CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.
We brought this case here, 335 U.S. 869, to resolve a conflict of views between two Courts of Appeals in their interpretation of the rights given to veterans of World War II by § 8 of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, as amended, 54 Stat. 885, 890, 58 Stat. 798, 50 U. S. C. App. § 308. Three veterans brought this suit for compensation for the period of a layoff while employed at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, a respondent here. The facts controlling the legal claims of all three may be represented by the circumstances attending Kirk's employment and layoff.*fn1
The petitioner, Aeronautical Industrial District Lodge No. 727, was the duly recognized collective bargaining agent of the employees at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. In September, 1941, the Union had negotiated an agreement with Lockheed covering the range of subjects touching conditions of employment typical of such agreements in the aircraft industry. This agreement was in effect when Kirk was employed in August, 1942, by Vega Aircraft Corporation, which afterwards was merged with Lockheed. He joined the Union and has remained a member throughout this controversy. He left Lockheed two years later to enter the Army, from which he was honorably discharged in January, 1946, and was restored to his job at Lockheed in accordance with § 8 (a) of the Selective Service Act. 54 Stat. 885, 890, as amended, 50 U. S. C. App. § 308 (a). While Kirk was in military service his Union made a new agreement with Lockheed modifying
the terms of the 1941 agreement in various particulars. Crucial to the issue here was a change in the seniority provisions of the former agreement. The change provided that "Union Chairmen who have acquired seniority shall be deemed to have top seniority so long as they remain Chairmen."*fn2 In plain English this means that thereafter employees who served as
union chairmen were entitled to be retained in case of layoffs regardless of their length of service in the plant.
In the latter part of June, 1946, and within a year after Kirk's reemployment, it was necessary to lay off employees in Kirk's industrial unit. These layoffs followed the conventional sequence of seniority, time for military service being duly credited, with the exception that union chairmen were retained in accordance with the 1945 agreement, even though they had less time with the company than those who were laid off, veterans or not. Kirk was among those laid off, and the retention as union chairmen of men who were junior to him is the basis of his claim that § 8 of the Act had been infringed.*fn3 Kirk
was brought back to work within a month, but Lockheed refused to pay him for the time he was laid off. For this sum he brought this suit. Petitioner Union was allowed to intervene in order to protect its labor contract. Judgment went for Kirk, and the Union alone took the case to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. That court affirmed the judgment,*fn4 169 F.2d 252, holding that § 8 of the Act forbade disregard of length of employment, so far as veterans are affected, in enforcing provisions in a collective agreement for the retention of union chairmen in the event of layoffs, regardless of their length of service. In so holding it ran counter to a series of decisions in the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Gauweiler v. Elastic Stop Nut Corp., 162 F.2d 448; Koury v. Elastic Stop Nut Corp., 162 F.2d 544; Di Maggio v. Elastic Stop Nut Corp., 162 F.2d 546, and Payne v. Wright Aeronautical Corp., 162 F.2d 549.
It is of the essence of collective bargaining that it is a continuous process. Neither the conditions to which it addresses itself nor the benefits to be secured by it remain static. They are not frozen even by war. Thus, under the Act the veteran accumulates time toward ...