Memphis Furniture Manufacturing Co., 26 (1937) (2022)


Furniture Industry-Interference, Restraint or Coctcton. expressed opposition to labor organization, threats of retaliatory action; surveillance of union meetings; questioning employees regarding union affiliation; attempts to persuade employees not to join or to resign from union; refusal to recognize or negotiate with union representatives--Strike: averted by filing of charges with BoardDiscrinunat2on: discharge-Rcinsta lenient Ordered-Rac,7r, Pay: awarded.

Mr. Walter G. Cooper, Jr., for the Board.

Canale, Glanlcler, Loch cC Little, by Cllr. Phil H. Canale, of Memphis, Tenn., for the respondent.

Mr. N. Fowler, of Memphis, Tenn., for the Union.

Hilda Droshnicop and Mr. Hyman A. Schulson, of counsel to the Board.



Upon charges duly filed by the Furniture Workers Local Union No. 1174, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, herein called the Union, the National Labor Relations Board, herein called the Board, by Charles N. Feidelson, Regional Director for the Tenth Region (Atlanta, Georgia), issued its complaint dated May 9, 1936, against the Memphis Furniture Manufacturing Company,

Memphis, Tennessee, herein called the respondent. The complaint and notice of hearing thereon were duly served upon the respondent and the Union.

The complaint alleged that the respondent had engaged in and was engaging in unfair labor practices affecting commerce, in violation of Section 8, subdivisions (1) and (3), and Section 2, subdivisions (6) and (7) of the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 449, herein called the Act. In reference to the unfair labor practices the complaint alleged in substance that the respondent discharged the following 13 employees upon the dates set forth : W. O. Sullivan, A. U.

Barmer, B. A. Mauldin, and Troy Pugh, on April 7, 1936; C. B.

Forester, W. E. Jordan, J. E. Choate, H. F. Hoppes, and M. Kay on April 8, 1936; R. R. Jordan on April 10, 1936; James Western on April 11, 1936; Alonzo Dabney on April 13, 1936, and N. W. Bowers on April 16, 1936, for joining and assisting the Union and for engaging in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining and other mutual aid and protection, and that the respondent discharged Mrs. Barmer on April 8, 1936, because of the union activities of her husband.

The respondent filed an answer to the complaint alleging that it had not discharged the employees named in the complaint, other than Mrs. Barmer, or refused to reinstate them, but that they were temporarily laid off in due course of business and would be reinstated when their employment was needed. As to Mrs. Barmer, the respondent admitted that she was discharged but denied the reasons therefor alleged in the complaint.

At the same time that the charge was filed, the Union also petitioned the Board for, an investigation and certification of representatives pursuant to Section 9 (c) of the Act. On May 9, 1936, the Board directed the Regional Director to conduct an investigation and provide for an appropriate hearing upon clue notice, pursuant to Section 9 (c) of the Act and Article III, Section 3 of National Labor Relations Board Rules and Regulations-Series 1, as amended. Pursuant to notice, a joint hearing on the complaint and petition was held in Memphis, Tennessee, on May 21, 22, 25, 26, and 27, 1936, before Walter Wilbur, the Trial Examiner duly designated by the Board. The Board, the Union, and the.responclent were represented by counsel.

At the hearing, the respondent, appearing specially, interposed a motion to dismiss on the ground (1) that the Act is unconstitutional in that it violates the Fifth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution, and (2) that the authority granted by the Act, even if constitutional, does not extend to jurisdiction over the respondent. The respondent further moved to.dismiss the complaint for insufficiency.

The Trial Examiner denied the motion. The respondent's motion to make the complaint more specific in respect to the allegations of paragraph 12 thereof was granted and paragraph 12 was thereupon stricken from the complaint on motion of the regional attorney. A similar motion with respect to the general allegations, respecting the interstate commerce character of the respondent's business was denied. At the hearing the motion of counsel for the Board to consolidate the hearings in both the complaint and representation cases was granted.

Full opportunity to be heard, to cross-examine witnesses, and to produce evidence bearing upon the issues was afforded to all parties.

Counsel for the Board and counsel for the respondent filed briefs to which we have given clue consideration.

