Mr. Roger C. Minahan, of Milwaukee, Wis., for petitioner.
Beatrice Lampert, of Madison, Wis., for respondent.
Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Algoma Plywood & Veneer Co. manufactures in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, the products for which it is named. Ninety-five per cent of its output is sold in interstate commerce. In 1942 the National Labor Relations Board held an election at the plant, the outcome of which was the certification of Local 1521 of the Carpenters and Joiners Union as bargaining representative for all production employees, about 650 in number. In 1943, under pressure from the Department of Labor and the War Labor Board, Algoma agreed to a maintenance-of-membership clause in its contract with Local 1521. That clause was carried over from year to year and was part of the contract effective for the year following April 29, 1946. One Victor Moreau refused to pay dues, and on Jan. 7, 1947, the Union notified him that unless he paid up by Jan. 13, he would be discharged. On Jan. 14, 1947 in the presence of representatives of the Company and the Union, he said that he would rather quit than pay dues to the Union. And so the Vice-President of the Company told him to collect his pay and go home.
On Jan. 27, 1947, Moreau filed with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board a complaint charging the Company with an unfair labor practice under Wis.Stat. 111.06(1)(c) 1, which provides:
No referendum had been conducted at the Algoma plant. The Board, accordingly, on April 30, 1947, ordered the Company to cease and desist from giving effect to the maintenance-of-membership clause, to offer Moreau reinstatement, and to make him whole for any loss of pay. The Company and the Union petitioned the Wisconsin Circuit Court of Kewaunee County for review of the order, and the Board petitioned for its enforcement. In its judgment of Nov. 21, 1947, the Circuit Court modified the order by striking the award of back pay, but otherwise affirmed it. On May 11, 1948, the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Circuit Court insofar as it sustained the jurisdiction of the Board to issue its cease and desist order and to require an offer of reinstatement but directed enforcement of the back-pay award. 252 Wis. 549, 32 N.W.2d 417.
At every stage of the proceedings the Company and the Union contested the jurisdiction of the Employment Relations Board on the ground of the exclusive authority of the National Labor Relations Board under 10(a) of the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 453, 29 U.S.C. 160(a), 29 U.S. C.A. 160(a), and asserted the repugnancy of Wis.Stat. 111.06(1)(c) 1 to 8(3) of the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 452, 29 U.S.C. 158(3), 29 U.S.C.A. 158(3). We granted certiorari under 28 U.S.C. 1257( 3), 28 U.S.C.A. 1257(3), because of the important bearing of these issues upon the distribution of power in our federal system. 335 U.S. 812 .
The discharge of Moreau and the orders of the Wisconsin Board preceded the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, colloquially known as the Taft-Hartley Act, 61 Stat. 136, 29 U.S.C. 141 et seq., 29 U.S.C.A. 141 et seq. The judgments of the Circuit Court for Kewaunee County and the Supreme Court of Wisconsin were rendered after it came into [336 U.S. 301 , 305] force. If the National Labor Relations Act gave affirmative protection to the employer in discharging an employee under a union-security agreement for failure to maintain union membership, it would be necessary to decide whether adoption of the Taft-Hartley Act retroactively removed that protection and whether it equally gave effect to a reinstatement order, an award of back pay, and a cease and desist order which would previously have been invalid. Since, however, we do not find conflict between the Wisconsin law under which the orders were issued and either the National Labor Relations Act or the Taft-Hartley Act, we are relieved from defining the respective applicability of the federal Acts.
In seeking to show that the Wisconsin Board had no power to make the contested orders, petitioner points first to 10(a) of the National Labor Relations Act, which is set forth in the margin. 1 It argues that the grant to the National Labor Relations Board of 'exclusive' power to prevent 'any unfair labor practice' thereby displaced State power to deal with such practices, provided of course that the practice was one affecting commerce. But this argument implies two equally untenable assumptions. One requires disregard of the parenthetical phrase '(listed in section 8)'; the other depends upon attaching to the section as it stands, the clause 'and no other agency shall have power to prevent unfair labor practices not listed in section 8.'
