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United States v. Ryan

July 1, 1955

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
JOSEPH P. RYAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Author: Frank

FRANK, C.J.: 1. Defendant correctly asserts that there was no evidence of extortion (or the like). Accordingly, he argues thus: Previous to the enactment of Section 302(b), extortion had already been covered by the so-called Anti-Racketeering Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951; section 302(b) should not be construed to include the receipt of money or property, absent extortion, since then it would be, or come close to being, void for vagueness, and a court should, if possible, avoid an interpretation of a statute that would make it void or put it on the edge of the unconstitutional.

Defendant also argues that Section 302(b) should not be construed to include representatives of unions because then it would overlap state statutes. Here defendant cites Jerome v. United States, 318 U.S. 101, 104-105, where the court said:

"Since there is no common law offense against the United States ..., the administration of criminal justice under our federal system has rested with the states, except as criminal offenses have been explicitly prescribed by Congress. We should be mindful of that tradition in determining the scope of federal statutes defining offenses which duplicate or build upon state law. In that connection, it should be noted that the double-jeopardy provision of the Fifth Amendment does not stand as a bar to federal prosecution though a state conviction has already been obtained .... That consideration gives additional weight to the view that where Congress is creating offenses which duplicate or build upon state law, courts should be reluctant to extend the deferred offenses beyond the clear requirements of the statute."

We have not found it necessary to consider either of those contentions, since we rest our decision on another ground.

2. Defendant's principal argument is that he was not a "representative of any employees" within the meaning of Section 302(b). His reasoning is as follows:

Section 501(3) provides that "when used in this Act, the term 'representative' is to have the same meaning as when used in the National Labor Relations Act as amended by this Act." Section 2 of the National Labor Relations Act, as thus amended, provides that, when used in that amended Act, the "term 'representative' includes any individual or labor organization."

Throughout the NLRA, as thus amended, "representative" is used, with reference to a representative of employees, as a word of art, to mean solely a labor organization or an individual (or individuals) designated by a majority of the employees, in an appropriate unit, as their exclusive bargaining representative.

This interpretation of "representative" in Sec. 302(b) is in complete accord with the primary purpose of Congress in enacting Sec. 302 as an entirety, i.e., to render unlawful the creation of union welfare funds unless restricted as provided in Sec. 302(c)(5).

In the case at bar, a union, ILA, was the exclusive bargaining representative. Consequently, here Sec. 302(b) could apply to the union only, not to defendant who was but a representative of the representative, i.e., of the union.

Accordingly, defendant did not violate Subsection 302(b).

The government, on the other hand, contends that "representative" in Subsection 302(b) must be given its everyday, common-place meaning; that, therefore, it includes a representative of a union; and that defendant comes within that definition. If subsection 302(b) stood alone, that contention would be highly persuasive.*fn4

That subsection, however, is not an island but part of a statutory continent. To understand the words "representative of any employees" in subsection (b) of Section 302, we must look to Section 501(3) which instructs us that "representative" in Section 302(b) has the same meaning "as when used in the amended National Labor Relations Act." In Section 2(4) of that Act, we find the "term 'representative' includes any individual or labor organization." We thereby learn what "representative" includes. To understand what it means, with reference to a "representative of any employees," we must heed Section 501(3) and turn to the many sections of the amended NLRA where "representative" is so used.*fn5 We discover that there invariably it means a "representative" selected by a majority of the employees, in an appropriate unit, as their exclusive bargaining representative. (Only once is it used otherwise, i.e., in Section 2(1) where, defining "person," the Act includes a "legal representative".) The question then arises whether an "individual" can be an exclusive bargaining representative. Clearly he can. The Labor Board has so interpreted the Act.*fn6

We see nothing in the exception clauses of Section 302(c) at all at odds with defendant's contention: Clauses (2), (4) and (5) obviously are not. Clauses (1) and (3) apply to an individual employee who is also an exclusive bargaining agent - and thus himself a "representative." We think it significant that when, in the 1947 Act, Congress wanted to refer to individuals acting for a union, it spoke of them not as "representatives" of a "labor organization," but as "agents" of such an organization; see Section 8(b) - 61 Stat. 141 - of the amended NLRA, a subsection added by the 1947 Act.

The government argues that, in every instance where "representative" is used in the amended NLRA to designate a "representative" of employees, the word is qualified by the word "bargaining" or by the phrase "subject to Section 9(a)." That is not true: Section 8(b)(4)(B) and Section 8(d) - 61 Stat. 141-142 - use the words "representative of his employees" or "representative of the employees" without any qualification, ...


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