325 U.S. 797 (1945), 702, Allen Bradley Co. v. Local Union No. 3, International

Docket Nº:No. 702
Citation:325 U.S. 797, 65 S.Ct. 1533, 89 L.Ed. 1939
Party Name:Allen Bradley Co. v. Local Union No. 3, International
Case Date:June 18, 1945
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 797

325 U.S. 797 (1945)

65 S.Ct. 1533, 89 L.Ed. 1939

Allen Bradley Co.


Local Union No. 3, International

No. 702

United States Supreme Court

June 18, 1945

Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

Argued March 8, 9, 1945




1. It is a violation of the Sherman antitrust Act for labor unions and their members, though furthering their own interests as wage earners, to combine with employers and with manufacturers of goods to restrain competition in, and to monopolize the marketing of, such goods in interstate commerce. Pp. 798, 810.

2. Congress did not intend by the Clayton Act or the Norris-LaGuardia Act that labor unions could, consistently with the Sherman Act, aid nonlabor groups to create business monopolies and to control the marketing of goods and services. P. 808.

3. In § 6 of the Clayton Act, which provides that the Sherman Act is not to be so construed as to forbid the "existence and operation of labor, agricultural, or horticultural organizations instituted for the purpose of mutual help," "the purpose of mutual help" can not be deemed to extend to activities for the purpose of "employer help" in controlling markets and prices. P. 808.

4. Whether particular labor union activities violate the Sherman Act may depend upon whether the union acts alone or in combination with business groups. P. 810.

5. It was the purpose of Congress in the antitrust legislation to outlaw business monopolies; and a business monopoly is no less such because a union participates. P. 811.

6. The injunction against the union and its agents in this case must be limited so as to enjoin only those prohibited activities which were engaged in in combination with a nonlabor group. P. 812.

145 F.2d 215, reversed.

CERTIORARI, 323 U.S. 707, to review a judgment which reversed a judgment for the plaintiffs, 51 F.Supp. 3, in a civil suit to enjoin alleged violations of the Sherman Act and ordered dismissal of the suit.

Page 798

BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented is whether it is a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act1 for labor unions and their members, prompted by a desire to get and hold jobs for themselves at good wages and under high working standards, to combine with employers and with manufacturers of goods to restrain competition, in, and to monopolize the marketing of, such goods.

Upon the complaint of petitioners and after a lengthy hearing, the District Court held that such a combination did violate the Sherman Act, entered a declaratory judgment to that effect, and entered an injunction restraining respondents from engaging in a wide range of specified activities. 41 F.Supp. 727, 51 F.Supp. 36. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision and dismissed the cause, holding that combinations of unions and business men which restrained trade and tended to monopoly were not in violation of the Act where the bona fide purpose of the unions was to raise wages, provide better [65 S.Ct. 1535] working conditions, and bring about better conditions of employment for their members. 145 F.2d 215. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals having reached a contrary conclusion in a similar case, 144 F.2d 546, we granted certiorari in both cases. 323 U.S. 707.

The facts were sufficiently set out in the opinions below, and need not be detailed again. The following summary will suffice for our purposes.

Petitioners are manufacturers of electrical equipment. Their places of manufacture are outside of New York City, and most of them are outside of New York State as well. They have brought this action because of their desire to sell their products in New York City, a market area that has been closed to them through the activities of respondents and others.

Page 799

Respondents are a labor union, its officials and its members. The union, Local No. 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has jurisdiction only over the metropolitan area of New York City. It is therefore impossible for the union to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with petitioners. Some of petitioners do have collective bargaining agreements with other unions, and in some cases even with other locals of the IBEW.

Some of the members of respondent union work for manufacturers who produce electrical equipment similar to that made by petitioners; other members of respondent union are employed by contractors and work on the installation of electrical equipment, rather than in its production.

The union's consistent aim for many years has been to expand its membership, to obtain shorter hours and increased wages, and to enlarge employment opportunities for its members. To achieve this latter goal -- that is, to make more work for its own members -- the union realized that local manufacturers, employers of the local members, must have the widest possible outlets for their product. The union therefore waged aggressive campaigns to obtain closed shop agreements with all local electrical equipment manufacturers and contractors. Using conventional labor union methods, such as strikes and boycotts, it gradually obtained more and more closed shop agreements in the New York City area. Under these agreements, contractors were obligated to purchase equipment from none but local manufacturers who also had closed shop agreements with Local No. 3; manufacturers obligated themselves to confine their New York City sales to contractors employing the Local's members. In the course of time, this type of individual employer-employee agreement expanded into industrywide understandings, looking not merely to terms and conditions of employment

Page 800

but also to price and market control. Agencies were set up composed of representatives of all three groups to boycott recalcitrant local contractors and manufacturers and to bar from the area equipment manufactured outside its boundaries. The combination among the three groups, union, contractors, and manufacturers, became highly successful from the standpoint of all of them. The business of New York City manufacturers had a phenomenal growth, thereby multiplying the jobs available for the Local's members. Wages went up, hours were shortened, and the New York electrical equipment prices soared, to the decided financial profit of local contractors and manufacturers. The success is illustrated by the fact that some New York manufacturers sold their goods in the protected city market at one price and sold identical goods outside of New York at a far lower price. All of this took place, as the Circuit Court of Appeals declared, "through the stifling of competition", and because the three groups, in combination as "co-partners", achieved " a complete monopoly which they used to boycott the equipment manufactured by the plaintiffs." Interstate sale of various types of electrical equipment has, by this powerful combination, been wholly suppressed.

Quite obviously, this combination of businessmen has violated both Sections (1) and (2) of the Sherman Act2 unless its conduct is immunized by the [65 S.Ct. 1536] participation of the union. For it intended to and did restrain trade in and monopolize

Page 801

the supply of electrical equipment in the New York City area to the exclusion of equipment manufactured in and shipped from other states, and did also control its price and discriminate between its would-be customers. Apex Hosiery Co. v. Leader, 310 U.S. 469, 512, 513. Our problem in this case is therefore a very narrow one -- do labor unions violate the Sherman Act when, in order to further their own interests as wage earners, they aid and abet business men to do the precise things which that Act prohibits?

The Sherman Act, as originally passed, contained no language expressly exempting any labor union activities. Sharp controversy soon arose as to whether the Act applied to unions. One viewpoint was that the only evil at which Congress had aimed was high consumer prices achieved through combinations looking to control of markets by powerful groups; that those who would have a great incentive for such combinations would be the businessmen who would be the direct beneficiaries of them; therefore, the argument proceeded, Congress drafted its law to apply only to business combinations, particularly the large trusts, and not to labor unions or any of their activities as such. Involved in this viewpoint were the following contentions: that the Sherman Act is a law to regulate trade, not labor, a law to prescribe the rules governing barter and sale, and not the personal relations of employers and employees; that good wages and working conditions helped, and did not hinder, trade, even though increased labor costs might be reflected in the cost of products; that labor was not a commodity; that laborers had an inherent right to accept or terminate employment at their own will, either separately or in concert; that, to enforce their claims for better wages and working conditions, they had a right to refuse to buy goods from their employer or anybody else; that what they could do to aid their cause they had a right to persuade others to do;

Page 802

and that the antitrust laws designed to regulate trading were unsuitable to regulate employer-employee relations and controversies. The claim was that the history of the legislation supported this line of argument.3

The contrary viewpoint was that the Act covered all classes of people and all types of combinations, including unions, if their activities even physically interrupted the free flow of trade or tended to create business monopolies, and that a combination of laborers to obtain a raise in wages was itself a...

To continue reading