Emporium Capwell Co. v. Western Addition Community Organization
420 U.S. 50 (1975)

Facts:

  • Emporium Capwell Co. was a department store in San Francisco and a party to a CBA.
    • Included in the CBA was a no-strike or lockout clause, as well as an arbitration clause.
  • A group of Company employees covered by the agreement met with the secretary-treasurer of the Union, Walter Johnson, to discuss a claim that the Company was discriminating on the basis of race in making assignments and promotions.
    • The Union official agreed to investigate the charge.
  • However, Hollins, Hawkins, and a couple other employees decided to take matters into their own hands, against the advice of Johnson, and picketed the store throughout the day and distributed at the entrance handbills urging consumers not to patronize the store.
    • They were given written warnings that a repetition of the picketing or public statements about the Company could lead to their discharge.
    • When the conduct was repeated, the two employees were fired.
  • The Board’s General Counsel subsequently issued a complaint alleging that in discharging the two the Company had violated s 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act.

History:

  • The NLRB Trial Examiner found that that their activity was not protected by s 7 of the Act and that their discharges did not, therefore, violate s 8(a)(1).
  • The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded.
    • The court was of the view that concerted activity directed against racial discrimination enjoys a ‘unique status’ by virtue of the national labor policy against discrimination, as expressed in both the NLRA, and in Title VII.

Issue:
Whether such attempts to engage in separate bargaining are protected by s 7 of the Act or proscribed by s 9(a).

  • Note s 9(a) holds that “representatives designated or selected for the purposes of collective bargaining by the majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for such purposes, shall be the exclusive representatives of all the employees.”

Holding:
Proscribed by 9(a).

Reasoning:

  • “Central to policy of fostering collective bargaining, where employees elect that course, is the principle of majority rule.”
  • Here, negotiating with several minority groups would present too many conflicts.
    • For one, most of the issues discusses would pre-empted by the current CBA with the elected bargaining representative.
    • Accommodate each group’s demands could only set one group against the other, even if it is not the employer’s intention to divide and overcome them.
    • Furthermore, Hollins and Hawkins demands likely would have included the transfer of some minority employees to sales areas in which higher commissions were paid.
      • However, the CBA provided that no employee would be transferred from a higher-paying to a lower-paying classification except by consent or in the course of a layoff or reduction in force.