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Droit comparé 5, droit de la concurrence, droit du travail

dimanche 2 décembre 2012, par Nicole Ruster

The Sherman Antitrust Act (1890)

Section 1. Trusts, etc., in restraint of trade illegal ; penalty

Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal. Every person who shall make any contract or engage in any combination or conspiracy hereby declared to be illegal shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $10,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $350,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding three years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

Section 2. Monopolizing trade a felony ; penalty

Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $10,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $350,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding three years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

Section 3. Trusts in Territories or District of Columbia illegal ; combination a felony

Every contract, combination in form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce in any Territory of the United States or of the District of Columbia, or in restraint of trade or commerce between any such Territory and another, or between any such Territory or Territories and any State or States or the District of Columbia, or with foreign nations, or between the District of Columbia and any State or States or foreign nations, is declared illegal. Every person who shall make any such contract or engage in any such combination or conspiracy, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $10,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $350,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding three years, or both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

Section 4. Jurisdiction of courts ; duty of United States attorneys ; procedure

The several district courts of the United States are invested with jurisdiction to prevent and restrain violations of sections 1 to 7 of this title ; and it shall be the duty of the several United States attorneys, in their respective districts, under the direction of the Attorney General, to institute proceedings in equity to prevent and restrain such violations. Such proceedings may be by way of petition setting forth the case and praying that such violation shall be enjoined or otherwise prohibited. When the parties complained of shall have been duly notified of such petition the court shall proceed, as soon as may be, to the hearing and determination of the case ; and pending such petition and before final decree, the court may at any time make such temporary restraining order or prohibition as shall be deemed just in the premises.

Section 5. Bringing in additional parties

Whenever it shall appear to the court before which any proceeding under section 4 of this title may be pending, that the ends of justice require that other parties should be brought before the court, the court may cause them to be summoned, whether they reside in the district in which the court is held or not ; and subpoenas to that end may be served in any district by the marshal thereof.

Section 6. Forfeiture of property in transit

Any property owned under any contract or by any combination, or pursuant to any conspiracy (and being the subject thereof) mentioned in section 1 of this title, and being in the course of transportation from one State to another, or to a foreign country, shall be forfeited to the United States, and may be seized and condemned by like proceedings as those provided by law for the forfeiture, seizure, and condemnation of property imported into the United States contrary to law.

Section 6a. Conduct involving trade or commerce with foreign nations

Sections 1 to 7 of this title shall not apply to conduct involving trade or commerce (other than import trade or import commerce) with foreign nations unless -

(1) such conduct has a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect -

(A) on trade or commerce which is not trade or commerce with foreign nations, or on import trade or import commerce with foreign nations ; or

(B) on export trade or export commerce with foreign nations, of a person engaged in such trade or commerce in the United States ; and

(2) such effect gives rise to a claim under the provisions of sections 1 to 7 of this title, other than this section.

If sections 1 to 7 of this title apply to such conduct only because of the operation of paragraph (1)(B), then sections 1 to 7 of this title shall apply to such conduct only for injury to export business in the United States.

Section 7. "Person" or "persons" defined

The word "person", or "persons", wherever used in sections 1 to 7 of this title shall be deemed to include corporations and associations existing under or authorized by the laws of either the United States, the laws of any of the Territories, the laws of any State, or the laws of any foreign country.

Clayton Act, début

3. CLAYTON ACT, 15 U.S.C. §§ 12-27, 29 U.S.C. §§ 52-53§ 1 Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C.

§ 12Definitions ; short title(a) "Antitrust laws," as used herein, includes the Act entitled "An Act to protect trade andcommerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies," approved July second, eighteenhundred and ninety ; sections seventy-three to seventy-seven, inclusive, of an Act entitled"An Act to reduce taxation, to provide revenue for the Government, and for other purposes," of August twenty- seventh, eighteen hundred and ninety-four ; an Act entitled"An Act to amend sections seventy-three and seventy-six of the Act of August twenty-seventh, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, entitled ’An Act to reduce taxation, to providerevenue for the Government, and for other purposes,’ " approved February twelfth,nineteen hundred and thirteen ; and also this Act."Commerce," as used herein, means trade or commerce among the several States andwith foreign nations, or between the District of Columbia or any Territory of the UnitedStates and any State, Territory, or foreign nation, or between any insular possessions or other places under the jurisdiction of the United States, or between any such possessionor place and any State or Territory of the United States or the District of Columbia or anyforeign nation, or within the District of Columbia or any Territory or any insular possession or other place under the jurisdiction of the United States : Provided, Thatnothing in this Act contained shall apply to the Philippine Islands.The word "person" or "persons" wherever used in this Act shall be deemed to includecorporations and associations existing under or authorized by the laws of either theUnited States, the laws of any of the Territories, the laws of any State, or the laws of anyforeign country.(b) This Act may be cited as the "Clayton Act".§ 2 Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. §§

13(2)Discrimination in price, services, or facilities(a) Price ; selection of customersIt shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of suchcommerce, either directly or indirectly, to discriminate in price between different purchasers of commodities of like grade and quality, where either or any of the purchasesinvolved in such discrimination are in commerce, where such commodities are sold for use, consumption, or resale within the United States or any Territory thereof or theDistrict of Columbia or any insular possession or other place under the jurisdiction of theUnited States, and where the effect of such discrimination may be substantially to lessencompetition or tend to create a monopoly in any line of commerce, or to injure, destroy,11 or prevent competition with any person who either grants or knowingly receives the benefit of such discrimination, or with customers of either of them : Provided, Thatnothing herein contained shall prevent differentials which make only due allowance for differences in the cost of manufacture, sale, or delivery resulting from the differingmethods or quantities in which such commodities are to such purchasers sold or delivered : Provided, however, That the Federal Trade Commission may, after dueinvestigation and hearing to all interested parties, fix and establish quantity limits, andrevise the same as it finds necessary, as to particular commodities or classes of commodities, where it finds that available purchasers in greater quantities are so few as torender differentials on account thereof unjustly discriminatory or promotive of monopolyin any line of commerce ; and the foregoing shall then not be construed to permitdifferentials based on differences in quantities greater than those so fixed and established:And provided further, That nothing herein contained shall prevent persons engaged inselling goods, wares, or merchandise in commerce from selecting their own customers in bona fide transactions and not in restraint of trade : And provided further, That nothingherein contained shall prevent price changes from time to time where in response tochanging conditions affecting the market for or the marketability of the goods concerned,such as but not limited to actual or imminent deterioration of perishable goods,obsolescence of seasonal goods, distress sales under court process, or sales in good faithin discontinuance of business in the goods concerned.(b) Burden of rebutting prima-facie case of discriminationUpon proof being made, at any hearing on a complaint under this section, that there has been discrimination in price or services or facilities furnished, the burden of rebutting the prima-facie case thus made by showing justification shall be upon the person chargedwith a violation of this section, and unless justification shall be affirmatively shown, theCommission is authorized to issue an order terminating the discrimination : Provided,however, That nothing herein contained shall prevent a seller rebutting the prima-faciecase thus made by showing that his lower price or the furnishing of services or facilitiesto any purchaser or purchasers was made in good faith to meet an equally low price of acompetitor, or the services or facilities furnished by a competitor.(c) Payment or acceptance of commission, brokerage, or other compensationIt shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of suchcommerce, to pay or grant, or to receive or accept, anything of value as a commission, brokerage, or other compensation, or any allowance or discount in lieu thereof, except for services rendered in connection with the sale or purchase of goods, wares, or merchandise, either to the other party to such transaction or to an agent, representative, or other intermediary therein where such intermediary is acting in fact for or in behalf, or issubject to the direct or indirect control, of any party to such transaction other than the person by whom such compensation is so granted or paid.(d) Payment for services or facilities for processing or sale22

It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce to pay or contract for the payment of anything of value to or for the benefit of a customer of such person in thecourse of such commerce as compensation or in consideration for any services or facilities furnished by or through such customer in connection with the processing,handling, sale, or offering for sale of any products or commodities manufactured, sold, or offered for sale by such person, unless such payment or consideration is available on proportionally equal terms to all other customers competing in the distribution of such products or commodities.(e) Furnishing services or facilities for processing, handling, etc.It shall be unlawful for any person to discriminate in favor of one purchaser againstanother purchaser or purchasers of a commodity bought for resale, with or without processing, by contracting to furnish or furnishing, or by contributing to the furnishing of,any services or facilities connected with the processing, handling, sale, or offering for sale of such commodity so purchased upon terms not accorded to all purchasers on proportionally equal terms.(f) Knowingly inducing or receiving discriminatory priceIt shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of suchcommerce, knowingly to induce or receive a discrimination in price which is prohibited by this section.Discrimination in rebates, discounts, or advertising service charges ; underselling in particular localities ;

penalties, 15 U.S.C. § 13aIt shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of suchcommerce, to be a party to, or assist in, any transaction of sale, or contract to sell, whichdiscriminates to his knowledge against competitors of the purchaser, in that, anydiscount, rebate, allowance, or advertising service charge is granted to the purchaser over and above any discount, rebate, allowance, or advertising service charge available at thetime of such transaction to said competitors in respect of a sale of goods of like grade,quality, and quantity ; to sell, or contract to sell, goods in any part of the United States at prices lower than those exacted by said person elsewhere in the United States for the purpose of destroying competition, or eliminating a competitor in such part of the UnitedStates ; or, to sell, or contract to sell, goods at unreasonably low prices for the purpose of destroying competition or eliminating a competitor.Any person violating any of the provisions of this section shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.Cooperative association ; return of net earnings or surplus, 15 U.S.C. § 13b Nothing in sections 13 to 13b and 21a of this title shall prevent a cooperative associationfrom returning to its members, producers, or consumers the whole, or any part of, the net33...

 Traité de fonctionnement de l’Union Européenne

Article 101 (ex-article 81 TCE)

1. Sont incompatibles avec le marché intérieur et interdits tous accords entre entreprises, toutes décisions d’associations d’entreprises et toutes pratiques concertées, qui sont susceptibles d’affecter le commerce entre États membres et qui ont pour objet ou pour effet d’empêcher, de restreindre ou de fausser le jeu de la concurrence à l’intérieur du marché intérieur, et notamment ceux qui consistent à : a) b) c) d) e) fixer de façon directe ou indirecte les prix d’achat ou de vente ou d’autres conditions de trans­ action, limiter ou contrôler la production, les débouchés, le développement technique ou les investis­ sements, répartir les marchés ou les sources d’approvisionnement, appliquer, à l’égard de partenaires commerciaux, des conditions inégales à des prestations équi­valentes en leur infligeant de ce fait un désavantage dans la concurrence, subordonner la conclusion de contrats à l’acceptation, par les partenaires, de prestations supplé­ mentaires qui, par leur nature ou selon les usages commerciaux, n’ont pas de lien avec l’objet de ces contrats.

3. Toutefois, les dispositions du paragraphe 1 peuvent être déclarées inapplicables :

— à tout accord ou catégorie d’accords entre entreprises, — à toute décision ou catégorie de décisions d’associations d’entreprises et

— à toute pratique concertée ou catégorie de pratiques concertées qui contribuent à améliorer la production ou la distribution des produits ou à promouvoir le progrès technique ou économique, tout en réservant aux utilisateurs une partie équitable du profit qui en résulte, et sans : a) imposer aux entreprises intéressées des restrictions qui ne sont pas indispensables pour atteindre ces objectifs, b) donner à des entreprises la possibilité, pour une partie substantielle des produits en cause, d’éliminer la concurrence.

Article 102 (ex-article 82 TCE)

Est incompatible avec le marché intérieur et interdit, dans la mesure où le commerce entre États membres est susceptible d’en être affecté, le fait pour une ou plusieurs entreprises d’exploiter de façon abusive une position dominante sur le marché intérieur ou dans une partie substantielle de celui-ci. Ces pratiques abusives peuvent notamment consister à : a) imposer de façon directe ou indirecte des prix d’achat ou de vente ou d’autres conditions de transaction non équitables, b) limiter la production, les débouchés ou le développement technique au préjudice des consomma­ teurs, c) appliquer à l’égard de partenaires commerciaux des conditions inégales à des prestations équiva­ lentes, en leur infligeant de ce fait un désavantage dans la concurrence, d) subordonner la conclusion de contrats à l’acceptation, par les partenaires, de prestations supplé­ mentaires qui, par leur nature ou selon les usages commerciaux, n’ont pas de lien avec l’objet de ces contrats.



[November 16, 1998]

 Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

 This case presents the question whether a general arbitration clause in a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) requires an employee to use the arbitration procedure for an alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 104 Stat. 327, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.


 In 1970, petitioner Ceasar Wright began working as a longshoreman in Charleston, South Carolina. He was a member of Local 1422 of the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL—CIO (Union), which uses a hiring hall to supply workers to several stevedore companies represented by the South Carolina Stevedores Association (SCSA). Clause 15(B) of the CBA between the Union and the SCSA provides in part as follows : “Matters under dispute which cannot be promptly settled between the Local and an individual Employer shall, no later than 48 hours after such discussion, be referred in writing covering the entire grievance to a Port Grievance Committee … .” App. 43a. If the Port Grievance Committee, which is evenly divided between representatives of labor and management, cannot reach an agreement within five days of receiving the complaint, then the dispute must be referred to a District Grievance Committee, which is also evenly divided between the two sides. The CBA provides that a majority decision of the District Grievance Committee “shall be final and binding.” App. 44a. If the District Grievance Committee cannot reach a majority decision within 72 hours after meeting, then the committee must employ a professional arbitrator.

