315 U.S. 769 (1942), 901, Bakery & Pastry Drivers & Helpers Local 802,

Docket Nº:No. 901
Citation:315 U.S. 769, 62 S.Ct. 816, 86 L.Ed. 1178
Party Name:Bakery & Pastry Drivers & Helpers Local 802,
Case Date:March 30, 1942
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 769

315 U.S. 769 (1942)

62 S.Ct. 816, 86 L.Ed. 1178

Bakery & Pastry Drivers & Helpers Local 802,

No. 901

United States Supreme Court

March 30, 1942

International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. Wohl

October Term 1940

Argued January 13, 1942



1. Members of a labor union of drivers engaged in the distribution of baked goods, in an endeavor to induce peddlers to work but six days a week and to hire an unemployed union member one day a week, peacefully picketed bakeries from which the peddler obtained their goods, and places of business of the peddlers' customers, carrying placards with the peddlers' names and a true statement of the union's grievance.

Held, that a state court injunction against such picketing was an unconstitutional invasion of the right of free speech. Pp. 772, 775.

2. The right of free speech does not depend in such a case on whether or not a "labor dispute," as defined by the state statutes, is involved. P. 774.

284 N.Y. 788, 31 N.E.2d 765, reversed.

Certiorari, 313 U.S. 548, to review the affirmance of a judgment sustaining an injunction. A petition for rehearing of the judgment of reversal, id., was granted, 314 U.S. 701.

JACKSON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioners are a labor union and certain of its officers. The union membership consists of truck drivers occupied in the distribution of baked goods. The respondents Wohl and Platzman are, and for some years have

Page 770

been, peddlers of baked goods. They buy from bakeries and sell and deliver to small retailers, and keep the difference between cost and selling price, which, in the case of Wohl, is approximately thirty-two dollars a week, and in the case of Platzman, about thirty-five dollars a week. Out of this, each must absorb credit losses and maintain a delivery truck which he owns, but has registered in the name of his wife. Both are men of family. Neither has any employee or assistant. Both work seven days a week, Wohl putting in something over thirty-three hours a week and Platzman about sixty-five hours a week. It was found that neither has any contract with the bakeries [62 S.Ct. 817] from whom he buys, and it does not appear that either had a contract with any customer.

The conflict between the union and these peddlers grows out of certain background facts found by the trial court and summarized here. The union has for some years been engaged in obtaining collective bargaining agreements prescribing the wages, hours, and working conditions of bakery drivers. Five years before the trial, there were in New York City comparatively few peddlers, or so-called independent jobbers -- fifty, at most -- consisting largely of men who had a long established retail trade. About four years before the trial, the social security and unemployment compensation laws, both of which imposed taxes on payrolls, became effective in the New York. Thereafter, the number of peddlers of bakery products increased from year to year until, at the time of hearing, they numbered more than five hundred. In the eighteen months preceding the hearings, baking companies which operated routes through employed drivers had notified the union that, at the expiration of their contracts, they would no longer employ drivers, but would permit the drivers to purchase trucks for nominal amounts, in some instances fifty dollars, and thereupon to continue to distribute their baked goods as peddlers. Within such period, a hundred

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and fifty drivers who were members of the union and had previously worked under union contracts and conditions were discharged and required to leave the industry unless they undertook to act as peddlers.

The peddler system has serious disadvantages to the peddler himself. The court has found that he is not covered by workmen's compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, or by the social security system of the State and Nation. His truck is usually uninsured against public liability and property damage, and hence commonly carried in the name of his wife or other nominee. If injured while working, he usually becomes a public charge, and his family must be supported by charity or public relief.

The union became alarmed at the aggressive inroads of this kind of competition upon the employment and living standards of its members. The trial court found that, if employers with union contracts are forced to adopt the "peddler" system, "the wages, hours, working conditions, six-day week, etc., attained by the union after long years of struggle will be destroyed and lost." In the spring of 1938, the union made an effort in good faith to persuade the peddlers to become members, and those who desired were admitted to membership and were only required to abide by the same constitution, bylaws, rules and regulations as were all other members. That, however, included a requirement that no union member should work more than six days per week.

These particular peddlers were asked to join the union, and each signed an application, but neither joined. The union then determined to seek an understanding with peddlers who failed to join the union that they work only six days a week and employ an unemployed union member one day in a week. The union did not insist that the relief man be paid beyond the time that he actually worked, but

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asked that he be paid on the basis of the union's daily wage, which fixed a scale for part of a day if but part of a day was required for the service of the route. For some ten weeks, Wohl employed a relief driver, who was paid $6.00 per day, the normal day's wage for a full day being.$9.00.

When Wohl and Platzman finally refused either to join the union or to employ a union relief man, and continued to work seven days each week, the union took the measures which led to this litigation. On the twenty-third of January, 1939, the union caused two pickets to walk in the vicinity of the bakery which sold products to Wohl and Platzman, each picket carrying a placard, one bearing the name of Wohl and the other that of Platzman, and under each name appeared the following statement:

A bakery route driver works seven days a week. We ask employment for a union relief man for one day. Help us spread employment and maintain a union wage, hours, and conditions. Bakery and Pastry Drivers and...

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