16 Cal.2d 389, 16592, C. S. Smith Met. Market Co. v. Lyons

Docket Nº:16592
Citation:16 Cal.2d 389, 106 P.2d 414
Opinion Judge:[11] Edmonds
Party Name:C. S. Smith Met. Market Co. v. Lyons
Attorney:[7] Rosecrans & Emme, Bayard R. Rountree and Harry Albert for Appellants. [8] Henry B. Lister, as Amicus Curiae, on Behalf of Appellants. [9] Jonah Jones, Pierson & Block and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for Appellants. [10] Luce, Forward & Swing, As Amici Curiae, on Behalf of Respondent.
Case Date:October 14, 1940
Court:Supreme Court of California

Page 389

16 Cal.2d 389

106 P.2d 414

C. S. SMITH METROPOLITAN MARKET CO., LTD. (a Corporation), Respondent,

v.

JACK LYONS et al., Appellants.

L. A. No. 16592.

Supreme Court of California

October 14, 1940

In Bank.

Page 390

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 391

COUNSEL

[106 P.2d 415] Rosecrans &amp Emme, Bayard R. Rountree and Harry Albert for Appellants. Henry B. Lister, as Amicus Curiae, on Behalf of Appellants. Jonah Jones, Pierson &amp Block and Gibson, Dunn &amp Crutcher for Appellants. Luce, Forward &amp Swing, as Amici Curiae, on Behalf of Respondent

OPINION

[106 P.2d 416] EDMONDS, J.

Injunctive relief granted an employer in a controversy with union labor over picketing occasioned this appeal. The market company had no union men employed and the purpose of the picketing was to bring about the establishment of a closed shop in its meat departments.

At the time the dispute arose, C. S. Smith Metropolitan Market Co., Ltd., was a California corporation, engaged in selling groceries, meats, and other commodities at retail. It owned and operated seven retail markets located in several cities in southern California. When these markets were picketed, the company sued Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen Local Union 284, its officers and members, and also Central Labor Council of Long Beach and its secretary. After trial upon issues framed by the complaint and an answer alleging affirmative defenses, the court made findings and conclusions of law generally favorable to the market company and rendered judgment permanently restraining the appellants from picketing. The court also found that the market company had been damaged by the appellants' acts, but that the evidence was insufficient to establish the amount

Page 392

which should be awarded therefor. The appeal is from this judgment.

The findings refer to "plaintiff's employees" but they must be considered as referring only to the workers employed in the respondent's meat departments. These findings include the following facts:

At the time the controversy arose, there was no strike or dispute concerning the terms and conditions of employment between the market company and its employees; the employees were entirely satisfied with their employment and had made no request upon their employer for a discussion concerning any matter involving terms of employment. The market company discharged several employees, but not because they were members of the butchers' union, and the market company did not discriminate against the organization. In fact, the president of the company instructed his manager to employ union men at one market and offered to pay the union initiation fee for any employees who desired to join the union, but none accepted the offer.

The business agent of the butchers' union made a request for a discussion concerning [106 P.2d 417] the terms and conditions of employment of its employees, but had no authority to represent the employees. So far as the market company was informed, none of its employees were members of any labor union and none had any desire to become members, but preferred to work under terms and conditions of their own choosing without interference by labor unions. The market company had not engaged in a course of intimidation against the employees to prevent them from joining labor unions; it had never been a party to any agreement with a labor union and had never requested the appellants to act as collective bargaining agent for its employees.

The sole purpose of the appellants' picketing was to compel the market company's employees to become members of the butchers' union and to compel the market company to discharge those who refused to join the union. For the accomplishment of their purpose, the appellants combined and conspired together to boycott and peaceably picket the market company's places of business. Pickets were stationed for the purpose of interfering with its patronage and inducing other merchants and their employees to cut off business relations. A further purpose of picketing, the court found, was "to

Page 393

obtain employment for union members ... under good working conditions, fair wages and fair hours of labor", to obtain an agreement with the market company for the employment of union members only, and to persuade "meat cutters employed by ... [the market company] to become members of the" butchers' union. This union had contracts with a number of markets and butcher shops in Long Beach whereby such markets and butcher shops agreed to employ only members of the union; to pay them union wages for a maximum of 55 hours per week and to close on Sunday.

