Labor Law – LMRA – “Hot Cargo” Clause as a Defense to Secondary Boycott

In McAllister Transfer, Inc. the National Labor Relations Board decided to reconsider the question of “hot cargo” clauses. In this case, the Teamsters’ union requested McAllister, a non-union cartage company, to recognize it as the bargaining representative of McAllister’s employees, and submitted a proposed contract to the employer. When McAllister refused to recognize the Teamsters, the union announced that the company would be “shut off” from interlining freight. Accordingly, the Teamsters induced those of their members who were working for three other carriers not to handle McAllister freight. Each of these other carriers was a party to a cartage agreement with the Teamsters union which contained a “hot cargo” clause. Despite this clause, each of the other carriers posted a notice directing their employees to handle all freight without discrimination. However, the employees were not disciplined when they refused to heed these notices. McAllister was effectively “shut off” from interlining freight until the district court issued an injunction under section 10 (l) of the amended National Labor Relations Act. The trial examiner found that the union action was not a violation of section 8 (b) (4) (A) of the amended NLRA, on the grounds that the “hot cargo” clause in the cartage agreement provided a meritorious defense. In making this decision, the trial examiner relied on the Conway’s Express and the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company decisions. The National Labor Relations Board disagreed with the trial examiner and held that the Teamsters had violated section 8 (b) (4) (A). In the process, the Board wrote three separate opinions, the total effect of which was, and still is, to render the status and validity of any particular “hot cargo” clause in some doubt. It is the purpose of this comment to examine the present state of the law on this subject.