 Clause 15(F) of the CBA provides as follows :

“The Union agrees that this Agreement is intended to cover all matters affecting wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and that during the term of this Agreement the Employers will not be required to negotiate on any further matters affecting these or other subjects not specifically set forth in this Agreement. Anything not contained in this Agreement shall not be construed as being part of this Agreement. All past port practices being observed may be reduced to writing in each port.” App. 45a—46a.

Finally, Clause 17 of the CBA states : “It is the intention and purpose of all parties hereto that no provision or part of this Agreement shall be violative of any Federal or State Law.” App. 47a.

 Wright was also subject to the Longshore Seniority Plan, which contained its own grievance provision, reading as follows : “Any dispute concerning or arising out of the terms and/or conditions of this Agreement, or dispute involving the interpretation or application of this Agreement, or dispute arising out of any rule adopted for its implementation, shall be referred to the Seniority Board.” App. 48a. The Seniority Board is equally divided between labor and management representatives. If the board reaches agreement by majority vote, then that determination is final and binding. If the board cannot resolve the dispute, then the Union and the SCSA each choose
a person, and this “Committee of two” makes a final

 On February 18, 1992, while Wright was working for respondent Stevens Shipping and Terminal Company (Stevens), he injured his right heel and his back. He sought compensation from Stevens for permanent disability under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, 44 Stat. 1424, as amended, 33 U.S.C. § 901 et seq., and ultimately settled the claim for $250,000 and $10,000 in attorney’s fees. Wright was also awarded Social Security disability benefits.

 In January 1995 Wright returned to the Union hiring hall and asked to be referred for work. (At some point he obtained a written note from his doctor approving such activity.) Between January 2 and January 11, Wright worked for four stevedoring companies, none of which complained about his performance. When, however, the stevedoring companies realized that Wright had previously settled a claim for permanent disability, they informed the Union that they would not accept Wright for employment, because a person certified as permanently disabled (which they regarded Wright to be) is not qualified to perform longshore work under the CBA. The Union responded that the employers had misconstrued the CBA, suggested that the ADA entitled Wright to return to work if he could perform his duties, and asserted that refusing Wright employment would constitute a “lock-out” in violation of the CBA.

 When Wright found out that the stevedoring companies would no longer accept him for employment, he contacted the Union to ask how he could get back to work. Wright claims that instead of suggesting the filing of a grievance, the Union told him to obtain counsel and file a claim under the ADA. Wright hired an attorney and eventually filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the South Carolina State Human Affairs Commission, alleging that the stevedoring companies and the SCSA had violated the ADA by refusing him work. In October 1995, Wright received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC.

 In January 1996, Wright filed a complaint against the SCSA and six individual stevedoring companies in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. Respondents’ answer asserted various affirmative defenses, including Wright’s failure to exhaust his remedies under the CBA and the Seniority Plan. After discovery, respondents moved for summary judgment and Wright moved for partial summary judgment with respect to some of respondents’ defenses. A Magistrate Judge recommended that the District Court dismiss the case without prejudice because Wright had failed to pursue the grievance procedure provided by the CBA. The District Court adopted the report and recommendation and subsequently rejected Wright’s motion for reconsideration. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed, see No. 96—2850 (July 29, 1997), judgt. order reported at 121 F.3d 702, relying upon its earlier decision in Austin v. Owens-Brockway Glass Container, Inc., 78 F.3d 875, cert. denied, 519 U.S. 980 (1996), which in turn had relied upon our decision in Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20 (1991). We granted certiorari, 522 U.S. ___ (1998).


 In this case, the Fourth Circuit concluded that the general arbitration provision in the CBA governing Wright’s employment was sufficiently broad to encompass a statutory claim arising under the ADA, and that such a provision was enforceable. The latter conclusion brings into question two lines of our case law. The first is represented by Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36 (1974), which held that an employee does not forfeit his right to a judicial forum for claimed discriminatory discharge in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., if “he first pursues his grievance to final arbitration under the nondiscrimination clause of a collective-bargaining agreement.” 415 U.S., at 49. In rejecting the argument that the doctrine of election of remedies barred the Title VII lawsuit, we reasoned that a grievance is designed to vindicate a “contractual right” under a CBA, while a lawsuit under Title VII asserts “independent statutory rights accorded by Congress.” Id., at 49—50. The statutory cause of action was not waived by the union’s agreement to the arbitration provision of the CBA, since “there can be no prospective waiver of an employee’s rights under Title VII.” Id., at 51. We have followed the holding of Gardner-Denver in deciding the effect of CBA arbitration upon employee claims under other statutes. See McDonald v. West Branch, 466 U.S. 284 (1984) (claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983) ; Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight System, Inc., 450 U.S. 728 (1981) (claim under Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.).

 The second line of cases implicated here is represented by Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., supra, which held that a claim brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 81 Stat. 602, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., could be subject to compulsory arbitration pursuant to an arbitration provision in a securities registration form. Relying upon the federal policy favoring arbitration embodied in the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., we said that “statutory claims may be the subject of an arbitration agreement, enforceable pursuant to the FAA.” 500 U.S., at 26 (citing Rodriguez de Quijas v. Shearson/American Express, Inc., 490 U.S. 477 (1989) ; Shearson/American Express, Inc. v. McMahon, 482 U.S. 220 (1987) ; Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614 (1985)).

 There is obviously some tension between these two lines of cases. Whereas Gardner-Denver stated that “an employee’s rights under Title VII are not susceptible of prospective waiver,” 415 U.S., at 51—52, Gilmer held that the right to a federal judicial forum for an ADEA claim could be waived. Petitioner and the United States as amicus would have us reconcile the lines of authority by maintaining that federal forum rights cannot be waived in union-negotiated CBAs even if they can be waived in individually executed contracts–a distinction that assuredly finds support in the text of Gilmer, see 500 U.S., at 26, 35. Respondents and their amici, on the other hand, contend that the real difference between Gardner-Denver and Gilmer is the radical change, over two decades, in the Court’s receptivity to arbitration, leading Gilmer to affirm that “questions of arbitrability must be addressed with a healthy regard for the federal policy favoring arbitration,” 500 U.S., at 26 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) ; Gilmer, they argue, has sufficiently undermined Gardner-Denver that a union can waive employees’ rights to a judicial forum. Although, as will appear, we find Gardner-Denver and Gilmer relevant for various purposes to the case before us, we find it unnecessary to resolve the question of the validity of a union-negotiated waiver, since it is apparent to us, on the facts and arguments presented here, that no such waiver has occurred.


 In asserting the existence of an agreement to arbitrate the ADA claim, respondents rely upon the presumption of arbitrability this Court has found in §301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947 (LMRA), 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C. § 185.1 See generally Steelworkers v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593 (1960) ; Steelworkers v. American Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564 (1960) ; Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Nav. Co., 363 U.S. 574 (1960). In collective bargaining agreements, we have said, “there is a presumption of arbitrability in the sense that ‘[a]n order to arbitrate the particular grievance should not be denied unless it may be said with positive assurance that the arbitration clause is not susceptible of an interpretation that covers the asserted dispute.’ AT&T Technologies, Inc. v. Communications Workers, 475 U.S. 643, 650 (1986) (quoting Warrior & Gulf, supra, at 582—583).

 That presumption, however, does not extend beyond the reach of the principal rationale that justifies it, which is that arbitrators are in a better position than courts to interpret the terms of a CBA. See AT&T Technologies, supra, at 650 ; Warrior & Gulf, supra, at 581—582. This rationale finds support in the very text of the LMRA, which announces that “[f]inal adjustment by a method agreed upon by the parties is declared to be the desirable method for settlement of grievance disputes arising over the application or interpretation of an existing collective bargaining agreement.” 29 U.S.C. § 173(d) (emphasis added). The dispute in the present case, however, ultimately concerns not the application or interpretation of any CBA, but the meaning of a federal statute. The cause of action Wright asserts arises not out of contract, but out of the ADA, and is distinct from any right conferred by the collective-bargaining agreement. See Gilmer, supra, at 34 ; Barrentine, 450 U.S., at 737 ; Gardner-Denver, 415 U.S., at 49—50. To be sure, respondents argue that Wright is not qualified for his position as the CBA requires, but even if that were true he would still prevail if the refusal to hire violated the ADA.

 Nor is the statutory (as opposed to contractual) focus of the claim altered by the fact that Clause 17 of the CBA recites it to be “the intention and purpose of all parties hereto that no provision or part of this Agreement shall be violative of any Federal or State Law.” App. 47a. As we discuss below in Part IV, this does not incorporate the ADA by reference. Even if it did so, however–thereby creating a contractual right that is coextensive with the federal statutory right–the ultimate question for the arbitrator would be not what the parties have agreed to, but what federal law requires ; and that is not a question which should be presumed to be included within the arbitration requirement. Application of that principle is unaffected by the fact that the CBA in this case, unlike the one in Gardner-Denver, does not expressly limit the arbitrator to interpreting and applying the contract. The presumption only extends that far, whether or not the text of the agreement is similarly limited. It may well be that ordinary textual analysis of a CBA will show that matters which go beyond the interpretation and application of contract terms are subject to arbitration ; but they will not be presumed to be so.


 Not only is petitioner’s statutory claim not subject to a presumption of arbitrability ; we think any CBA requirement to arbitrate it must be particularly clear. In Metropolitan Edison Co. v. NLRB, 460 U.S. 693 (1983), we stated that a union could waive its officers’ statutory right under §8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(3), to be free of antiunion discrimination, but we held that such a waiver must be clear and unmistakable. “[W]e will not infer from a general contractual provision that the parties intended to waive a statutorily protected right unless the undertaking is ‘explicitly stated.’ More succinctly, the waiver must be clear and unmistakable.” 460 U.S., at 708 ; see also Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 125 (1994) (dictum) ; Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 409, n. 9 (1988) (dictum) ; cf. Mastro Plastics Corp. v. NLRB, 350 U.S. 270, 283 (1956).

 We think the same standard applicable to a union-negotiated waiver of employees’ statutory right to a judicial forum for claims of employment discrimination. Although that is not a substantive right, see Gilmer, 500 U.S., at 26, and whether or not Gardner-Denver’s seemingly absolute prohibition of union waiver of employees’ federal forum rights survives Gilmer, Gardner-Denver at least stands for the proposition that the right to a federal judicial forum is of sufficient importance to be protected against less-than-explicit union waiver in a CBA. The CBA in this case does not meet that standard. Its arbitration clause is very general, providing for arbitration of “[m]atters under dispute,” App. 43a–which could be understood to mean matters in dispute under the contract. And the remainder of the contract contains no explicit incorporation of statutory antidiscrimination requirements. (Indeed, it does not even contain, as did the CBAs in Austin and Gardner-Denver, its own specific antidiscrimination provision.) The Fourth Circuit relied upon the fact that the equivalently broad arbitration clause in Gilmer–applying to “any dispute, claim or controversy”–was held to embrace federal statutory claims. But Gilmer involved an individual’s waiver of his own rights, rather than a union’s waiver of the rights of represented employees–and hence the “clear and unmistakable” standard was not applicable.

 Respondents rely upon Clause 15(F) of the CBA, which states that “this Agreement is intended to cover all matters affecting wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.” App. 45a—46a. But even if this could, in isolation, be considered a clear and unmistakable incorporation of employment-discrimination laws (which is doubtful), it is surely deprived of that effect by the provision, later in the same paragraph, that “[a]nything not contained in this Agreement shall not be construed as being part of this Agreement.” App. 46a. Respondents also rely upon Clause 17 of the CBA, which states that “[i]t is the intention and purpose of all parties hereto that no provision or part of this Agreement shall be violative of any Federal or State Law.” App. 47a. They argue that this requires the arbitrator to “apply legal definitions derived from the ADA” in determining whether Wright is “qualified” for employment within the meaning of the CBA. Brief for Respondents 39. Perhaps so, but that is not the same as making compliance with the ADA a contractual commitment that would be subject to the arbitration clause. This becomes crystal clear when one contrasts Clause 17 with the provision of the CBA which states that “[t]he requirements of the Occupations [sic] Safety and Health Administration shall be binding on both Parties.” App. 46a. (Under respondents’ interpretation of Clause 17, this OSHA provision would be superfluous.) Clause 17 seems to us nothing more than a recitation of the canon of construction which would in any event have been applied to the CBA–that an agreement should be interpreted in such fashion as to preserve, rather than destroy, its validity (ut res magis valeat quam pereat).

 Finally, we do not find a clear and unmistakable waiver in the Longshore Seniority Plan. Like the CBA itself, the Plan contains no antidiscrimination provision ; and it specifically limits its grievance procedure to disputes related to the agreement.2

* * *

 We hold that the collective-bargaining agreement in this case does not contain a clear and unmistakable waiver of the covered employees’ rights to a judicial forum for federal claims of employment discrimination. We do not reach the question whether such a waiver would be enforceable. The judgment of the Fourth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.


