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Scofield v. National Labor Relations Board
United States Supreme Court
394 U.S. 423 (1969)
The United Auto Workers (UAW) represented Wisconsin Motor Corporation’s production employees. The company paid “piecework” or incentive rates based on each worker’s production. The labor contract set a minimum hourly “machine rate” reflecting a reasonable average pace, which faster workers could exceed, but the union set a production “ceiling” for members to protect rest periods. Members who exceeded the ceiling could “bank” the extra to apply during slower pay periods. If the member wanted immediate pay for overages, the union fined the member. Over the years the parties negotiated machine and ceiling rates to gradually increase the allowable margin. But the union refused to eliminate the ceiling altogether, concerned that competitive pressure would lower piecework rates, making workers work harder for little more, harming their health, causing jealousy, and ultimately reducing the workforce. The union checked company records for compliance, and the parties used ceiling rates to calculate piece-rate increases and settle grievances. In 1961, the union fined Russell Scofield and several other workers (defendants) from $50 to $100 each (plus a one-year suspension) and sued to collect the fines. General counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) (plaintiff) charged the union with unfair labor practices, but the trial examiner, NLRB, and appellate court rejected the charges. The Supreme Court granted review.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning
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