Associated Press v. National Labor Relations Board
In Associated Press v. Labor Bd., 301 U.S. 103, 131-33, 57 S.Ct. 650, 655-56, 81 L.Ed. 953 (1937), the Associated Press argued that the First Amendment precluded application of the Act to an agency of the press.
Associated Press contended that because the case involved the discharge of an editorial employee, ostensibly for failing to perform up to his capabilities, it "must have absolute and unrestricted freedom to employ and to discharge those who ... edit the news." Id. at 131, 57 S.Ct. at 655.
The Court disagreed.
According to the Court, "the statute does not preclude a discharge on the ostensible grounds for the petitioner's action; it forbids discharge for what has been found to be the real motive" of the Associated Press: the employee's Guild activity and his agitation for collective bargaining. Id. at 132, 57 S.Ct. at 655. Continuing, the Court stated:
"The act permits a discharge for any reason other than union activity or agitation for collective bargaining with employees." Id.
Despite the attempt of the Associated Press to avoid inquiry into its decision, the Court permitted inquiry into, and required the Associated Press to disclose, the motive for taking adverse action against an employee engaged in union activities. If the asserted motives were merely pretextual and interfered with an employee's protected activities, the employer was guilty of committing an unfair labor practice. The attempt of the Associated Press to prevent inspection of its motives by invoking the First Amendment was totally unsuccessful.
In Associated Press, the Court recognized that under certain circumstances the Act might have to yield to First Amendment protections accorded the press. Associated Press, 301 U.S. at 132-33, 57 S.Ct. at 655-56. Application of the Act to the Associated Press did not abridge the freedom of the press because "the full freedom and liberty of Petitioner the Associated Press to publish the news as it desires it to be published" would not be circumscribed. Id. at 133, 57 S.Ct. at 656.
The Court implied that should the press's freedom and liberty "to publish the news as it desires it to be published" be circumscribed, the Act would have to yield to the First Amendment.
In Associated Press v. National Labor Relations Board, 301 U.S. 103, 132, 57 S. Ct. 650, 655, 81 L.Ed. 953 (1937), the court said:
"The act does not compel the petitioner to employ any one; it does not require that the petitioner retain in its employ an incompetent editor or one who fails faithfully to edit the news to reflect the facts without bias or prejudice. The act permits a discharge for any reason other than union activity or agitation for collective bargaining with employees. The restoration of Watson to his former position in no sense guarantees his continuance in petitioner's employ. The petitioner is at liberty, whenever occasion may arise, to exercise its undoubted right to sever his relationship for any cause that seems to it proper save only as a punishment for, or discouragement of, such activities as the act declares permissible."