1. We have also discerned a presumption of arbitrability under the FAA, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. See Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 626 (1985). Petitioner argued that the FAA does not apply to this case, see Brief for Petitioner 43—44, and asserted that respondents “have not argued at any stage of this case that the F.A.A. applies,” id., at 43. Respondents did not dispute the latter assertion, nor did they argue the applicability of the FAA before us ; rather, they contended that it makes no difference whether the FAA applies, since the FAA presumption and the LMRA presumption are the same, see Brief for Respondents 12 ; Tr. of Oral Arg. 42—43. Finally, the Fourth Circuit, while it cited an FAA case, Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Constr. Co., 460 U.S. 1, 24—25 (1983), did not explicitly rely upon the FAA–presumably because it has held elsewhere that the FAA does not apply to CBAs, see Austin v. Owens-Brockway Glass Container, Inc., 78 F.3d 875, 879 (CA4), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 980 (1996). In these circumstances, we decline to consider the applicability of the FAA to the present case.

2. Respondents and some of their amici rely upon the provision in the ADA which states that “[w]here appropriate and to the extent authorized by law, the use of alternative means of dispute resolution, including … arbitration, is encouraged to resolve disputes arising under this chapter.” 42 U.S.C. § 12212. They rely upon it principally in connection with the question whether, under Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20 (1991), a predispute agreement in a CBA to arbitrate employment-discrimination claims is enforceable–a question we do not reach. Our conclusion that a union waiver of employee rights to a federal judicial forum for employment discrimination claims must be clear and unmistakable means that, absent a clear waiver, it is not “appropriate,” within the meaning of this provision of the ADA, to find an agreement to arbitrate. We take no position, however, on the effect of this provision in cases where a CBA clearly encompasses employment discrimination claims, or in areas outside collective bargaining.

US Supreme Court, Lechmere Inc. v. NLRB, 1992

JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court. This case requires us to clarify the relationship between the rights of employees under 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, 49 Stat. 452, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 157, and the property rights of their employers. I This case stems from the efforts of Local 919 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, AFL-CIO, to organize employees at a retail store in Newington, Connecticut, owned and operated by petitioner Lechmere, Inc. The store is located in the Lechmere Shopping Plaza, which occupies a roughly rectangular tract measuring approximately 880 feet from north to south and 740 feet from east to west. Lechmere’s store is situated at the Plaza’s south end, with the main parking lot to its north. A strip of 13 smaller "satellite stores" not owned by Lechmere runs along the west side of the Plaza, facing the parking lot. To the Plaza’s east (where the main entrance is located) runs the Berlin Turnpike, a four-lane divided highway. The parking lot, however, does not abut the Turnpike ; they are separated by a 46-foot-wide grassy strip, broken only by the Plaza’s entrance. The parking lot is owned jointly by Lechmere and the developer of the satellite stores. The grassy strip is public property (except for a four-foot-wide band adjoining the parking lot, which belongs to Lechmere).

The union began its campaign to organize the store’s 200 employees, none of whom was represented by a union, in June, 1987. After a full-page advertisement in a local newspaper drew little response, nonemployee union organizers entered Lechmere’s parking lot and began placing handbills on the windshields of cars parked in a corner of the lot used mostly by employees. Lechmere’s manager immediately [502 U.S. 527, 530] confronted the organizers, informed them that Lechmere prohibited solicitation or handbill distribution of any kind on its property, 1 and asked them to leave. They did so, and Lechmere personnel removed the handbills. The union organizers renewed this handbilling effort in the parking lot on several subsequent occasions ; each time they were asked to leave, and the handbills were removed. The organizers then relocated to the public grassy strip, from where they attempted to pass out handbills to cars entering the lot during hours (before opening and after closing) when the drivers were assumed to be primarily store employees. For one month, the union organizers returned daily to the grassy strip to picket Lechmere ; after that, they picketed intermittently for another six months. They also recorded the license plate numbers of cars parked in the employee parking area ; with the cooperation of the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, they thus secured the names and addresses of some 41 nonsupervisory employees (roughly 20 of the store’s total). The union sent four mailings to these employees ; it also made some attempts to contact them by phone or home visits. These mailings and visits resulted in one signed union authorization card. [502 U.S. 527, 531]

Alleging that Lechmere had violated the National Labor Relations Act by barring the nonemployee organizers from its property, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge with respondent National Labor Relations Board (Board). Applying the criteria set forth by the Board in Fairmont Hotel Co., 282 N.L.R.B. 139 (1986), an administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled in the union’s favor. 295 N.L.R.B. No. 15, ALJ slip op. (1988). He recommended that Lechmere be ordered, among other things, to cease and desist from barring the union organizers from the parking lot and to post in conspicuous places in the store signs proclaiming in part :

"WE WILL NOT prohibit representatives of Local 919, United Food and Commercial Workers, AFL-CIO ("the Union") or any other labor organization, from distributing union literature to our employees in the parking lot adjacent to our store in Newington, Connecticut, nor will we attempt to cause them to be removed from our parking lot for attempting to do so." Id. App. to ALJ slip op. The Board affirmed the ALJ’s judgment and adopted the recommended order, applying the analysis set forth in its opinion in Jean Country, 291 N.L.R.B. 11 (1988), which had by then replaced the short-lived Fairmont Hotel approach. 295 N.L.R.B. No. 15, Board slip op. A divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit denied Lechmere’s petition for review and enforced the Board’s order. 914 F.2d 313 (1990). This Court granted certiorari, 499 U.S. 918 (1991). II A Section 7 of the NLRA provides in relevant part that "[e]mployees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations." 29 U.S.C. 157. Section 8(a)(1) of the Act, in turn, makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer "to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed in [502 U.S. 527, 532] [ 7]." 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1). By its plain terms, thus, the NLRA confers rights only on employees, not on unions or their nonemployee organizers. In NLRB v. Babcock & Wilcox Co., 351 U.S. 105 (1956), however, we recognized that insofar as the employees’ "right of self-organization depends in some measure on [their] ability . . . to learn the advantages of self-organization from others," id., at 113, 7 of the NLRA may, in certain limited circumstances, restrict an employer’s right to exclude nonemployee union organizers from his property. It is the nature of those circumstances that we explore today.

Babcock arose out of union attempts to organize employees at a factory located on an isolated 100-acre tract. The company had a policy against solicitation and distribution of literature on its property, which it enforced against all groups. About 40% of the company’s employees lived in a town of some 21,000 persons near the factory ; the remainder were scattered over a 30-mile radius. Almost all employees drove to work in private cars and parked in a company lot that adjoined the fenced-in plant area. The parking lot could be reached only by a 100-yard-long driveway connecting it to a public highway. This driveway was mostly on company-owned land, except where it crossed a 31-foot-wide public right-of-way adjoining the highway. Union organizers attempted to distribute literature from this right-of-way. The union also secured the names and addresses of some 100 employees (20% of the total), and sent them three mailings. Still other employees were contacted by telephone or home visit.

The union successfully challenged the company’s refusal to allow nonemployee organizers onto its property before the Board. While acknowledging that there were alternative, nontrespassory means whereby the union could communicate with employees, the Board held that contact at the workplace was preferable. The Babcock & Wilcox Co., 109 N.L.R.B. 485, 493-494 (1954). "[T]he right to distribute is not [502 U.S. 527, 533] absolute, but must be accommodated to the circumstances. Where it is impossible or unreasonably difficult for a union to distribute organizational literature to employees entirely off of the employer’s premises, distribution on a nonworking area, such as the parking lot and the walkways between the parking lot and the gate, may be warranted." Id., at 493. Concluding that traffic on the highway made it unsafe for the union organizers to distribute leaflets from the right-of-way, and that contacts through the mails, on the streets, at employees’ homes, and over the telephone would be ineffective, the Board ordered the company to allow the organizers to distribute literature on its parking lot and exterior walkways. Id., at 486-487.

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit refused to enforce the Board’s order, NLRB v. Babcock & Wilcox Co., 222 F.2d 316, and this Court affirmed. While recognizing that "the Board has a responsibility of `applying the Act’s general prohibitory language in the light of the infinite combinations of events which might be charged as violative of the terms,’" 351 U.S., at 111 -112, (quoting NLRB v. Stowe Spinning Co., 336 U.S. 226, 231 (1949)), we explained that the Board had erred by failing to make the critical distinction between the organizing activities of employees (to whom 7 applies only derivatively). Thus, while "[n]o restriction may be placed on the employees’ right to discuss self-organization among themselves, unless the employer can demonstrate that a restriction is necessary to maintain production or discipline," 351 U.S., at 113 (emphasis added) (citing Republic Aviation Corp. v. NLRB, 324 U.S. 793, 803 (1945)), "no such obligation is owed nonemployee organizers," 351 U.S., at 113 . As a rule, then, an employer cannot be compelled to allow distribution of union literature by nonemployee organizers on his property. As with many other rules, however, we recognized an exception. Where "the location of a plant and the living quarters of the [502 U.S. 527, 534] employees place the employees beyond the reach of reasonable union efforts to communicate with them," ibid., employers’ property rights may be "required to yield to the extent needed to permit communication of information on the right to organize," id., at 112.

Although we have not had occasion to apply Babcock’s analysis in the ensuing decades, we have described it in cases arising in related contexts. Two such cases, Central Hardware Co. v. NLRB, 407 U.S. 539 (1972), and Hudgens v. NLRB, 424 U.S. 507 (1976), involved activity by union supporters on employer-owned property. The principal issue in both cases was whether, based upon Food Employees v. Logan Valley Plaza, Inc., 391 U.S. 308 (1968), the First Amendment protected such activities. In both cases, we rejected the First Amendment claims, and in Hudgens, we made it clear that Logan Valley was overruled. Having decided the cases on constitutional grounds, we remanded them to the Board for consideration of the union supporters’ 7 claims under Babcock. In both cases, we quoted approvingly Babcock’s admonition that accommodation between employees’ 7 rights and employers’ property rights "must be obtained with as little destruction of the one as is consistent with the maintenance of the other," 351 U.S., at 112 . See Central Hardware, supra, at 544 ; Hudgens, supra, at 521, 522. There is no hint in Hudgens and Central Hardware, however, that our invocation of Babcock’s language of "accommodation" was intended to repudiate or modify Babcock’s holding that an employer need not accommodate nonemployee organizers unless the employees are otherwise inaccessible. Indeed, in Central Hardware, we expressly noted that nonemployee organizers cannot claim even a limited right of access to a nonconsenting employer’s property until "[a]fter the requisite need for access to the employer’s property has been shown." 407 U.S., at 545 .

If there was any question whether Central Hardware and Hudgens changed 7 law, it should have been laid to rest by [502 U.S. 527, 535] Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. San Diego County District Council of Carpenters, 209 U.S. 180 (1978). As in Central Hardware and Hudgens, the substantive 7 issue in Sears was a subsidiary one ; the case’s primary focus was on the circumstances under which the NLRA preempts state law. Among other things, we held in Sears that arguable 7 claims to not preempt state trespass law, in large part because the trespasses of nonemployee union organizers are "far more likely to be unprotected than protected," 436 U.S., at 205 ; permitting state courts to evaluate such claims, therefore, does not "create an unacceptable risk of interference with conduct which the Board, and a court reviewing the Board’s decision, would find protected," ibid. This holding was based upon the following interpretation of Babcock :

"While Babcock indicates that an employer may not always bar nonemployee union organizers from his property, his right to do so remains the general rule. To gain access, the union has the burden of showing that no other reasonable means of communicating its organizational message to the employees exists or that the employer’s access rules discriminate against union solicitation. That the burden imposed on the union is a heavy one is evidenced by the fact that the balance struck by the Board and the courts under the Babcock accommodation principle has rarely been in favor of trespassory organizational activity." 436 U.S., at 205 (emphasis added ; footnotes omitted). We further noted that, in practice, nonemployee organizational trespassing had generally been prohibited except where "unique obstacles" prevented nontrespassory methods of communication with the employees. Id., at 205-206, n. 41. B Jean Country, as noted above, represents the Board’s latest attempt to implement the rights guaranteed by 7. It sets forth a three-factor balancing test : [502 U.S. 527, 536]

"[I]n all access cases, our essential concern will be 1. the degree of impairment of the Section 7 right if access should be denied, as it balances against 2. the degree of impairment of the private property right if access should be granted. We view the consideration of 3. the availability of reasonably effective alternative means as especially significant in this balancing process." 291 N.L.R.B., at 14. The Board conceded that this analysis was unlikely to foster certainty and predictability in this corner of the law, but declared that, "as with other legal questions involving multiple factors, the `nature of the problem, as revealed by unfolding variant situations, inevitably involves an evolutionary process for its rational response, not a quick, definitive formula as a comprehensive answer.’" Ibid. (quoting Electrical Workers v. NLRB, 366 U.S. 667, 674 (1961)). Citing its role "as the agency with responsibility for implementing national labor policy," the Board maintains in this case that Jean Country is a reasonable interpretation of the NLRA entitled to judicial deference. Brief for Respondent 18, and n. 8 ; Tr. of Oral Arg. 22. It is certainly true, and we have long recognized, that the Board has the "special function of applying the general provisions of the Act to the complexities of industrial life." NLRB v. Erie Resistor Corp., 373 U.S. 221, 236 (1963) ; see also Phelps Dodge Corp. v. NLRB, 313 U.S. 177, 196 -197 (1941). Like other administrative agencies, the NLRB is entitled to judicial deference when it interprets an ambiguous provision of a statute that it administers. See, e.g., NLRB v. Food & Commercial Workers, 484 U.S. 112, 123 (1987) ; cf. Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842 -843 (1984).