Subsequently, the Trial Examiner filed his Intermediate Report, finding that the discharge of all those named in the complaint, with the exception of Troy Pugh, was in violation of the Act, and recommending their reinstatement with back pay. Exceptions to the Intermediate Report were thereafter filed by the respondent.

On July 9, 1937, counsel for the respondent, pursuant to his request, orally argued the cause upon the record before the Board in Washington, D. C.

On July 13, 1937, the Board granted the Union permission to withdraw its petition.

The Board has reviewed all the rulings made by the Trial Examiner on motions and objections and other matters and finds that no prejudicial errors were committed. The rulings are hereby affirmed.

We have fully considered the exceptions to the Intermediate Report and find no merit in them. They are hereby overruled.

Upon the entire record in the case, the Board makes the following :


  1. THE RESPONDENT AND ITS BUSINESS The respondent is a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Tennessee and is engaged in the production, sale, and distribution of furniture. Its sole plant and place of business is located in Memphis, Tennessee.

    For the year ending April 30, 1936, the respondent employed an average of 446 employees with a pay roll for the year of $347,697.77.

    The value of its manufactured product during the same period amounted to $1,231,784.61. The respondent maintains an average stock of manufactured products in its plant warehouse of the value of $100,000 to $200,000.1 ' The respondent purchases its raw materials, consisting of lumber, glass, varnish, hardware, and other materials both within and without the State of Tennessee ; purchases from other states amount to approximately 50 to 60 per cent. Machinery and manufactured parts are purchased in about equal proportions within and without the State.

    Somewhat more than half of the respondent's products are sold outside of Tennessee, principally within the States of Arkansas,

    Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana.

  2. THE UNION Furniture Workers Local Union No. 1174, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, is a labor organization which was chartered in 1934.

    ' Board'e Exhibit No. 3i.


    The Union remained small and inactive until February, 1936, when it began a membership drive. Negroes, formerly excluded by the Union, were urged to join, and tentative overtures were made to the management for a collective agreement. By the end of March, interest in the Union had greatly increased. At about this time the management, which had been passive in its attitude toward union labor, initiated its own campaign. On April 4, a Saturday, C. A. Robbins,

    Jr., the respondent's superintendent, cautiously felt out N. W.

    Bowers, a union employee, on the subject. He closed the conversation with the statement : 'I like you and believe you have reason. You have worked here a good while. I advise you not to have anything to do with the Union-it would be best for you not to.' On Monday,

    April 6, the superintendent called in H. F. Hoppes, the recording secretary of the Union. Although again no overt threats were made the respondent's anxiety concerning the organization of the shop was revealed in the statement that should 'labor trouble' arise the plant would shut down. On Tuesday, April 7, a foreman made a similar attempt to persuade Forester, the Union president, to abandon the Union: 'Don't you think your job is worth more to you than that union, * * * it is interfering with your job. * * * I am sorry, but I thought you would be the last man to join the union.' Within a few minutes after the last conversation on April 7, three union men were discharged : Barmer, Sullivan, and Mauldin. Barmer 2 was a; trustee of the Union and an aggressive solicitor of new members. Sullivan,' too, was an active union man. Mauldin 4 had joined the Union the night before. When informing Mauldin of his discharge, his foreman remonstrated with him : 'What in the name of God do you mean by getting mixed up with that Union * * I hate to see my men get fired, but I am afraid they will * * *.

    Well, if you go down and talk right to him you won't get fired.' In the office Mauldin requested an explanation, but none was given, and his discharge was allowed to stand. To Barmer, the foreman said that he did not know the reason for the 'lay-off.' 'Not dull business * * * your work is perfect * * * can't tell why. Have orders from the superintendent to lay you off.' Sullivan likewise asked for and was refused an explanation.

    That night Barmer, Hoppes, Kay, Choate, and W. E. Jordan gathered at the Labor Temple in Memphis. Hoppes, who was ordinarily the spokesman, telephoned Robbins and requested a conference on the 2 Barmer earned $13.20 a week as a cabinet maker.

    Sullivan earned $13 20 as a top-out man in the cabinet room.

    Mauldin had been employed by the respondent as its patch man and repairer since 1920, except at...

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