West Virginia Law Review

Document Type

Student Note


Industrial relations and collective bargaining have come a long way since the violent industrial and economic warfare of the pre-1940's period. But as labor unions and business organizations became more facially "professional" in their relationship, some union rank and file members have viewed this professionalism as being both restrictive and conservative and have chosen to resolve certain industrial grievances through the use of wildcat work stoppages. This discordant practice has created strains in the collective bargaining relationship of the negotiating union and the employer, in legal actions to enforce the collective bargaining argeement, in the relationship between the union and its membership, and often in the employer-employee relationship, all of which are disruptive to the scope and purpose of collective bargaining under the federal labor laws. Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act provides for enforcement of collective bargaining agreements in federal and state courts against either the breaching union or breaching employer. A section 301 action is a breach of contract action. As such, any analysis must be based upon the language of the agreement between the parties. Moreover, any action for a breach of the labor-management agreement must have a basis in the conduct of the parties. The union and the employer are responsible to each other for a breach attributable to their affirmative conduct. These simple statements of law and the determination of what conduct is to be held accountable to the parties take on added tiers of complexity when the issues involve not a union sponsored or sanctioned work stoppage but a wildcat breach of the collective bargaining agreement by a faction of disgruntled employee-members. Aside from section 301 actions, there are several other possible methods available to a parent union and the employer in dealing with a wildcat stoppage and its participants. However, as will be discussed later, the possible methods of responding to a wildcat work stoppage are not always practical. Thus, the focus of this article is an examination of the extent to which, under section 301, a union or its membership can be held accountable for the actions of wildcat strikers. Additionally, the article addresses the legal and practical ramifications of a union's duty to the employer to control wildcat strikers so as to provide the employer with his contractually created expectations. Part I provides a definitional background and examines the statutory construction and history of section 301. Part II examines the leading Supreme Court cases defining the limits of accountability of a union and its members for wildcat breaches of the collective bargaining agreement. Part III examines the contours and impact of the nonstatutory remedies available to an employer experiencing a wildcat work stoppage. Additionally, this section also discusses the remedies available to a parent union against its recalcitrant membership who have chosen to engage in a wildcat work stoppage. Part IV provides a summary synthesis of the relevant law with an aim toward discerning a workable approach to the wildcat work stoppage problem while providing protection to the collective bargaining agreement and the concept of union democracy.



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