312 U.S. 219 (1941), 43, United States v. Hutcheson

Docket Nº:No. 43
Citation:312 U.S. 219, 61 S.Ct. 463, 85 L.Ed. 788
Party Name:United States v. Hutcheson
Case Date:February 03, 1941
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 219

312 U.S. 219 (1941)

61 S.Ct. 463, 85 L.Ed. 788

United States



No. 43

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 3, 1941

Argued December 10, 1940




1. In determining whether trade union conduct violates the Sherman Act, that Act should be read with § 20 of the Clayton Act and with the Norris-LaGuardia Act. P. 231.

2. Labor union activities enumerated in §20 of the Clayton Act, which that section declares shall not be "considered or held to be violations of any law of the United States," are not punishable as criminal under the Sherman Act. P. 232.

3. Section 20 of the Clayton Act does not differentiate between trade union conduct directed against an employer because of a controversy arising in the relation between employer and employee, as such, and conduct similarly directed but arising from a struggle between two unions seeking the favor of the same employer. P. 232.

4. In a case involving interstate commerce, union carpenters refused to work for a brewing company by which they were employed, or on construction work being done for it and for its adjoining tenant; they attempted to persuade members of other unions similarly to refuse to work; they picketed the brewer's premises, displaying signs "Unfair to Organized Labor"; and they recommended to the union members and their friends not to buy or use the brewer's product.


(1) That these actions were protected from prosecution under the Sherman Act by § 20 of the Clayton Act, construed in the light of Congress's definition of a "labor dispute" in the Norris-LaGuardia Act. P. 233.

(2) In view of the broad definition of "labor dispute" in the Norris-LaGuardia Act, § 20 of the Clayton Act gives protection to the conduct it describes although directed in part against outsiders to the labor dispute. Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering, 254 U.S. 443, is inapplicable. P. 234.

32 F.Supp. 600, affirmed.

APPEAL under the Criminal Appeals Act from a judgment quashing an indictment under the Sherman Act.

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FRANKFURTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Whether the use of conventional, peaceful activities by a union in controversy with a rival union over certain jobs is a violation of the Sherman Law, Act of July 2, 1890, 26 Stat. 209, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 1, is the question. It is sharply presented in this case because it arises in a criminal prosecution. Concededly, an injunction either at the suit of the Government or of the employer could not issue.

Summarizing the long indictment, these are the facts. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., operating a large plant in St. Louis, contracted with Borsari Tank Corporation for the erection of an additional facility. The Gaylord Container Corporation, a lessee of adjacent property from Anheuser-Busch, made a similar contract for a new building with the Stocker Company. Anheuser-Busch obtained the

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materials for its brewing and other operations and sold its finished products largely through interstate shipments. The Gaylord Corporation was equally dependent on interstate commerce for marketing its goods, as were the construction companies for their building materials. Among the employees of Anheuser-Busch were members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and of the International Association of Machinists. The conflicting claims of these two organizations, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, in regard to the erection and dismantling of machinery had long been a source of controversy between them. Anheuser-Busch had had agreements with both organizations whereby the Machinists were given the disputed jobs and the Carpenters agreed to submit all disputes to arbitration. But, in 1939, the president of the Carpenters, their general representative, and two officials of the Carpenters' local organization, the four men under indictment, stood on the claims of the Carpenters for the jobs. Rejection by the employer of the Carpenters' demand and the refusal of the latter to submit to arbitration were followed by a strike of the Carpenters, called by the defendants against Anheuser-Busch and the construction companies, a picketing of Anheuser-Busch and its tenant, and a request through circular letters and the official publication of the Carpenters that union members and their friends refrain from buying Anheuser-Busch beer.

These activities on behalf of the Carpenters formed the charge of the indictment as a criminal combination and conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Law. Demurrers denying that what was charged constituted a violation of the laws of the United States were sustained, 32 F.Supp. 600, and the case came here under the Criminal Appeals Act. Act of March 2, 1907, 34 Stat. 1246, 18 U.S.C. § 682; Judicial Code § 238, 28 U.S.C. § 345.

