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National Labor Relations Board v. Curtin Matheson Scientific, Inc.

United States Supreme Court
494 U.S. 775 (1990)


A union representing employees of Curtin Matheson Scientific, Inc. (CMS) (defendant) called a strike against CMS. CMS replaced a majority of the striking employees with 22 new workers. Based on CMS's interview of one strike-replacement worker, CMS assumed that the union no longer represented a majority of CMS's employees. CMS withdrew its recognition of the union as the employees' legitimate labor representative. The union filed an unfair-labor-practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) (plaintiff) under § 158 of the National Labor Relations Act. The union said that CMS had an insufficient factual basis for assuming that the union no longer represented a majority of CMS's employees. Over the years, the NLRB had used several standards to implement § 158. Until 1975, the NLRB presumed that strike-replacement workers opposed the recognized union. From 1975 to 1987, the NLRB presumed that strike-replacement workers supported the recognized union. After 1987, the NLRB abandoned all presumptions and would determine a strike-replacement worker’s view on a case-by-case basis. Relying on the post-1987 NLRB policy of not presuming that all strike-replacement workers opposed the union, the NLRB's general counsel issued an unfair-labor-practice charge against CMS. However, an administrative law judge ruled in favor of CMS and dismissed the general counsel's complaint. Then, the NLRB reversed the administrative law judge. The NLRB applied the post-1987 policy to find there were no presumptions about a strike-replacement worker’s allegiance and, therefore, that CMS had not shown that the union had lost its majority status just because the majority of workers were strike-replacement workers. The NLRB ordered CMS to bargain with the union. A court of appeals refused to enforce the NLRB's order. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)

Concurrence (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Dissent (Scalia, J.)

Dissent (Blackmun, J.)

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