The term 'unfair labor practice' is not a term of art having an independent significance which transcends its statutory definition. The State are free [336 U.S. 301 , 306] (apart from pre-emption by Congress) to characterize any wrong of any kind by an employer to an employee, whether statutorily created or known to the common law, as an 'unfair labor practice.' At the time when the National Labor Relations Act was adopted, the courts of many States, at least under some circumstances, denied validity to union-security agreements. See 1 Teller, Labor Disputes and Collective Bargaining 170 (1940). Here Wisconsin has attached conditions to their enforcement and has called the voluntary observance of such a contract when those conditions have not been met an 'unfair labor practice.' Had the sponsors of the National Labor Relations Act meant to deny effect to State policies inconsistent with the unrestricted enforcement of union-shop contracts, surely they would have made their purpose manifest. So far as appears from the Committee Reports, however, 10(a) was designed, as its language declares, merely to preclude conflict in the administration of remedies for the practices proscribed by 8. The House Report, after summarizing the provisions of the section, adds, 'The Board is thus made the paramount agency for dealing with the unfair labor practices described in the bill.' H.R. Rep. No. 969, 74th Cong., 1st Sess. 21. See also the identical language of H.R. Rep. No. 972, 74th Cong., 1st Sess. 21 and H.R. Rep. No. 1147, 74th Cong. 1st Sess. 23. And the Senate Report describes the purpose of the section as 'intended to dispel the confusion resulting from dispersion of authority and to establish a single paramount administrative or quasi-judicial authority in connection with the development of the Federal American law regarding collective bargaining.' S. Rep. No. 573, 74th Cong., 1st Sess. 15.
The contention that 10(a) of the Wagner Act swept aside State law respecting the union shop must therefore [336 U.S. 301 , 307] be rejected. If any provision of the Act had that effect, it could only have been 8(3), which explicitly deals with membership in a union as a condition of employment. We now turn to consideration of that section.
Section 8(3) provides that it shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer
It is argued, therefore, that a State cannot forbid what 8(3) affirmatively permits. The short answer is that 8(3) merely disclaims a national policy hostile to the closed shop or other forms of union- security agreement. This is the obvious inference to be drawn from the choice of the words 'nothing in this Act * * * or in any other statute of the United States,' and it is confirmed by the legislative history.
The Senate Report on the bill which was to become the National Labor Relations Act has this to say about 8(3):
The House Report contains similar language:
In his major speech to the Senate in support of the bill, Senator Wagner said:
The Senator went on to explain the purpose of the section as dispelling misunderstanding of 7(a) of the National Industrial Recovery Act, 48 Stat. 198, denied [336 U.S. 301 , 310] either advocacy or disapproval of the closed shop, then added:
Later, during discussion of proposed amendments, Senator Wagner answered a question from the floor about the effect of the proviso in the following words:
Equally conclusive is the answer by Representative Connery, manager of the bill in the House, to a statement by Representative Taber in support of an amendment which would have entirely stricken the prov so. Representative Taber charged that the proviso would make it possible for 51% of the employees of any organization to bring about the discharge of the other 49%. Representative Connery said:
No ruling by the courts or the National Labor Relations Board, the agency entrusted with administration of the Wagner Act, has adopted a construction of 8(3) in disregard of this legislative history. It is suggested, however, that the interpretation given the section of the War Labor Board supports petitioner's position. The [336 U.S. 301 , 311] Board, it is true, in view of the practical desirability of the maintenance-of-membership clause in settling wartime disputes over union security found authority to order contracts containing such clauses despite inconsistent State law. It found such authority, however, not in 8(3) but in the conclusion that 'its power to direct the parties to abide by the maintenance-of-membership provision in such a case as this one stems directly from the war powers of the United States Government.' Greenebaum Tanning Co., 10 War Lab. Rep. 527, 534.2 The Supreme Court of Wisconsin itself acknowledged the supremacy of the war power in a decision suspending an order directing the reinstatement of an employee discharged under a maintenance-of-membership clause ordered by the War Labor Board. International Brotherhood of Paper-Makers Local No. 66 (A.F.L.) v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Board, 245 Wis. 541, 15 N.W.2d 806. When the orders of the Wisconsin Board in the present case were entered, the War Labor Board had ceased to exist, Exec. Order No. 9672, 50 U.S.C.A. Appendix, 964 note, 11 Fed.Reg. 221, and, with the occasion that had called it into [336 U.S. 301 , 312] being, the necessity for suppression of State law had also come to an end.