257 U.S. 184 (1921), 2, American Steel Foundries v. Tri-City Central Trades Council

Docket Nº:No. 2
Citation:257 U.S. 184, 42 S.Ct. 72, 66 L.Ed. 189
Party Name:American Steel Foundries v. Tri-City Central Trades Council
Case Date:December 05, 1921
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 184

257 U.S. 184 (1921)

42 S.Ct. 72, 66 L.Ed. 189

American Steel Foundries


Tri-City Central Trades Council

No. 2

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 5, 1921

Argued January 17, 1919

Restored to docket for reargument June 1, 1920

Reargued October 5, 1920

Restored to docket for reargument June 6, 1921

Reargued October 4, 5, 1921




1. A decree of injunction in a labor controversy was entered in the district court before the date of the Clayton Act, c. 323, 38 Stat. 738, but was pending on appeal in the circuit court of appeals when the act was approved. Held that the plaintiff had no vested right in the decree, and that the act was to be regarded in determining the appeal. P. 201.

2. The irreparable injury to property referred to in the first paragraph of § 20 of the Clayton Act, supra, includes injury to the business of an employer. P. 202.

3. The second paragraph of § 20 of the Clayton Act does not apply to a dispute between an employer and persons who are neither ex-employees nor seeking employment. Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering, 254 U.S. 443. Held, in this case, that only those defendants who left the plaintiff's employ when a strike was called

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by the defendant labor union, as distinguished from those who had been employed but were laid off some months previously and those who had not been in the employment, could invoke § 20 in their behalf. P. 202.

4. The Clayton Act, § 20, in forbidding injunctions to restrain employees, recent or expectant, from the use of peaceful persuasion in promotion of their side of the controversy, or from obtaining or communicating information in any place where they may lawfully be, merely declares and stabilizes what was always the best equity practice. P. 203.

5. Workmen have the right to work for whom they will and to go freely to and from their place of labor undisturbed by annoying importunities or by the intimidation of numbers, and their employer has a right, incident to his property and business, that they have free access to the place where the business is conducted. P. 203.

6. The "picketing" of an employer's plant by groups of men stationed near the points of ingress and egress and in neighboring streets, who importunately intercepted the workmen of the employer or others seeking employment, and whose activities collected crowds of bystanders and resulted in personal violence, held unlawful, and to be enjoined eo nomine, without adding the words "in a threatening or intimidating manner." Pp. 204, 207.

7. Such "picketing" creates a condition of intimidation in which there can be no peaceable communication of information or peaceable persuasion in the sense of the Clayton Act. P. 205.

8. An injunction for the protection of an employer in a strike controversy should be adapted to the facts of the particular case, safeguarding his rights while affording to ex-employees and others properly acting with them opportunity, consistent with peace and law, to observe who are still working for the employer, to communicate with them, and to persuade them to join his opponents. Held, in this case, that the strikers and their sympathizers should be limited to one representative for each point of ingress and egress at the plant, and that all others should be enjoined from congregating or loitering about the plant or in neighboring streets affording access thereto, that such representatives should have the right of observation, communication, and persuasion, avoiding abuse, libel, or threats, and in their efforts singly should not obstruct an unwilling listener by importunate following or dogging of his steps. P. 206.

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9. An injunction broadly forbidding ex-employees from persuading employees and would-be employee to leave or stay out of the employment conflicts with the Clayton Act, supra. P. 208.

10. Where the member of a local labor union, though not ex-employees within the Clayton Act, have reason to expect reemployment at a plant where wage have been reduced, interference by them and their union by peaceable persuasion and appeal to induce a strike against the lowered wages is not malicious or without lawful excuse, and the principle against malicious enticement of laborers does not apply. P. 208. Hitchman Coal & Coke Co. v. Mitchell, 245 U.S. 229, and Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering, 254 U.S. 443, distinguished.

