Lechmere, Inc. v. NLRB, 502 U.S. 527, 13 (1992)

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

Opinion of the Court

C

The threshold inquiry in this case, then, is whether the facts here justify application of Babcock's inaccessibility exception. The ALJ below observed that "the facts herein convince me that reasonable alternative means [of communicating with Lechmere's employees] were available to the Union," 295 N. L. R. B., at 99 (emphasis added).2 Reviewing the ALJ's decision under Jean Country, however, the Board reached a different conclusion on this point, asserting that "there was no reasonable, effective alternative means available for the Union to communicate its message to [Lech-mere's] employees." Id., at 93.

We cannot accept the Board's conclusion, because it "rest[s] on erroneous legal foundations," Babcock, supra, at 112; see also NLRB v. Brown, 380 U. S. 278, 290-292 (1965). As we have explained, the exception to Babcock's rule is a narrow one. It does not apply wherever nontrespassory access to employees may be cumbersome or less-than-ideally effective, but only where "the location of a plant and the living quarters of the employees place the employees beyond the reach of reasonable union efforts to communicate with them," 351 U. S., at 113 (emphasis added). Classic examples include logging camps, see NLRB v. Lake Superior Lumber Corp., 167 F. 2d 147 (CA6 1948); mining camps, see Alaska Barite Co., 197 N. L. R. B. 1023 (1972), enforced mem., 83 LRRM 2992 (CA9), cert. denied, 414 U. S. 1025 (1973); and mountain resort hotels, see NLRB v. S & H Grossinger's Inc., 372 F. 2d

2 Under the (pre-Jean Country) Fairmont Hotel analysis applied by the ALJ, it was only where the employees' 7 rights and an employer's property rights were deemed "relatively equal in strength," Fairmont Hotel Co., 282 N. L. R. B. 139, 142 (1986), that the adequacy of nontrespassory means of communication became relevant. Because the ALJ found that the 7 rights involved here outweighed Lechmere's property rights, he had no need to address the latter issue. He did so, he explained, only because of the possibility that his evaluation of the relative weights of the rights might not be upheld. 295 N. L. R. B. 94, 99 (1988).

539

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