Before we reach any issue of deference to the Board, however, we must first determine whether Jean Country - at least as applied to nonemployee organizational trespassing - is consistent with our past interpretation of 7. "Once we [502 U.S. 527, 537] 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 common sense 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. [502 U.S. 527, 538]

Jean Country, which applies broadly to "all access cases," 291 N.L.R.B., at 14, misapprehends this critical point. Its principal inspiration derives not from Babcock, but from the following sentence in Hudgens : "[T]he locus of th[e] accommodation [between 7 rights and private property rights] may fall at differing points along the spectrum depending on the nature and strength of the respective 7 rights and private property rights asserted in any given context." 424 U.S., at 522 . From this sentence, the Board concluded that it was appropriate to approach every case by balancing 7 rights against property rights, with alternative means of access thrown in as nothing more than an "especially significant" consideration. As explained above, however, Hudgens did not purport to modify Babcock, much less to alter it fundamentally in the way Jean Country suggests. To say that our cases require accommodation between employees’ and employers’ rights is a true but incomplete statement, for the cases also go far in establishing the locus of that accommodation where nonemployee organizing is at issue. So long as nonemployee union organizers have reasonable access to employees outside an employer’s property, the requisite accommodation has taken place. It is only where such access is infeasible that it becomes necessary and proper to take the accommodation inquiry to a second level, balancing the employees’ and employers’ rights as described in the Hudgens dictum. See Sears, 436 U.S., at 205 ; Central Hardware, 407 U.S., at 545 . At least as applied to nonemployees, Jean Country impermissibly conflates these two stages of the inquiry - thereby significantly eroding Babcock’s general rule that "an employer may validly post his property against nonemployee distribution of union literature," 351 U.S., at 112 . We reaffirm that general rule today, and reject the Board’s attempt to recast it as a multifactor balancing test. [502 U.S. 527, 539]

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 [Lechmere’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 26 [502 U.S. 527, 540] (CA2 1967). Babcock’s exception was crafted precisely to protect the 7 rights of those employees who, by virtue of their employment, are isolated from the ordinary flow of information that characterizes our society. The union’s burden of establishing such isolation is, as we have explained, "a heavy one," Sears, supra, at 205, and one not satisfied by mere conjecture or the expression of doubts concerning the effectiveness of nontrespassory means of communication.

The Board’s conclusion in this case that the union had no reasonable means short of trespass to make Lechmere’s employees aware of its organizational efforts is based on a misunderstanding of the limited scope of this exception. Because the employees do not reside on Lechmere’s property, they are presumptively not "beyond the reach," Babcock, 351 U.S., at 113 , of the union’s message. Although the employees live in a large metropolitan area (Greater Hartford), that fact does not in itself render them "inaccessible" in the sense contemplated by Babcock. See Monogram Models, Inc., 192 N.L.R.B. 705, 706 (1971). Their accessibility is suggested by the union’s success in contacting a substantial percentage of them directly, via mailings, phone calls, and home visits. Such direct contact, of course, is not a necessary element of "reasonably effective" communication ; signs or advertising also may suffice. In this case, the union tried advertising in local newspapers ; the Board said that this was not reasonably effective, because it was expensive and might not reach the employees. 295 N.L.R.B., at 93. Whatever the merits of that conclusion, other alternative means of communication were readily available. Thus, signs (displayed, for example, from the public grassy strip adjoining Lechmere’s parking lot) would have informed the employees about the union’s organizational efforts. (Indeed, union organizers picketed the shopping center’s main entrance for months as employees came and went every day.) Access to employees, not success in winning them over, is the critical issue - although success, or lack thereof, may be relevant in determining [502 U.S. 527, 541] whether reasonable access exists. Because the union in this case failed to establish the existence of any "unique obstacles," Sears, 436 U.S., at 205 -206, n. 41, that frustrated access to Lechmere’s employees, the Board erred in concluding that Lechmere committed an unfair labor practice by barring the nonemployee organizers from its property.

The judgment of the First Circuit is therefore reversed, and enforcement of the Board’s order denied.

US Supreme Court, Metropolitan Edison Co v. NLRB, 1983

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Donald F. Sileo argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs was Anthony A. DeSabato.

Norton J. Come argued the cause for respondent National Labor Relations Board. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Lee, Deputy Solicitor General Wallace, Jerrold J. Ganzfried, Robert E. Allen, Linda Sher, and Elinor Hadley Stillman. Laurence J. Cohen argued the cause for respondent [460 U.S. 693, 695] Local Union 563, IBEW. With him on the brief were Richard Kirschner, Marsha Berzon, and Laurence Gold. *

[ Footnote * ] Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed by Peter D. Walther, Mark M. Wilcox, and Stephen A. Bokat for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States ; by Lawrence T. Zimmerman, Steven R. Semler, and Robert L. Baum for the Edison Electric Institute ; and by Mallory Erle Phillips, Jr., and Mark E. Edwards for Miller Brewing Co.

JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issue is whether an employer may discipline union officials more severely than other union employees for participating in an unlawful work stoppage.

I Metropolitan Edison Company began construction of a two-unit nuclear generating station at Three Mile Island in 1968. Over half of its employees were represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Article XI of the collective-bargaining agreement between the company and the union provided :

"The Brotherhood and its members agree that during the term of this agreement there shall be no strikes or walkouts by the Brotherhood or its members, and the Company agrees that there shall be no lockouts of the Brotherhood or its members, it being the desire of both parties to provide uninterrupted and continuous service to the public." App. to Pet. for Cert. A-32. Despite this no-strike clause, union members participated in four unlawful work stoppages between 1970 and 1974. 1 On each occasion the company disciplined the local union officials more severely than the other participants. Twice the union filed a grievance because of the disparate treatment accorded [460 U.S. 693, 696] its officials, and in both cases the arbitrators upheld the company’s actions. 2 They found that union officials have an affirmative duty to uphold the bargaining agreement. The breach of that duty justified the company’s imposition of more severe sanctions. On August 30, 1977, an unrelated union, the Operating Engineers, set up an informational picket line at the entrance to the Three Mile Island construction site. When members of the Electrical Workers union refused to cross the picket line, company officials spoke to David Lang, the local union president. They told him that he had a duty as a union official to ensure that the Electrical Workers’ members complied with the no-strike clause. It was the company’s view that Lang could fulfill this duty only by crossing the picket line and thereby inducing other employees to follow.

Although instructed repeatedly to cross the line, Lang declined to do so. He was aware that the other employees were unlikely to follow him and sought instead to learn the cause of the picket line. On being told that the line would not be removed unless the Operating Engineers’ business agent ordered it, Lang attempted to reach him. He also directed Gene Light, the Electrical Workers’ vice president, to [460 U.S. 693, 697] continue his efforts to persuade the pickets to remove their line. After approximately four hours, Light and Lang were able to negotiate a settlement between the Operating Engineers and Metropolitan Edison. The settlement required the company to establish a separate entrance to the construction site. When this was done, the picket line came down and the union’s members returned to work.

Metropolitan Edison disciplined all of its employees who refused to cross the picket line by imposing 5- to 10-day suspensions. Light and Lang, however, each received 25-day suspensions and were warned that future participation in any unlawful work stoppage would result in their immediate discharge. The company explained that the additional penalty was imposed because of their failure as union officials to make "every bona fide effort to prevent the unlawful work stoppage," specifically their failure to attempt to end the strike by crossing the picket line. 3

The union filed an unfair labor practice charge, and the Regional Director for the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against the company. The Administrative Law Judge concluded that under Precision Castings Co., 233 N. L. R. B. 183 (1977), selective discipline of union officials violated 8(a)(1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act, 61 Stat. 140, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1) and [460 U.S. 693, 698] (3). 4 The Board affirmed the Administrative Law Judge’s conclusions and findings. Metropolitan Edison Co., 252 N. L. R. B. 1030 (1980).

On petition for review and cross-petition for enforcement, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit enforced the Board’s order. 663 F.2d 478, 484 (1981). It held that an employer may impose greater discipline on union officials only when the collective-bargaining agreement specifies that the officials have an affirmative duty to prevent illegal work stoppages. Id., at 482. If the agreement does not provide for such a duty, any disparate treatment of union officials violates 8(a)(3). The court reasoned that in the absence of a clear contractual duty, requiring a union official to take affirmative steps to end an illegal work stoppage would place him in an intolerable position. If he failed to follow the company’s directions, he would place his job in jeopardy. If he complied with the company’s demands and crossed the picket line, he would lose the respect and support of the union members. Id., at 482-483.

The Court of Appeals rejected the company’s argument that the two earlier arbitration awards were sufficient to impose a contractual duty on the union officials to cross the [460 U.S. 693, 699] picket line. The court held that it was not bound by these arbitration decisions in determining the extent of the officials’ contractual obligations. Id., at 483. It noted that a previous arbitration decision normally would not bind an arbitrator later construing the same collective-bargaining agreement. Absent an express contractual provision making earlier arbitration decisions binding, 5 the court declined to give these decisions any greater effect than an arbitrator would. Id., at 483-484.

We granted certiorari to consider these recurring questions of federal labor law. 457 U.S. 1116 (1982). We now affirm.

II This case does not present the question whether an employer may impose stricter penalties on union officials who take a leadership role in an unlawful strike. The Administrative Law Judge found that neither Light nor Lang acted as a strike leader. 6 Nor does this case question the employer’s right to discipline union officials who engage in unprotected activity. Neither the union nor the Board has argued that union officials who fail to honor a no-strike clause are immunized from being disciplined in the same manner as [460 U.S. 693, 700] other strike participants. The narrow question presented is whether an employer unilaterally may define the actions a union official is required to take to enforce a no-strike clause and penalize him for his failure to comply.

Metropolitan Edison advances two arguments to justify the additional sanctions it imposed on Light and Lang. It contends first that its actions did not violate 8(a)(3) because a union official has a duty to ensure compliance with the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement. Breach of this duty justifies the imposition of an additional penalty on union officials. Alternatively, the company contends that a union in effect may waive any statutory protection that otherwise would be accorded its officials by agreeing that they will undertake specific action to assure compliance with the no-strike clause. In this case, the arbitration awards and the union’s acquiescence in the harsher sanctions imposed on its officials are sufficient to establish a clear contractual duty. We examine these arguments in turn.

A Section 8(a)(3) makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer "by discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization." 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(3). By its terms, the statute requires proof that disparate treatment has been accorded union members and that the employer’s action is likely to discourage participation in union activities. See NLRB v. Brown, 380 U.S. 278, 286 (1965). Congress, however, did not intend to make unlawful all acts that might have the effect of discouraging union membership. See American Ship Building Co. v. NLRB, 380 U.S. 300, 311 (1965). Rather, the intention was to forbid only those acts that are motivated by an antiunion animus. See, e. g., NLRB v. Great Dane Trailers, Inc., 388 U.S. 26, 33 (1967) ; NLRB v. Brown, supra, at 286-287. [460 U.S. 693, 701]

In determining whether Metropolitan Edison’s conduct constitutes a 8(a)(3) violation, we are guided by well-established precedent. Where there is direct evidence of an employer’s antiunion motive, the Court has recognized that otherwise legitimate actions may constitute unfair labor practices. 7 See NLRB v. Erie Resistor Corp., 373 U.S. 221, 227 (1963). Where, as here, there is only circumstantial evidence of intent to discriminate, identification of a 8(a)(3) violation involves a more difficult inquiry. Intent must be inferred from conduct. But an employer may take actions in the course of a labor dispute that present a possible complex of motives, see id., at 228, and it is often difficult to identify the true motive.

In these situations, the Court has divided an employer’s conduct into two classes. See NLRB v. Great Dane Trailers, Inc., 388 U.S., at 33 -34. Some conduct is so "`inherently destructive of employee interests’" that it carries with it a strong inference of impermissible motive. See id., at 33 (quoting NLRB v. Brown, supra, at 287). In such a situation, even if an employer comes forward with a nondiscriminatory explanation for its actions, the Board "may nevertheless draw an inference of improper motive from the conduct itself and exercise its duty to strike the proper balance between the asserted business justifications and the invasion of employee rights in light of the Act and its policy." 388 U.S., at 33 -34. On the other hand, if the adverse effect of the discriminatory conduct on employee rights is "`comparatively slight,’ an antiunion motivation must be proved to sustain the charge if the employer has come forward with evidence of legitimate and substantial business justifications for the conduct." Id., at 34 (emphasis in original). Congress [460 U.S. 693, 702] has entrusted this determination in the first instance to the Board, see NLRB v. Erie Resistor Corp., supra, at 236, and we turn now to its decisions.

B The Board has found that disciplining union officials more severely than other employees for participating in an unlawful work stoppage "is contrary to the plain meaning of Section 8(a)(3) and would frustrate the policies of the Act if allowed to stand." Precision Castings Co., 233 N. L. R. B., at 184. 8 This conduct, in the Board’s view, is "inherently destructive" of protected individual rights because it discriminates solely on the basis of union status. See Consolidation Coal Co., 263 N. L. R. B. 1306 (1982) ; Indiana & Michigan Electric Co., 237 N. L. R. B. 226 (1978), enf. denied, 599 F.2d 227 (CA7 1979). The Board has concluded that an employer’s contractual right to be free of unauthorized strikes does not counterbalance the "discriminatory effects of singling out union officers for especially harsh treatment." Consolidation Coal Co., 263 N. L. R. B., at 1309. Disciplining [460 U.S. 693, 703] union officials discriminatorily may have only an indirect effect on the rank and file’s decision to strike, but it may well deter qualified employees from seeking union office. See ibid.