238 F. 728 reversed in part and affirmed in part.

Review of a decree of the circuit court of appeals which affirmed, with important modifications, a decree of injunction rendered by the district court at the suit of the present petitioner against the respondent labor union and individuals.

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TAFT, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

The American Steel Foundries is a New Jersey corporation operating a large plant for the manufacture of steel products in Granite City, Illinois. In May, 1914, it filed a bill in the District Court for the Southern District of Illinois to enjoin the defendants, the Tri-City Central Trades Council, and fourteen individual defendants, some of them officers of the Council, all of them citizens of other states than New Jersey, from carrying on a conspiracy to prevent complainant from retaining and obtaining skilled laborers to operate its plant. The bill charged that the conspiracy was being executed by organized picketing, accompanied by threats, intimidation, and violence toward persons employed or seeking employment there. The defendants in their answer admitted that the Central Trades Council had established a picket upon streets leading to the plant, with instructions to notify all persons entering it that a strike had been called because of reduction of wages, and to use all honorable means to persuade such persons not to take the places of the men on the strike; admitted the participation of individual defendants in the picketing, but denied threats of injury or violence or responsibility for the violence that admittedly had occurred. After replication was filed, the cause was heard. A restraining order issued on filing of the bill, and a final decree was entered by which defendants were

perpetually restrained and enjoined from in any way or manner whatsoever by use of persuasion, threats, or personal injury, intimidation, suggestion of danger or threats of violence of any kind, interfering with, hindering, obstructing or stopping any person engaged in the employ of the American Steel Foundries in connection with its business or its foundry in the City of

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Granite City, County of Madison, State of Illinois, or elsewhere, and from interfering by persuasion, violence, or threats of violence in any manner with any person desiring to be employed by said American Steel Foundries in its said foundry or plant, and from inducing or attempting to compel or induce by persuasion, threats, intimidation, force, or violence or putting in fear or suggestions of danger any of the employees of the American Steel Foundries or persons seeking employment with it so as to cause them to refuse to perform any of their duties as employees of the American Steel Foundries, and from preventing any person by persuasion, threats, intimidation, force, or violence, or suggestion of danger or violence, from entering into the employ of said American Steel Foundries, and from protecting, aiding, or assisting any person or persons in committing any of said acts, and from assembling, loitering, or congregating about or in proximity of the said plant or factory of the American Steel Foundries for the purpose of doing, or aiding or encouraging others in doing, any of the said unlawful or forbidden acts or things, and from picketing or maintaining at or near the premises of the complainant, or on the streets leading to the premises of said complainant, any picket or pickets, and from doing any acts or things whatever in furtherance of any conspiracy or combination among them, or any of them, to obstruct, or interfere with said American Steel Foundries, its officers, agents or employees, in the free and unrestrained control and operation of its plant, foundry, and property and the operation of its business, and also from ordering, directing, aiding, assisting, or in any manner abetting any person committing any or either of the acts aforesaid, and also from entering upon the grounds, foundry, or premises of the American Steel Foundries without first obtaining its consent, and from injuring or destroying any of the property of the said American Steel Foundries.

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There were twelve assignments of error on the appeal to the circuit court of appeals, but the important ones which raised the issue in this case were as follows:

Eight. Because the complainant was not entitled to an injunction prohibiting the defendants, while on the streets of Granite City or while in proximity to such foundry, from trying to persuade strike breakers from taking the places of the strikers.

Ninth. Because the complainant was not entitled to an injunction prohibiting the defendants from stopping employees of complainant and suggesting to them that they should not work at such plant while a strike was on.

Tenth. Because the complainant was not entitled to an injunction prohibiting the defendants from assembling, or congregating in proximity of said foundry or on the streets leading to such foundry.

Eleventh. Because the complainant was not entitled to an injunction prohibiting the defendants from placing any picket or pickets upon the streets leading to such foundry whose duty it was to notify those entering said foundry that there was a strike on.

The circuit court of appeals modified the final decree by striking out the word "persuasion" in the four places in which it occurred, and by inserting after the clause restraining picketing the...

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