor Relations Board v. Tovrea Packing Co., 111 F.2d 626 (C. C. A. 9th), we granted certiorari limited to the question whether the Board had authority to require the company to make the described payments to the agencies of the Government. 310 U.S. 655.

The amounts earned by the employees before reinstatement were directed to be deducted from their back pay manifestly because, having already been received, these amounts were not needed to make the employees whole. That principle would apply whether the employees had earned the amounts in public or private employment. Further, there is no question that the amounts paid by the governmental agencies were for services actually performed. Presumably these agencies, and through them the public, received the benefit of services reasonably worth the amounts paid. There is no finding to the contrary.

The Board urges that the work relief program was designed to meet the exigency of large-scale unemployment produced by the depression; that projects had been selected, not with a single eye to costs or usefulness, but with a view to providing the greatest amount of employment in order to serve the needs of unemployed workers in various communities; in short, that the Work Projects Administration has been conducted as a means of dealing with the relief problem. Hence it is contended that the Board could properly conclude that the unfair labor practices of the company had occasioned losses to the Government financing the work relief projects.

The payments to the Federal, State, County, or other governments concerned are thus conceived as being required for the purpose of redressing, not an injury to

[ 311 U.S. Page 10]

     the employees, but an injury to the public, -- an injury thought to be not the less sustained although here the respective governments have received the benefit of the services performed. So conceived, these required payments are in the nature of penalties imposed by law upon the employer, -- the Board acting as the legislative agency in providing that sort of sanction by reason of public interest. We need not pause to pursue the application of this theory of the Board's power to a variety of circumstances where community interests might be asserted. The question is, -- Has Congress conferred the power upon the Board to impose such requirements.

We think that the theory advanced by the Board proceeds upon a misconception of the National Labor Relations Act. The Act is essentially remedial. It does not carry a penal program declaring the described unfair labor practices to be crimes. The Act does not prescribe penalties or fines in vindication of public rights or provide indemnity against community losses as distinguished from the protection and compensation of employees. Had Congress been intent upon such a program, we cannot doubt that Congress would have expressed its intent and would itself have defined its retributive scheme.

The remedial purposes of the Act are quite clear. It is aimed, as the Act says (§ 1) at encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and at protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, of self organization and of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection through their freely chosen representatives. This right of the employees is safeguarded through the authority conferred upon the Board to require the employer to desist from the unfair labor practices described and to ...


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