We defer to the Board’s conclusion that conduct such as Metropolitan Edison’s adversely affects protected employee interests. Section 8(a)(3) not only proscribes discrimination that affects union membership, it also makes unlawful discrimination against employees who participate in concerted activities protected by 7 of the Act. See Radio Officers v. NLRB, 347 U.S. 17, 39 -40 (1954). Holding union office clearly falls within the activities protected by 7, see General Motors Corp., 218 N. L. R. B. 472, 477 (1975), and there can be little doubt that an employer’s unilateral imposition of discipline on union officials inhibits qualified employees from holding office, see Szewczuga v. NLRB, 222 U.S. App. D.C. 336, 347, 686 F.2d 962, 973 (1982).

Determining that such conduct adversely affects protected employee interests does not conclude the inquiry. If the employer comes forward with a legitimate explanation for its conduct, the Board must "strike the proper balance between the asserted business justifications and the invasion of employee rights." NLRB v. Great Dane Trailers, Inc., supra, at 33-34. In this case the company has argued that its actions were justified because there is an implied duty on the part of the union officials to uphold the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement. Unquestionably there is support for the proposition that union officials, as leaders of the rank and file, have a legal obligation to support the terms of the contract and to set a responsible example for their members. See Indiana & Michigan Electric Co. v. NLRB, 599 F.2d, at 230-232. And in view of the disruptive effects of wildcat strikes, the importance of ensuring compliance with no-strike clauses is self-evident. See Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerks, 398 U.S. 235, 248 -249, and n. 17 (1970) ; Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Reis, 451 U.S. 401, 418 -419 [460 U.S. 693, 704] (1981) (POWELL, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). But it does not follow that an employer may assume that a union official is required to attempt to enforce a no-strike clause by complying with the employer’s directions and impose a penalty on the official for declining to comply. As the Board has concluded, the imposition of such a penalty would violate 8(a)(3).

We think the Board’s view is consistent with the policies served by the Act. "The entire process of collective bargaining is structured and regulated on the assumption that `[t]he parties . . . proceed from contrary and to an extent antagonistic viewpoints and concepts of self-interest.’" General Building Contractors Assn. v. Pennsylvania, 458 U.S. 375, 394 (1982) (quoting NLRB v. Insurance Agents, 361 U.S. 477, 488 (1960)). Congress has sought to ensure the integrity of this process by preventing both management and labor’s representatives from being coerced in the performance of their official duties. 9 See Florida Power & Light Co. v. Electrical Workers, 417 U.S. 790, 810 -811 (1974) ; id., at 814 (WHITE, J., dissenting). Cf. 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(2) (specifying employer domination of unions as an unfair labor practice). If, as the company urges, an employer could define unilaterally [460 U.S. 693, 705] the actions that a union official is required to take, it would give the employer considerable leverage over the manner in which the official performs his union duties. Failure to comply with the employer’s directions would place the official’s job in jeopardy. But compliance might cause him to take actions that would diminish the respect and authority necessary to perform his job as a union official. This is the dilemma Congress sought to avoid. We believe the Board’s decision furthers these policies and uphold its determination.

III The company argues that even if 8(a)(3) would prohibit it from imposing a more severe penalty on union officials than on other employees, the union in effect has waived the protection afforded by the statute. The substance of this contention is that, in this case, the prior arbitration awards and the union’s acquiescence in the harsher sanctions imposed on its officials are sufficient to establish a corresponding contractual duty. We are met at the outset, however, by the union’s response that the statutory right to be free from discrimination may never be waived. We examine first the union’s argument.

A This Court long has recognized that a union may waive a member’s statutorily protected rights, including "his right to strike during the contract term, and his right to refuse to cross a lawful picket line." NLRB v. Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co., 388 U.S. 175, 180 (1967) (footnotes omitted). Such waivers are valid because they "rest on `the premise of fair representation’ and presuppose that the selection of the bargaining representative `remains free.’" NLRB v. Magnavox Co., 415 U.S. 322, 325 (1974) (quoting Mastro Plastics Corp. v. NLRB, 350 U.S. 270, 280 (1956)) ; cf. NLRB v. Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co., supra, at 180-181. Waiver should not undermine these premises. Thus a union may bargain away its members’ economic rights, but it may not surrender rights that impair the employees’ choice of [460 U.S. 693, 706] their bargaining representative. See NLRB v. Magnavox Co., supra, at 325.

We think a union’s decision to bind its officials to take affirmative steps to end an unlawful work stoppage is consistent with "the premise of fair representation." 10 Such a waiver imposes no constraints on the employees’ ability to choose which union will represent them. Imposition of this duty is more closely related to the economic decision a union makes when it waives its members’ right to strike. It merely requires union officials to take steps that are ancillary to the union’s promise not to strike and provides the employer with an additional means of enforcing this promise.

The union argues that while a union may waive rights that are collective in nature, such as the right to strike, it may not waive individual rights, such as the right to hold union office. 11 In Ford Motor Co. v. Huffman, 345 U.S. 330 (1953), [460 U.S. 693, 707] however, the Court recognized that in securing the good of the entire bargaining unit, some differences in the treatment of individual union members might occur :

"Inevitably differences arise in the manner and degree to which the terms of any negotiated agreement affect individual employees and classes of employees. The mere existence of such differences does not make them invalid. The complete satisfaction of all who are represented is hardly to be expected. A wide range of reasonableness must be allowed a statutory bargaining representative in serving the unit it represents, subject always to complete good faith and honesty of purpose in the exercise of its discretion." Id., at 338. No-strike provisions, central to national labor policy, often have proved difficult to enforce. See Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerks, 398 U.S., at 248 -249, and n. 17 ; Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Reis, 451 U.S., at 423 -424 (POWELL, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). A union and an employer reasonably could choose to secure the integrity of a no-strike clause by requiring union officials to take affirmative steps to end unlawful work stoppages. Indeed, a union could choose to bargain away this statutory protection to secure gains it considers of more value to its members. Its decision to undertake such contractual obligations promotes labor peace and clearly falls within the range of reasonableness accorded bargaining representatives. B We consider finally whether the union waived its officials’ rights. In Mastro Plastics Corp., supra, the question was whether a general no-strike provision waived the specific right to strike over an unfair labor practice. While reserving [460 U.S. 693, 708] the question whether a union might waive this right if it were "explicitly stated," the Court determined that "there is no adequate basis for implying [the] existence [of waiver] without a more compelling expression of it than appears in . . . this contract." 350 U.S., at 283 . Thus, we will not infer from a general contractual provision that the parties intended to waive a statutorily protected right unless the undertaking is "explicitly stated." More succinctly, the waiver must be clear and unmistakable. 12

In this case, Metropolitan Edison does not contend that the general no-strike clause included in the bargaining agreement imposed any explicit duty on the union officials. Rather it argues that the union’s failure to change the relevant contractual language in the face of two prior arbitration decisions constitutes an implicit contractual waiver. Not to give these decisions any effect, the company argues, would impair the effectiveness of the dispute resolution process for which the parties bargained.

We agree that the grievance-arbitration procedure forms an integral part of the collective-bargaining process. See Clayton v. Automobile Workers, 451 U.S. 679, 686 -687 (1981) ; Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 578 (1960). And we do not doubt that prior arbitration [460 U.S. 693, 709] decisions may be relevant - both to other arbitrators and to the Board - in interpreting bargaining agreements. 13 But to waive a statutory right the duty must be established clearly and unmistakably. Where prior arbitration decisions have been inconsistent, sporadic, or ambiguous, there would be little basis for determining that the parties intended to incorporate them in subsequent agreements. Assessing the clarity with which a party’s duties have been defined of course will require consideration of the specific circumstances of each case. Cf. Carbon Fuel Co. v. Mine Workers, 444 U.S. 212, 221 -222 (1979).

As noted above, the company argues that when the prior bargaining agreement was renegotiated, the union’s silence manifested a clear acceptance of the earlier arbitration decisions. During the history of collective bargaining between these two parties, however, there were only two arbitration decisions that imposed a higher duty on union officials. We do not think that two arbitration awards establish a pattern of decisions clear enough to convert the union’s silence into binding waiver. This is especially so in light of the provision in the bargaining agreement that "[a] decision [by an arbitrator] shall be binding . . . for the term of this agreement." See n. 5, supra (emphasis added). We conclude that there is [460 U.S. 693, 710] no showing that the parties intended to incorporate the two prior arbitration decisions into the subsequent agreement.

IV We accept the Board’s conclusion that the imposition of more severe sanctions on union officials for participating in an unlawful work stoppage violates 8(a)(3). While a union may waive this protection by clearly imposing contractual duties on its officials to ensure the integrity of no-strike clauses, we find that no waiver occurred here. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is


CEDH, Young, James, Webster c. Royaume-Uni, 1982


12. MM. Young, James et Webster travaillaient à la Société des chemins de fer britanniques (British Railways Board, en abrégé "British Rail"). En 1975, elle conclut avec trois syndicats un accord de "closed shop" subordonnant désormais pareil emploi à l’affiliation à l’un de ces derniers. Faute de remplir cette condition, les requérants furent renvoyés en 1976. Ils se prétendent victimes de violations des articles 9, 10, 11 et 13 (art. 9, art. 10, art. 11, art. 13) de la Convention. I. CONTEXTE GENERAL ET DROIT INTERNE

