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Machinists v. Wisconsin Employment Rel. Comm'n, 427 U.S. 132 (1976)

Lodge 76, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace

Workers, AFL-CIO v. Wisconsin Employment

Relations Commission

No. 75-185

Argued March 22, 1976

Decided June 25, 1976

427 U.S. 132


During negotiations for renewal of an expired collective bargaining agreement with respondent employer, petitioner union and its members engaged in a concerted refusal to work overtime. The employer filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), claiming that such refusal was an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), but the charge was dismissed on the ground that the refusal did not violate the NLRA, and therefore was not conduct cognizable by the NLRB. The employer also filed an unfair labor practice complaint with respondent Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, which held that such refusal, while neither protected nor prohibited by the NLRA, was an unfair labor practice under state law, and entered a cease and desist order against the union. The Wisconsin Circuit Court affirmed and entered a judgment enforcing the order, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed.

Held: The union's concerted refusal to work overtime was peaceful conduct constituting activity that must be free of state regulation if the congressional intent in enacting the comprehensive federal law of labor relations is not to be frustrated. Congress meant that self-help economic activities, whether of employer or employee, were not to be regulable by States any more than by the NLRB, for neither States nor the NLRB is "afforded flexibility in picking and choosing which economic devices of labor and management shall be branded as unlawful," NLRB v. Insurance Agents, 361 U. S. 477, 361 U. S. 498; rather, both are without authority to attempt to "introduce some standard of properly balanced' bargaining power," id. at 361 U. S. 497, or to define what "economic sanctions might be permitted negotiating parties in an `ideal' or `balanced' state of collective bargaining." Id. at 361 U. S. 500. Automobile Workers v. Wisconsin Emp. Rel. Bd., 336 U. S. 245 (Briggs-Stratton case), overruled. Pp. 427 U. S. 136-155.

67 Wis.2d 13, 226 N.W.2d 203, reversed.

Page 427 U. S. 133

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 427 U. S. 155. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 427 U. S. 156.

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