Lechmere, Inc. v. NLRB, 502 U.S. 527 (1992)

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OCTOBER TERM, 1991

Syllabus

LECHMERE, INC. v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the first circuit

No. 90-970. Argued November 12, 1991—Decided January 27, 1992

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) guarantees employees "the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations," 7, and makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer "to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees" in the exercise of their 7 rights, 8(a)(1). Petitioner Lechmere, Inc., owns and operates a retail store located in a shopping plaza in a large metropolitan area. Lechmere is also part owner of the plaza's parking lot, which is separated from a public highway by a 46-foot-wide grassy strip, almost all of which is public property. In a campaign to organize Lechmere employees, nonemployee union organizers placed handbills on the windshields of cars parked in the employees' part of the parking lot. After Lechmere denied the organizers access to the lot, they distributed handbills and picketed from the grassy strip. In addition, they were able to contact directly some 20% of the employees. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge with respondent National Labor Relations Board (Board), alleging that Lechmere had violated the NLRA by barring the organizers from its property. An Administrative Law Judge ruled in the union's favor, recommending that Lechmere, inter alia, be ordered to cease and desist from barring the organizers from the parking lot. The Board affirmed, relying on its ruling in Jean Country, 291 N. L. R. B. 11, that in all access cases the Board should balance (1) the degree of impairment of the 7 right if access is denied, against (2) the degree of impairment of the private property right if access is granted, taking into consideration (3) the availability of reasonably effective alternative means of exercising the 7 right. Id., at 14. The Court of Appeals enforced the Board's order.

Held: Lechmere did not commit an unfair labor practice by barring non-employee union organizers from its property. Pp. 531-541. (a) By its plain terms, the NLRA confers rights only on employees, not on unions or their nonemployee organizers. Thus, as a rule, an employer cannot be compelled to allow nonemployee organizers onto his property. NLRB v. Babcock & Wilcox Co., 351 U. S. 105, 113. Babcock's holding was neither repudiated nor modified by this Court's decisions in Central Hardware Co. v. NLRB, 407 U. S. 539, and Hudgens v.

527

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