A. Les "closed shops" et les licenciements

Généralités 13. Pour l’essentiel, un closed shop est une entreprise ou un atelier dans lesquels, à la suite d’un accord ou arrangement entre un ou des syndicats et un ou des employeurs ou associations d’employeurs, les salariés d’une catégorie déterminée sont, en pratique, obligés d’appartenir ou adhérer à un syndicat désigné. La loi n’astreint pas les employeurs à recueillir directement le consentement ou avis de chaque salarié avant de donner effet à de tels accords ou arrangements. Ceux-ci varient beaucoup par leur forme et leur substance. On distingue souvent, notamment, entre "pre-entry" shop (le salarié doit s’affilier au syndicat avant son embauchage) et "post-entry" shop (il doit s’y inscrire après coup dans un délai raisonnable) ; le second type se rencontre plus couramment. L’institution du closed shop existe depuis très longtemps au Royaume-Uni. Ces dernières années, les arrangements en la matière ont gagné en précision cependant qu’augmentait le nombre des travailleurs concernés (environ 5 millions en 1980, contre 3.750.000 dans les années 1960). Des études récentes portent à croire que dans bien des cas l’obligation d’adhérer à un syndicat désigné ne s’étend pas aux salariés non syndiqués déjà en fonctions. Le droit en vigueur jusqu’à 1971 14. Jusqu’en 1971, la législation ne traitait pas explicitement de la pratique du closed shop. Néanmoins, depuis les années 1920 les tribunaux reconnaissaient la légitimité de l’objectif syndical consistant à promouvoir les intérêts des syndicats au point d’imposer le licenciement des non-syndiqués ou l’interdiction de les embaucher. Toutefois, au regard de la common law il y avait entente délictueuse (unlawful conspiracy) si en invoquant un closed shop à l’encontre de quelqu’un on allait au-delà de ce que les tribunaux regardaient comme la défense d’intérêts syndicaux authentiques (Huntley v. Thornton, All England Law Reports, 1957, vol. 1, p. 234 ; Morgan v. Fry, ibidem 1967, vol. 2, p. 386). Dans son rapport de 1968, la Commission royale sur les syndicats et les associations patronales (Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations), tout en écartant la possibilité de prohiber le closed shop, examina les garanties à ménager en faveur des personnes se trouvant en présence d’un closed shop. Ainsi, la majorité de ses membres estima qu’un salarié congédié pour avoir refusé d’adhérer à un syndicat après l’instauration d’un closed shop devrait obtenir gain de cause contre son employeur dans une action pour licenciement abusif s’il réussissait à prouver que son refus s’appuyait sur des motifs sérieux. 15. Avant 1971, les droits et obligations des parties à un contrat de travail obéissaient pour l’essentiel à la common law. Abstraction faite des licenciements justifiés sans préavis (justified summary dismissal), il était licite de congédier un salarié, même sans motif, moyennant le préavis requis. Un salarié renvoyé sans ce préavis avait un seul recours : réclamer en justice le montant de la rémunération qu’il aurait perçue pendant le délai de préavis ; les tribunaux n’ordonnaient pas à l’employeur de le réembaucher. Ces principes valaient par exemple pour les licenciements causés par l’adhésion, ou le refus d’adhésion, d’un salarié à un syndicat. La loi de 1971 sur les relations professionnelles 16. Depuis 1971, le parlement intervient davantage dans les domaines sous examen et les changements de majorité au pouvoir ont entraîné des modifications de la portée et du contenu de la législation en vigueur. La première mesure d’envergure consista dans la loi de 1971 sur les relations professionnelles (Industrial Relations Act), qui à deux égards transforma radicalement la situation résultant de la common law. 17. Tout d’abord, la loi de 1971 accorda aux salariés (sous réserve de certaines exceptions) le droit de ne pas être abusivement licenciés. Il devint illégal de renvoyer quelqu’un sans motif, même si on lui adressait le préavis nécessaire. Quiconque s’estimait congédié de manière abusive pouvait saisir un tribunal du travail (industrial tribunal) ; celui-ci pouvait lui allouer des dommages-intérêts, ou recommander son réengagement, sauf si le licenciement se fondait sur un ou plusieurs des motifs prévus dans la loi (inaptitude, mauvaise conduite, excédent de main-d’oeuvre, etc.) ou sur un autre motif grave, et s’il s’avérait que l’employeur avait agi raisonnablement en considérant ce ou ces motifs comme suffisants. La loi laissait intacts les droits que le salarié possédait en vertu de la common law, mais dans la pratique les titulaires du nouveau droit les ont peu invoqués. 18. En second lieu, la loi de 1971 introduisit des normes expresses destinées à rendre illicite le jeu de la plupart des closed shops. Non seulement elle frappa de nullité les accords de closed shop avant l’embauche, mais encore elle donna aux travailleurs, sous réserve de certaines exceptions, le droit de ne pas se syndiquer ou de refuser de s’inscrire à un syndicat déterminé. Dans le contexte des règles relatives aux licenciements abusifs et par contraste avec la situation en common law (paragraphe 15 in fine ci-dessus), elle précisa qu’il fallait considérer comme abusif un licenciement motivé par l’exercice de ce droit ou l’intention de l’exercer. 19. D’après un Livre vert sur les immunités syndicales (Trade Union Immunities), publié par le gouvernement britannique en janvier 1981, la loi de 1971 rencontra une forte résistance auprès des syndicats et nombre d’employeurs et de syndicats en tournèrent les clauses relatives au closed shop, lequel continua sans grand changement. Le droit en vigueur à l’époque des événements qui ont donné naissance aux requêtes 20. La loi de 1974 sur les syndicats et les relations du travail (Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, en abrégé "la TULRA") abrogea celle de 1971. Celles de ses prescriptions qui s’appliquent en l’espèce sont entrées en vigueur le 16 septembre 1974. 21. L’abrogation de la loi de 1971 sur les relations professionnelles supprima l’interdiction des closed shops et le droit de ne pas se syndiquer. Cependant, la législation ne retrouva pas entièrement son état antérieur à 1971. En effet, la TULRA maintenait la protection contre les licenciements abusifs ; un closed shop pouvant amener à priver de son emploi un individu qui ne voulait pas adhérer à un syndicat désigné, il fallait indiquer dans quelles conditions exactes on devait regarder comme non abusif (fair) un renvoi fondé sur ce motif. En conséquence, la TULRA a) énumérait - par référence au concept, défini par elle, d’"accord sur l’appartenance syndicale" (union membership agreement) – les circonstances dans lesquelles une situation de closed shop était censée exister ; b) énonçait le principe que, dans une telle situation, il y avait lieu de réputer non abusif, aux fins de la législation en matière de licenciements abusifs, le renvoi d’un salarié pour refus de devenir membre d’un syndicat désigné ; c) prévoyait, à titre d’exceptions, que pareil renvoi devait passer pour abusif si l’intéressé se refusait de bonne foi (i) en raison de convictions religieuses, à s’affilier à un syndicat quelconque ; (ii) pour des motifs sérieux, à s’affilier à un syndicat déterminé. 22. La TULRA confirma aussi la loi de 1971 en tant que celle-ci avait habilité les tribunaux du travail à allouer une indemnité aux salariés congédiés de manière abusive. Toutefois, la loi de 1975 sur la protection de l’emploi (Employment Protection Act) remplaça plus tard le pouvoir de recommander le réengagement de tels salariés par celui, discrétionnaire, de prescrire leur réintégration ou réengagement dans certaines circonstances (notamment si cette solution paraissait "réalisable"). Elle ajoutait que si cet ordre n’était pas exécuté, l’intéressé devait recevoir l’indemnité habituelle pour licenciement abusif et, dans certains cas, une somme supplémentaire. 23. La TULRA fut remaniée sur divers points par la loi de 1976 portant amendement de la loi sur les syndicats et les relations du travail (Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Act, en abrégé "la loi d’amendement"), qui entra en vigueur le 25 mars 1976. Ainsi, la seconde des exceptions mentionnées au paragraphe 21 c) ci-dessus disparut, de sorte que l’action pour licenciement abusif demeura ouverte à ceux-là seuls qui invoquaient des objections authentiques d’ordre religieux. La loi d’amendement modifia en outre, dans le sens d’une plus grande souplesse, la notion d’"accord sur l’appartenance syndicale". Évolution législative ultérieure 24. La loi de 1978 sur la protection de l’emploi (Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act) abrogea et reprit les dispositions existant alors en matière de licenciements abusifs. Elle a été amendée à son tour, sans effet rétroactif, par la loi de 1980 sur l’emploi (Employment Act). Le principe reste que le renvoi d’un salarié pour refus de s’affilier à un syndicat désigné, dans une situation de closed shop, est réputé non abusif aux fins de la législation relative aux licenciements abusifs. Toutefois, cette règle souffre trois exceptions depuis le 15 août 1980 ; il faut considérer un tel renvoi comme abusif : a) si pour des raisons de conscience, ou par autre conviction personnelle profonde, le salarié se refuse à s’inscrire à un syndicat, quelconque ou déterminé ; ou b) s’il figurait, avant l’entrée en vigueur de l’accord ou arrangement de closed shop, dans la catégorie couverte par celui-ci et n’a pas appartenu à un syndicat conformément audit accord ou arrangement ; ou c) dans le cas d’un accord ou arrangement de closed shop prenant effet après le 15 août 1980, si 80% au moins du personnel concerné ne l’ont pas approuvé par un vote ou si, malgré pareille approbation, le salarié n’a pas après le scrutin appartenu à un syndicat conformément audit accord ou amendement. Un code de conduite (Code of Practice), adopté par le parlement et entré en vigueur le 17 décembre 1980, recommande notamment que les accords de closed shop protègent les droits individuels fondamentaux et soient appliqués avec souplesse et tolérance, dans le respect des intérêts des particuliers comme des syndicats et des employeurs. On peut l’invoquer à titre de preuve, mais il ne crée aucune obligation juridique. 25. Le Livre vert sur les immunités syndicales (paragraphe 19 ci-dessus) énumérait les arguments militant pour ou contre diverses propositions ; le gouvernement y déclarait souhaiter s’entourer d’avis sur l’opportunité de nouvelles réformes législatives dans le domaine du closed shop et sur leurs perspectives de succès. B. Autres données pertinentes concernant l’appartenance syndicale

26. Depuis 1971, la loi protège le droit d’appartenir à un syndicat. Les dispositions applicables ont changé dans le détail au fil des ans, mais elles consistent en substance à reconnaître à un salarié un droit à indemnité si on le congédie ou pénalise pour être ou chercher à devenir membre d’un syndicat, ou pour concourir à ses activités, ou si on l’en dissuade ou empêche (loi de 1971 sur les relations professionnelles, article 5 ; TULRA, annexe 1, paragraphe 6 par. 4 ; loi de 1975 sur la protection de l’emploi, article 53 ; loi de 1978 sur la protection de l’emploi, articles 23 et 58). 27. A la fin de 1979, il y avait au Royaume-Uni 477 syndicats groupant 13,5 millions d’adhérents ; en 1980, 108 syndicats comptant 12,1 millions d’inscrits étaient affiliés au Trades Union Congress. Ce dernier adopta en 1939 une série de recommandations moralement obligatoires, les "principes de Bridlington", destinées à limiter les différends entre syndicats affiliés sur des questions d’appartenance et à en fixer les procédures de règlement. Sous leur forme actuelle, elles prévoient notamment que la double appartenance n’est pas valable sans l’accord des deux organisations intéressées. 28. La loi (amendée) de 1913 sur les syndicats (Trade Union Act) subordonne à certaines conditions l’utilisation par un syndicat de ses deniers dans différents buts politiques énumérés par elle en son article 3 par. 3, sans préjudice de la poursuite de tout autre objectif politique. Spécialement, les paiements opérés dans l’un de ces buts doivent être financés par un "fonds politique" distinct auquel tout adhérent a le droit d’être dispensé de cotiser. Une personne exemptée de la sorte ne doit subir aucun désavantage par rapport aux autres membres et l’admission au syndicat ne peut dépendre d’une contribution audit fonds. II. BRITISH RAIL ET SON ACCORD DE CLOSED SHOP

29. En 1970, British Rail avait passé un accord de closed shop avec l’Union nationale des cheminots (National Union of Railwaymen, "NUR"), l’Association du personnel des transports (Transport Salaried Staff’s Association, "TSSA") et l’Association des mécaniciens et chauffeurs de locomotive (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, "ASLEF"), mais à la suite de la promulgation de la loi de 1971 sur les relations professionnelles (paragraphe 18 ci-dessus) il ne fut pas mis en vigueur. La question rebondit en juillet 1975 lorsque British Rail en conclut un autre avec les mêmes syndicats. Il prévoyait qu’à compter du 1er août 1975 la qualité d’adhérent de l’un de ces syndicats constituerait une condition d’emploi pour le personnel de certaines catégories - dont les requérants - et que les termes de l’accord se trouveraient incorporés et intégrés à chaque contrat de travail. Lors de leur engagement, on avait apparemment délivré à MM. Young, James et Webster, comme à d’autres employés de British Rail, une déclaration écrite d’après laquelle s’appliqueraient à eux les règles et conditions d’emploi pouvant être arrêtées de temps en temps, pour les salariés de leur catégorie, en vertu du système de négociation existant entre leur employeur et tout syndicat ou autre organisation. La condition d’appartenance ne valait pas pour "un salarié en fonctions se refusant de bonne foi, en raison de convictions religieuses, à s’affilier à un syndicat quelconque ou, pour des motifs sérieux, à s’affilier à un syndicat déterminé". En outre, l’accord fixait la procédure à suivre pour solliciter une dispense à ce titre et disposait que l’examen des demandes incomberait à des représentants de l’employeur et des syndicats. 30. En juillet-août 1975 furent affichés dans les locaux de British Rail, y compris ceux où travaillaient les requérants, des avis signalant au personnel l’accord conclu avec les syndicats et le changement apporté aux conditions d’emploi. En septembre 1975, un second avis annonça que l’on était convenu de réserver la possibilité de dispense pour raisons d’ordre religieux au cas d’une église interdisant expressément à ses fidèles de se syndiquer. Il ajoutait que la limitation de cette possibilité à de telles raisons dépendait du vote, par le parlement, du projet de loi tendant à modifier la TULRA et que le personnel serait tenu au courant. Ainsi que l’indique le paragraphe 23 ci-dessus, la loi d’amendement entra en vigueur le 25 mars 1976. A cette même date prit effet un nouvel accord entre British Rail et les trois syndicats de cheminots. Il reproduisait le texte de celui de juillet 1975 sauf les mots "ou, pour des motifs sérieux, à s’affilier à un syndicat déterminé" (paragraphe 29 ci-dessus). 31. Les requérants et le représentant du Trades Union Congress ont informé la Cour que la NUR, la TSSA et l’ASLEF étaient en 1975 les seuls syndicats à déployer une activité dans ceux des secteurs des transports ferroviaires où travaillent MM. Young, James et Webster. Selon le Gouvernement, d’autres syndicats y comptaient des membres mais sans chercher à en recruter. Il s’avère qu’avant la conclusion de l’accord de closed shop de 1975, de 6 à 8.000 salariés de British Rail, sur un total de 250.000, n’appartenaient pas encore à l’un des syndicats désignés. Pour finir, 54 personnes furent congédiées pour refus d’affiliation. 32. Les requérants ne remplissaient pas les conditions nécessaires pour adhérer à l’ASLEF. Quant à la NUR et à la TSSA, les candidats à l’admission devaient signer un formulaire de demande où figurait, à l’époque, l’engagement de se conformer aux statuts du syndicat et d’en promouvoir loyalement les objectifs (NUR) ou de s’efforcer de son mieux d’en promouvoir les intérêts et objectifs (TSSA). Les buts déclarés de la NUR comprenaient les suivants : "(...) assurer la syndicalisation complète des travailleurs employés par tout conseil, société ou autorité spécialisés au Royaume-Uni dans les transports par chemins de fer, d’autres formes de transport et les services annexes ; améliorer la situation et protéger les intérêts de ses membres ; (...) promouvoir, quand et dans la mesure où ce sera un objectif légal pour un syndicat, les intérêts de ses membres par une représentation au parlement et dans les pouvoirs locaux, et utiliser le fonds politique de l’Union pour obtenir pareille représentation. Oeuvrer au remplacement du capitalisme par un ordre socialiste (...). Donner des subventions et collaborer à la direction de tout établissement ou institution ayant pour but d’éduquer et former des syndicalistes aux sciences sociales, et de participer à la vie politique et professionnelle du mouvement syndical (...)."

De son côté, de la TSSA se proposait notamment : "a) De regrouper l’ensemble des employés de bureau, des cadres, du personnel administratif, des spécialistes et des techniciens de tous les services des entreprises britanniques et irlandaises de chemins de fer, des agences de camionnage et des entreprises associées ou autres au sens de l’article 2.

b) D’améliorer la situation et protéger les intérêts de ses membres.


g) De créer un ou plusieurs fonds, dont le fonds politique visé aux articles 45 et 46.


i) D’obtenir, ou aider à obtenir, une réglementation et une application plus efficace des lois existantes de nature à se répercuter sur le confort général et matériel de ses membres et des autres travailleurs.

j) De fournir un concours financier et prêter de l’argent, avec ou sans intérêt ou contrepartie équivalente, à toute organisation (constituée ou non en société) si la Commission exécutive le juge souhaitable dans l’intérêt de l’Association ou pour la réalisation des objectifs de celle-ci, et dans la mesure où la législation en vigueur le permettra.