The respondent paid its butchers more than the union scale, with hours of employment less than the union schedule existing in Long Beach. All of the markets with which the defendant union had contracts did not adhere to union standards. The respondent did not increase its employees' wages and reduce their hours of employment because of the efforts of the butchers' union or for the specific purpose of making it appear to the public that it was paying fair wages or to persuade many of the employees not to join the union. It is not true that if the union's activities were abandoned, the market company would change working conditions in its markets to the detriment of its employees.

The presence of pickets at the market company's places of business led many prospective customers to believe that a labor dispute existed between it and its employees, with a consequent loss of patronage. The picketing also caused other business firms and their employees to refrain from selling or delivering merchandise to the market company. There follow findings of damage to the market company and of the inadequacy of the remedy at law. The conclusions of law state that the appellants' activities were unlawful, entitling the respondent to injunctive relief.

The appellants do not challenge the findings favorable to the employer upon the issues relating to (1) the existence of any strike or controversy between it and its employees concerning the terms and conditions of employment; (2) the union's contention that the market company pursued a course of discrimination against its members; and, (3) the union's further claim that the market company raised the wages and reduced the hours of its employees solely because of the efforts of the union and to prevent the unionization of those employees. But they attack other findings which they contend are not supported by the evidence.

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They object first to the findings which state that the appellants "conspired" to unionize the market company's employees and "to compel" them to become members of the butchers' union and "to compel" the market company "to force" its employees to join the union. However, the words to which the appellants object are in reality mere conclusions and have little significance in the light of the more specific probative facts found by the court. The market company does not contend that the words "compel" and "force" refer to threats or acts of physical compulsion, nor could such a contention be made in view of statements both in its complaint and in another finding that the unionists maintained "a peaceable picketing".

The appellants also challenge parts of other findings which state, in substance, that the picketing was maintained for the purpose and had the effect of causing the market company's customers and prospective customers and the public to believe that a labor dispute existed between it and its employees when in fact no such dispute [106 P.2d 418] did exist, and through such wrongfully induced belief, these persons refrained from patronizing the company. Upon this issue the evidence shows that the pickets used no placards or printed matter but occasionally stated to passers-by "this market is unfair", or, "this market is unfair to organized labor", or, "this place is non-union", or, "this is a non-union shop".

By general understanding the respondent argues, picketing indicates that union employees are on strike because of a labor dispute between them and their employer. But it is a matter of common knowledge that unions do not limit the use of the picket to such occasions. And even assuming that some members of the public may have refused to patronize the market company solely because they believed that it was having a dispute with its employees and for no other reason, that fact does not make the appellants' conduct fraudulent. Peaceful picketing is commonly used by unions to advertise labor's grievances and may not be enjoined when the purpose is reasonably connected with a controversy which affects workers in an industry generally as well as those employed by the person against whom it is directed. If an employer is marketing commodities under nonunion conditions, it is not unlawful for labor unions to notify the public of that fact by peacefully picketing his place of business.

Page 395

This was recognized in the case of Parkinson Co. v. Building Trades Council, 154 Cal. 581 [16 Ann. Cas. 1165, 21 L.R.A. (N. S.) 550], where the court said: "In reference to the word 'unfair' it clearly appears that as employed by the defendants and labor organizations generally, it has a technical meaning. ... Such declarations means, and in this instance was understood by all parties concerned to mean, not that the plaintiff had been guilty of any fraud, breach of faith, or dishonorable conduct, but only that it had refused to comply with the conditions upon which union men would consent to remain in its employ or handle material supplied by it."

For these reasons any findings in this case which may be construed as indicating that the appellants' picketing was fraudulent are not supported by the evidence.

But there are other findings which seem to imply that the appellants' conduct was per se unlawful. These state that one of the...

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