Lechmere, Inc. v. NLRB, 502 U.S. 527, 11 (1992)

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Cite as: 502 U. S. 527 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

have determined a statute's clear meaning, we adhere to that determination under the doctrine of stare decisis, and we judge an agency's later interpretation of the statute against our prior determination of the statute's meaning." Maislin Industries, U. S., Inc. v. Primary Steel, Inc., 497 U. S. 116, 131 (1990).

In Babcock, as explained above, we held that the Act drew a distinction "of substance," 351 U. S., at 113, between the union activities of employees and nonemployees. In cases involving employee activities, we noted with approval, the Board "balanced the conflicting interests of employees to receive information on self-organization on the company's property from fellow employees during nonworking time, with the employer's right to control the use of his property." Id., at 109-110. In cases involving nonemployee activities (like those at issue in Babcock itself), however, the Board was not permitted to engage in that same balancing (and we reversed the Board for having done so). By reversing the Board's interpretation of the statute for failing to distinguish between the organizing activities of employees and nonemployees, we were saying, in Chevron terms, that 7 speaks to the issue of nonemployee access to an employer's property. Babcock's teaching is straightforward: 7 simply does not protect nonemployee union organizers except in the rare case where "the inaccessibility of employees makes ineffective the reasonable attempts by nonemployees to communicate with them through the usual channels," 351 U. S., at 112. Our reference to "reasonable" attempts was nothing more than a commonsense recognition that unions need not engage in extraordinary feats to communicate with inaccessible employees—not an endorsement of the view (which we expressly rejected) that the Act protects "reasonable" trespasses. Where reasonable alternative means of access exist, 7's guarantees do not authorize trespasses by nonemployee organizers, even (as we noted in Babcock, ibid.) "under . . . reasonable regulations" established by the Board.


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