Les deux syndicats englobaient aussi parmi leurs buts la réalisation des objectifs politiques prévus à l’article 3 de la loi de 1913 sur les syndicats et leurs statuts renfermaient des clauses reflétant les exigences de celle-ci en matière de fonds politique (paragraphe 28 ci-dessus). Dans le cas de la TSSA, on ne pouvait puiser dans son fonds politique que si le bénéficiaire appartenait en personne au parti travailliste ou si le versement tendait à soutenir la politique de ce dernier ; quant à ses fonds généraux, ils pouvaient servir à financer la poursuite de fins politique autres que celles énumérées dans ladite loi.


51. Les thèses plaidées devant la Cour ont porté dans une large mesure sur le point de savoir si l’article 11 (art. 11) garantit non seulement la liberté "positive" d’association, y compris le droit de fonder des syndicats ou de s’y affilier, mais aussi, de manière implicite, un "droit négatif" de ne pas être obligé d’adhérer à une association ou un syndicat. Tandis que la majorité de la Commission déclare ne pas estimer nécessaire de se prononcer à ce sujet, les requérants affirment que le texte sous-entend clairement un "droit négatif". Quant au Gouvernement, pour qui la conclusion de la Commission reconnaît en réalité pareil droit au moins dans certaines limites, l’article 11 (art. 11) n’accorde ni ne protège d’après lui aucun droit de ne pas se voir forcé de devenir membre d’une association. Ce droit aurait été à dessein écarté de la Convention ; le passage suivant des travaux préparatoires le montrerait : "En raison des difficultés que pourrait poser, à cet égard, le système du "closed shop", introduit dans certains pays, la Conférence a jugé inopportun d’introduire dans la Convention la règle d’après laquelle "nul ne peut être obligé de faire partie d’une association", figurant [à l’article 20 par. 2 de] la Déclaration Universelle des Nations Unies." (rapport de la Conférence de hauts fonctionnaires, 19 juin 1950, Recueil des travaux préparatoires, vol. IV, p. 263)

52. La Cour ne croit pas indispensable de répondre ici à la question. Elle rappelle cependant que le droit de fonder des syndicats et de s’y affilier constitue un aspect particulier de la liberté d’association (arrêt Syndicat national de la police belge, du 27 octobre 1975, série A no 19, p. 17, par. 38) ; elle ajoute qu’une certaine liberté de choix quant à l’exercice d’une liberté est inhérente à la notion de celle-ci. Quand bien même, pour les motifs donnés dans l’extrait précité des travaux préparatoires, une règle générale semblable à celle de l’article 20 par. 2 de la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme aurait été omise à dessein dans la Convention, et ne pourrait donc être réputée consacrée en soi par celle-ci, il n’en résulterait pas que l’aspect négatif de la liberté d’association de chacun sorte complètement du domaine de l’article 11 (art. 11), ni que contraindre à s’inscrire à un syndicat déterminé cadre toujours avec l’esprit de cette disposition. A interpréter l’article 11 (art. 11) comme autorisant n’importe quelle sorte de coercition en matière d’appartenance syndicale, on toucherait à la substance même de la liberté qu’il entend garantir (voir, mutatis mutandis, l’arrêt du 23 juillet 1968 sur le fond de l’affaire "linguistique belge", série A no 6, p. 32, par. 5, l’arrêt Golder du 21 février 1975, série A no 18, p. 19, par. 38, et l’arrêt Winterwerp du 24 octobre 1979, série A no 33, p. 24, par. 60). 53. La Cour souligne une fois de plus que dans une cause issue d’une requête individuelle, il lui faut se borner autant que possible, sans oublier le contexte général, à examiner les problèmes soulevés par le cas concret dont on l’a saisie (voir, p. ex., l’arrêt Guzzardi du 6 novembre 1980, série A no 39, pp. 31-32, par. 88). Partant, il ne lui incombe pas en l’occurrence d’apprécier au regard de la Convention le système du closed shop en tant que tel, ni d’exprimer une opinion sur toute répercussion ou forme de contrainte à laquelle il peut aboutir ; elle n’en étudie que les incidences sur les requérants. 54. A la suite de l’accord de 1975 (paragraphe 29 ci-dessus), ces derniers se trouvèrent devant un dilemme : soit adhérer à la NUR dans le cas de M. James, à la TSSA ou à la NUR dans celui de MM. Young et Webster, soit perdre un emploi non subordonné, lors de leur embauchage, à une affiliation syndicale et que deux d’entre eux occupaient depuis plusieurs années. Chacun d’eux considéra la condition d’appartenance introduite par l’accord comme un empiètement sur la liberté d’association à laquelle il pensait avoir droit ; à quoi s’ajoutaient, pour MM. Young et Webster, des objections contre les pratiques et activités syndicales et de surcroît, chez le premier, contre les orientations politiques des syndicats en question (paragraphes 34, 37 et 43 ci-dessus). Leur refus de céder à ce qu’ils tenaient pour une pression injustifiée leur valut de recevoir des avis de licenciement. Aux termes de la législation en vigueur à l’époque (paragraphes 17 et 20-23 ci-dessus), leur renvoi était "non abusif" et ne pouvait donc fonder une demande en dommages-intérêts, sans parler de réintégration ou de réengagement. 55. Pareille situation va sans nul doute à l’encontre du concept de liberté d’association au sens négatif. A supposer que l’article 11 (art. 11) ne garantisse pas l’élément négatif de cette liberté à l’égal de l’élément positif, contraindre quelqu’un à s’inscrire à un syndicat déterminé peut ne pas se heurter toujours à la Convention. Cependant, une menace de renvoi impliquant la perte de ses moyens d’existence constitue une forme très grave de contrainte ; en l’espèce, elle pesait sur des personnes engagées par British Rail avant l’introduction de toute obligation de s’affilier à un syndicat donné. La Cour estime que dans les circonstances de la cause pareil type de contrainte touche à la substance même de la liberté d’association telle que la consacre l’article 11 (art. 11). Pour cette raison déjà, il y a eu atteinte à cette liberté dans le chef de chacun des trois intéressés. 56. Un autre aspect de l’affaire a trait à la limitation du choix des syndicats auxquels les requérants pouvaient adhérer de leur plein gré. Un individu ne jouit pas du droit à la liberté d’association si la liberté d’action ou de choix qui lui reste se révèle inexistante, ou réduite au point de n’offrir aucune utilité (voir, mutatis mutandis, l’arrêt Airey du 9 octobre 1979, série A no 32, p. 12, par. 24). Selon le Gouvernement, non seulement la législation applicable (paragraphe 26 ci-dessus) ne restreint pas la liberté d’action ou de choix en la matière, mais elle la protège en termes exprès ; en particulier, il eût été loisible aux intéressés de créer ou rallier un syndicat en sus de l’un des syndicats désignés. Quant à eux, ils prétendent qu’il n’en allait pas ainsi en pratique parce que l’accord de British Rail avec les syndicats de cheminots et les principes de Bridlington (paragraphe 27 ci-dessus) auraient empêché semblable initiative ; à les en croire, une tentative d’affiliation à une organisation concurrente ou de participation à ses activités eût entraîné leur exclusion de l’un des syndicats désignés. Le Gouvernement conteste ces affirmations. Quoi qu’il en soit, la liberté d’action ou de choix que les requérants pouvaient garder à cet égard ne change rien à la contrainte subie par eux car de toute manière on les aurait congédiés s’ils ne s’étaient pas inscrits à l’un des syndicats en question. 57. En outre l’article 11 (art. 11), malgré son rôle autonome et la spécificité de sa sphère d’application, doit en l’espèce s’envisager aussi à la lumière des articles 9 et 10 (art. 9, art. 10) (voir, mutatis mutandis, l’arrêt Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen et Pedersen du 7 décembre 1976, série A no 23, p. 26, par. 52). MM. Young et Webster avaient des objections contre les pratiques et activités syndicales ainsi que, pour le premier, contre les orientations politiques de la TSSA et de la NUR (paragraphes 34 et 43 ci-dessus). Celles de M. James revêtaient un caractère différent, mais il attachait également du prix à la liberté de choix et avait abouti à la conclusion qu’appartenir à la NUR ne présenterait pas d’avantages pour lui (paragraphe 37 ci-dessus). La protection des opinions personnelles offerte par les articles 9 et 10 (art. 9, art. 10) sous la forme de la liberté de pensée, de conscience et de religion comme de la liberté d’expression compte de surcroît parmi les objectifs de la garantie de la liberté d’association par l’article 11 (art. 11). Touche donc à la substance même de cet article (art. 11) l’exercice de pressions, du genre de celles infligées aux intéressés, visant à forcer quelqu’un à adhérer à une association contrairement à ses convictions. A cet égard encore, le traitement incriminé - en tout cas celui de MM. Young et Webster - a porté atteinte aux droits consacrés par l’article 11 (art. 11).

A propos de la décision de la Cour constitutionnelle allemande sur la loi Hartz IV, article d’Isabelle Bourgeois dans Regards sur l’économie allemande 95, mars 2010

Calculer un forfait « à l’aveuglette » est contraire à la Constitution 1Les forfaits mensuels de base versés aux bénéficiaires du revenu de substitution prévu par la Loi Hartz IV ne sont pas contraires à la Constitution : « l’examen critique ne permet pas de les considérer comme insuffisants pour garantir un minimum vital conforme à la dignité humaine », considère le Tribunal constitutionnel fédéral dans son arrêt du 9 février 2010 (BVerfG, 1 BvL 1/09, 1 BvL 3/09, 1 BvL 4/09). En revanche, leur mode de calcul est anticonstitutionnel, puisqu’il s’assimile ni plus ni moins à « une estimation ‘à l’aveuglette’ » (« ins Blaue hinein »). Les juges de Karlsruhe font donc injonction au législateur de définir des critères argumentés, transparents et tenant compte des besoins réels, notamment des enfants, pour calculer le montant du forfait de base. Les nouvelles dispositions doivent entrer en vigueur au 31 décembre 2010. Elles n’auront pas d’effet rétroactif.

2La Loi Hartz IV ne fait pas, en tant que telle, l’objet du jugement. La Cour n’avait en effet été saisie par le Tribunal des affaires sociales du Land de Hesse et le Tribunal fédéral des affaires sociales que sur le point de savoir « si les dispositions du nouveau SGB II [chapitre II, révisé par la Loi Hartz IV, du Code social allemand : Sozial­gesetzbuch] relatives au montant du forfait de base versé aux chômeurs adultes, aux enfants de moins de 14 ans ou aux familles ayant des enfants de cet âge sont conformes à la Loi fondamentale » ou non (communiqué du 19-08-2009).

La Quatrième Loi pour des services modernes du marché de l’emploi : « Loi Hartz IV », adoptée le 24-12-2003 et entrée en vigueur le 01-01-2005, a simplifié le système d’indemnisation chômage, le réduisant à deux types de prestations : ● les indemnités chômage (Arbeitslosengeld I, ALG I), financées par les cotisations (principe d’assurance) ; leur montant est proportionnel au salaire antérieur du chômeur ; ● et les indemnités forfaitaires (Arbeitslosengeld II, ALG II), versées à l’expiration des droits à l’ALG I. Elles sont financées par l’impôt et relèvent du principe d’assistance. Cet ALG II est distinct de l’aide sociale (Sozialhilfe) dont ne bénéficient que les personnes se trouvant dans l’incapacité d’assurer leur subsistance par leurs propres forces. Le principal critère qui distingue ce groupe des deux catégories précédentes est la capacité de travail : au-delà de 3 heures quoti­diennes, toute personne est considérée comme demandeur d’emploi et peut prétendre à l’ALG II. L’ALG II est un ‘revenu minimum d’insertion’ (comparable au revenu de solidarité active en vigueur en France), comprenant un volet de (re)qualification/(ré)insertion et un soutien pécuniaire. Ce soutien prend la forme d’un forfait de base (Regelleistung) dont le montant était à l’origine fixé à 345 € à l’ouest et 331 € à l’est pour un célibataire avec ou sans enfant ; pour un couple, il est de 90 % de cette somme par personne. A cela s’ajoutent, le cas échéant, des allocations logement et chauffage et des aides exceptionnelles. Le versement de ce soutien est fonction du degré de nécessité (Bedürftigkeit) du demandeur, car sont pris en considération dans le calcul de ce revenu de substitution de base toutes les sources de revenu comme le patrimoine du chômeur et de ses proches. Peuvent bénéficier du forfait de base tous les demandeurs d’emploi de 15 à 65 ans. Les enfants vivant sous leur toit touchent un forfait dénommé Sozialgeld (indemnité sociale). Son montant est fonction de l’âge : 60 % du forfait de base jusqu’à 14 ans révolus, puis 80 %. Dans le cadre des mesures de soutien à la consommation, une modification (valable du 01-07-2009 au 31-12-2011) a été apportée à ces dispositions : le groupe des moins de 15 ans est scindé en deux, et le taux porté à 70 % pour les 7-14 ans. En 2008, on comptait 6,9 millions de bénéficiaires de l’ALG II sous ses différentes formes, dont 1,9 million de célibataires, un peu plus de 650 000 parents isolés et 1,8 million de moins de 15 ans (DIW-Wochenbericht, n° 6/2010). Un forfait de 345 € n’est pas anticonstitutionnel en soi 3Contrairement à ce qu’ont pu laisser croire certains commentaires de l’arrêt, il ne s’agissait donc pas de déterminer si le montant de cette indemnité forfaitaire de base est constitutionnel ou non. Porté à 359 € le 1er juillet 2009 pour un adulte, il était de 345 € au moment de l’entrée en vigueur de la loi ; c’est ce dernier montant qui est au cœur de l’arrêt. Or c’est sur ces 345 € que se cristallisent outre-Rhin depuis l’origine les débats et les contentieux dont le pivot est le concept d’Etat social et la définition à donner à la notion de justice sociale qui le sous-tend : priorité à la responsabilité individuelle (équité des chances) ou au socialement souhaitable (égalité de traitement) ?