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In order to determine whether an indictment charges an offense against the United States, designation by the pleader of the statute under which he purported to lay the charge is immaterial. He may have conceived the charge under one statute which would not sustain the indictment, but it may nevertheless come within the terms of another statute. See Williams v. United States, 168 U.S. 382. On the other hand, an indictment may validly [61 S.Ct. 465] satisfy the statute under which the pleader proceeded, but other statutes not referred to by him may draw the sting of criminality from the allegations. Here, we must consider not merely the Sherman Law, but the related enactments which entered into the decision of the district court.

Section 1 of the Sherman Law, on which the indictment rested, is as follows:

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 hereby declared to be illegal.

The controversies engendered by its application to trade union activities and the efforts to secure legislative relief from its consequences are familiar history. The Clayton Act of 1914 was the result. Act of October 15, 1914, 38 Stat. 730.

This statute was the fruit of unceasing agitation, which extended over more than 20 years and was designed to equalize before the law the position of workingmen and employer as industrial combatants.

Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering, 254 U.S. 443, 484. Section 20 of that Act, which is set out in the margin in full,1 withdrew

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from the general interdict of the Sherman Law specifically enumerated practices of labor unions by prohibiting injunctions against them -- since the use of the injunction had been the major source of dissatisfaction -- and also relieved such practices of all illegal taint by the catch-all provision, "nor shall any of the acts specified in this paragraph be considered or held to be violations of any law of the United States". The Clayton Act gave rise to new litigation and to renewed controversy in and out of Congress regarding the status of trade unions. By the generality of its terms, the Sherman Law had necessarily compelled the courts to work out its meaning from case to case. It was widely believed that into the Clayton Act courts read the very beliefs which that Act was designed to remove. Specifically the courts restricted the scope of § 20 to trade union activities directed against an employer by his own employees. Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering,

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supra. Such a view, it was urged both by powerful judicial dissents and informed lay opinion, misconceived the area of economic conflict that had best be left to economic forces and the pressure of public opinion, and not subjected to the judgment of courts. Ibid., 485-486. Agitation again led to legislation and in 1932 [61 S.Ct. 466] Congress wrote the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Act of March 23, 1932, 47 Stat. 70, 29 U.S.C. §§ 101-115.

The Norris-LaGuardia Act removed the fetters upon trade union activities, which, according to judicial construction, § 20 of the Clayton Act had left untouched, by still further narrowing the circumstances under which the federal courts could grant injunctions in labor disputes. More especially, the Act explicitly formulated the "public policy of the United States" in regard to the industrial conflict,2 and by its light established that the allowable area of union activity was not to be restricted, as it had been in the Duplex case, to an immediate employer-employee relation. Therefore, whether trade union conduct constitutes a violation of the Sherman Law is to be determined only by reading the Sherman Law and § 20 of the Clayton Act and the Norris-LaGuardia Act as a harmonizing text of outlawry of labor conduct.

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Were then the acts charged against the defendants prohibited or permitted by these three interlacing statutes? If the facts laid in the indictment come within the conduct enumerated in § 20 of the Clayton Act, they do not constitute a crime within the general terms of the Sherman Law because of the explicit command of that section that such conduct shall not be "considered or held to be violations of any law of the United States". So long as a union acts in its self-interest and does not combine with nonlabor groups,3 the licit and the illicit under § 20 are not to be distinguished by any judgment regarding the wisdom or unwisdom, the rightness or wrongness, the selfishness or unselfishness of the end of which the particular union activities are the means. There is nothing remotely within the terms of § 20 that differentiates between trade union conduct directed against an employer because of a controversy arising in the relation between employer and employee, as such, and conduct similarly directed but ultimately due to an internecine struggle between two unions seeking the favor of the same employer. Such strife between competing...

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