CATEGORY: Supreme Court
Third Supreme Court Case Relating to Reemployment Statute: Aeronautical Industrial District Lodge 727 v. Campbell, 337 U.S. 521 (1949)
By Captain Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
Under the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the employer (Lockheed Aircraft Corporation), layoffs caused by reduced need for employees were based strictly on seniority, except that certain elected officers of the union were given "super seniority" while holding those offices. The idea was that these officers needed to be present and working in order to represent the interests of all employees in the bargaining unit represented by the union. If the officers were laid off, they might not be able to represent the employees effectively. The super seniority only applied to layoff protection, and a union officer lost his super seniority upon leaving office.
After the end of World War II, the need for Lockheed's products dropped dramatically and many employees were laid off, in accordance with seniority. This suit was brought by three veterans who were reemployed by Lockheed and then laid off, in accordance with seniority, along with hundreds of other employees who were not veterans. As in Fishgold v. Sullivan Drydock & Repair Corp.,
328 U.S. 275 (1946), these veterans would have been laid off anyway,
even if their Lockheed careers had not been interrupted by military service. These veterans were given Lockheed seniority credit for the time they worked for the company before entering military service, and also for the time that they were away from work for such service. Even with such seniority credit, they did not have enough company seniority to avoid being included in the mass layoffs after the end of World War II.
The three veterans asserted that laying them off while retaining union officers who had less overall company seniority violated the reemployment statute. The Supreme Court rejected this argument: "Of course, the Selective Service Act restricts a readjustment of seniority rights during the veteran's absence to the disadvantage of the veteran. But it would be an undue restriction of the process of collective bargaining (without compensating gain to the veteran) to forbid changes in collective bargaining arrangements which secure a fixed tenure for union chairmen, whereby veterans as well as nonveterans are benefited by promoting greater protection of their rights and smoother operation of labor-management relations. All this presupposes, obviously, that an agreement containing the 1945 provisions expresses honest desires for the protection of the interests of all members of the union and is not a skillful device of hostility to veterans. There is not the remotest suggestion that the 1945 agreement was other than what it purported to be-the means for securing both to veterans and to nonveterans better working conditions through elected leaders not subject to the contingencies of a labor turnover." Aeronautical Industrial District Lodge 727,
337 U.S. at 529.
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