Un principe constitutionnel clef : la responsabilité individuelle 4Ainsi, le Tribunal fédéral des affaires sociales avait considéré, dans un arrêt fondamental rendu le 23 novembre 2006 (B 11b AS 1/06 R), que cette indemnité de 345 € remplit l’objectif fixé par la loi, à savoir assurer aux bénéficiaires un « minimum garanti » leur permettant de mener une « vie conforme à la dignité humaine » ; elle leur confère en effet à la fois de quoi assurer leur subsistance (« minimum vital ») et participer à la vie sociale (« minimum socio-culturel »). Instance de recours administratif suprême dans tout contentieux opposant les bénéficiaires de transferts sociaux à l’Etat, cette Cour avait tranché sur le principe, estimant qu’elle n’a « aucun doute fondé quant à la conformité avec la Constitution du montant des prestations réglementaires » (voir REA 79/06). Cet arrêt aussi avait suscité de très vives controverses. Et face à la multiplication des menaces de saisine du Tribunal constitutionnel fédéral sur la constitutionnalité de la loi Hartz IV, Hans-Jürgen Papier avait, déjà, été amené à souligner publiquement « que la Constitution n’interdit pas de réduire l’Etat social » et à rappeler que « les fondements de notre Constitution reposent sur le principe de la responsabilité individuelle » (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 15-06-06).

Le principe de l’aide à l’auto-assistance La loi Hartz IV cherchait à mettre fin à la dérive d’un État providence hypertrophié (aujourd’hui encore, les dépenses sociales accaparent près de la moitié du budget allemand). Elle l’a fait en renouant avec un principe fondateur de l’économie sociale de marché : l’aide à l’auto-assistance (Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe) qui est l’expression du principe de subsidiarité, autrement dit de cette responsabilité individuelle dont le corollaire est l’interdiction faite à l’Etat de se substituer à l’individu (principe de liberté). Or au fil du temps, cette approche de la solidarité s’était diluée, donnant lieu à un « engrenage de répartition qui, en pénalisant toujours plus la performance et la prévoyance individuelles, entretient le développement d’une logique de revendication et d’une mentalité d’assisté », ainsi que le formulait en 1982 déjà Otto Graf Lambs­dorff, ministre des Finances (FDP) du chancelier Schmidt (SPD). Ce n’est qu’en 2003 que le chancelier Schröder (SPD) rompra cet engrenage avec les réformes sociales de l’Agenda 2010. Ce principe est le pivot de la Loi Hartz IV 5Or c’est ce concept de responsabilité individuelle qui est au cœur des débats sur l’Etat social et son « démantèlement » – ou non, selon les perspectives –, par la loi Hartz IV. Celle-ci avait été placée expressément sous le signe du « Fördern und Fordern » : la collectivité a le devoir de soutenir les personnes en difficulté et, en retour, elle est en droit d’exiger que celles-ci fassent l’effort de se réinsérer. C’est ainsi que la loi Hartz IV (§ 1,1) vise à « renforcer la responsabilité individuelle des personnes nécessiteuses à capacité de travail entière, comme de ceux qui vivent avec elles dans une communauté de besoins, et à contribuer à ce qu’elles soient capables d’assurer leur subsistance indépendamment du minimum garanti, c’est-à-dire par leurs propres forces et moyens ». C’est cette approche qui a présidé au choix d’un forfait de base de 345 € : il s’agit d’un soutien passager accordé à une personne en quête active d’un emploi ; son montant doit donc être nettement inférieur à un bas salaire afin d’inciter au retour en emploi.

Un choix cornélien entre le socialement souhaitable et l’avenir durable de l’Etat Providence 6Les résistances à ce rééquilibrage entre droits et devoirs respectifs de l’individu et de la collectivité ont été très vives, amenant G. Schröder à démissionner de la tête d’un SPD profondément divisé et à provoquer des élections anticipées au Bundestag en 2005. Depuis, la gauche du SPD, Die Linke, de même qu’une frange des Verts allemands n’ont de cesse de forcer un retour en arrière sur la réforme. Or leur quête de plus de justice sociale, déclinée également via la revendication d’un salaire minimum légal (voir l’analyse de K. Brenke dans REA 94/09) se base sur le principe du socialement souhaitable et de la lutte contre la pauvreté. Le montant du revenu de substitution (ou salaire) doit être fonction des besoins de l’individu qui les perçoit et non pas de considérations macro-économiques. A l’évidence, une telle approche est susceptible de rencontrer un large écho dans l’opinion – c’est cette « tournure socialiste » des débats que pointe G. Westerwelle, s’attirant les critiques tous azimuts. Car la loi Hartz IV a laissé un malaise jusque dans les rangs de la CSU et de l’aile sociale de la CDU – ravivé en période de campagne électorale, quand les considérations de politique sociale l’emportent sur celles de politique économique et budgétaire. Personne n’ose alors rompre ouvertement avec « l’utopie de l’Etat social », remarque le constitutionnaliste CDU Rupert Scholz (Welt Online, 18-02-2010). L’Etat Providence ne peut pourtant distribuer les richesses que si son financement est durable…

Les juges de Karlsruhe ne demandent pas un forfait supérieur… 7La Cour de Karlsruhe en est consciente : les modifications n’auront pas d’effet rétroactif pour ne pas nuire à la santé des finances publiques. Car selon la jurisprudence, le législateur n’est en effet pas tenu de réviser rétroactivement une disposition incompatible avec la Loi fondamentale notamment « lorsque cela va à l’encontre d’une programmation budgétaire régulière » (point 217). Il n’est pas tenu non plus d’augmenter le forfait de base : « comme rien ne permet de conclure à l’évidence que [celui-ci] est insuffisant, le législateur n’est pas tenu directement par la Constitution de fixer des montants supérieurs. Il doit plutôt mettre à exécution une procédure pour déterminer, conformément à la réalité et aux besoins, et dans le respect des considérations d’ordre constitutionnel…, les prestations nécessaires à la garantie d’un minimum vital conforme à la dignité humaine et ancrer dans la loi un droit à ces prestations » (point 211). L’arrêt précise : « en raison du pouvoir discrétionnaire du législateur…, le Tribunal constitutionnel fédéral n’est pas habilité à agir pour fixer le montant des prestations » (point 212).

Comment est fixé le montant du forfait de référence de 345 € pour un célibataire Le modèle statistique prend pour base les sondages sur les revenus et la consommation (EVS) menés tous les 5 ans par Destatis. Pour déterminer le forfait de référence, ne sont considérés que les 20 % des ménages à une personne aux revenus nets les plus bas, hors bénéficiaires de l’aide sociale. L’estimation des besoins des « récipiendaires de Hartz IV » se fait alors au prorata des dépenses de ces ménages. Ainsi, par exemple, ne sont pris en considération que 96 % des postes « alimentation, boissons et tabac », 89 % de « vêtements et chaussures », 64 % des dépenses de santé, 42 % pour « loisirs, divertissement et culture » ou 37 % pour les transports. Au 1er janvier 2007, cette évaluation, qui reposait sur le sondage EVS de 1998, a été revue en fonction de la vague 2003 (par exemple, le taux du poste « courrier » est passé de 64 % à 75 %). Et elle a changé de base : la référence est désormais l’évolution des salaires bruts et cotisations, telle qu’elle s’applique au calcul des pensions retraite. … mais le législateur doit justifier ses choix 8Ce qui rend inconstitutionnelle la méthode selon laquelle le législateur a fixé le forfait de base, c’est qu’elle est arbitraire. Le modèle statistique empirique n’est pas incriminé, puisqu’il reflète la réalité à un instant T. Par contre la manière dont est ensuite évalué le minimum vital n’est ni transparente ni adaptée aux besoins réels du bénéficiaire. Elle est contraire à la Constitution parce que le législateur « s’est écarté sans justification objective des principes structurants du modèle statistique qu’il avait lui-même choisi » (point 173). Il a évalué « à l’aveuglette » les besoins des bénéficiaires. Pour quelle raison a-t-on changé de référence pour les calculs en 2007 ? Et pourquoi par exemple les dépenses de formation/éducation ne sont-elles pas prises en compte ? Certes, le gouvernement fédéral argue de la souveraineté des Länder en matière de formation, mais les Länder ont à en financer les infrastructures ; la politique sociale relève, elle, des prérogatives du Bund.

Il doit prendre en charge les besoins exceptionnels de certains bénéficiaires 9Par ailleurs, l’aide étant forfaitaire, les besoins exceptionnels sont insuffisamment pris en considération, dès lors qu’ils sont inscrits dans la durée ; l’aide ponctuelle sous la forme d’un crédit remboursable, telle qu’elle s’applique au renouvellement d’une machine à laver ou d’une paire de lunettes, est en effet inadaptée. Ce point est le plus simple à corriger pour le législateur. Dès le 17 février, le ministère fédéral du Travail et des Affaires sociales a présenté une première liste de besoins exceptionnels définis conjointement avec l’Agence fédérale pour l’emploi (médicaments non remboursés dans le cas de certaines maladies chroniques, frais de transport et d’hébergement pour les enfants de couples divorcés, aide ménagère pour un malade en fauteuil roulant…). Ils sont couverts dès à présent.

Priorité de politique sociale : définir les besoins propres des enfants scolarisés 10« Le législateur n’a pas évalué le minimum vital d’un enfant mineur ». Or « les enfants ne sont pas des adultes miniatures » ; l’évaluation de leurs besoins « doit prendre en considération les phases dans l’évolution de l’enfance et ce qui est nécessaire au développement de la personnalité d’un enfant » (point 191). En ce qui concerne les écoliers, les juges se font très précis : « Les dépenses nécessaires pour qu’ils puissent remplir leurs devoirs vis-à-vis de l’Ecole font partie de leurs besoins existentiels. Si ces besoins ne sont pas couverts, les enfants nécessiteux risquent l’exclusion des chances que leur offre la vie ». Sans « manuels scolaires, cahiers ou calculatrices », ils courent en effet le « danger de ne pas être en mesure, plus tard, de subvenir à leurs besoins par leurs propres forces » Or cela est incompatible avec les deux principes constitutionnels au cœur de l’arrêt : la « dignité de l’être humain », que les « pouvoirs publics ont l’obligation de respecter et de protéger » (art. 1, al. 2 de la Loi fondamentale), en liaison avec le principe d’« Etat fédéral démocratique et social » (art. 20, al. 1) de la RFA.

11En exigeant un soutien correspondant aux besoins, le Tribunal constitutionnel fédéral enjoint au législateur de mieux respecter le principe d’équité des chances au fondement de l’Etat social allemand. Mais comment concilier au concret cette approche forcément centrée sur l’individu avec celle, par nature générale, de l’Etat Providence ? Cette question, qui relève de la philosophie du droit, doit trouver une réponse dans un autre registre, celui de la loi. C’est là qu’est la portée générale de cet arrêt. Le fait que le législateur ne dispose pour ce faire que de quelques mois, en pleine période électorale de surcroît, n’est pas propice à une réflexion sereine, intégrant l’ensemble des aspects à considérer à la fois sous l’angle de la politique économique, budgétaire et sociale. Le climat s’y prête d’autant moins qu’une récente étude de l’OCDE sur les chômeurs de longue durée a remis en tête de l’agenda le thème de la pauvreté, un thème dont l’UE compte faire sa nouvelle priorité lors du sommet de printemps. Cela ouvre la voie à la dramatisation et à l’amalgame dans une société en proie à la « phobie de la précarité », comme le formule R. Nahren­dorf, ancien rédacteur en chef du quotidien Handelsblatt (ibid., 15-02). Or ce que demandent les juges en se focalisant sur les écoliers et leurs besoins en matière de formation, c’est le retour à un modèle de société où le travail et le mérite individuel activent l’ascenseur social, et donc fondé sur le respect de ces couches moyennes performantes au « milieu » de la société allemande et de sa prospérité. Pour réduire les disparités sociales, il ne suffit pas de couvrir les besoins physiques des « bénéficiaires de Hartz IV » et de leur permettre la participation à la vie culturelle et sociale – il faut avant tout favoriser et développer leur accès à la formation.

On pourra consulter sur les droits des salariés des sociétés religieuses en Allemagne, sur internet, evdh.revues.org/1074 "Les droits et libertés fondamentaux des salariés face à l’autonomie des employeurs religieux en Allemagne Liberté religieuse et droits des salaries (Cour constitutionnelle allemande)" par Paul Mougeolle dans la Revue des droits de l’homme 2015

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