336 U.S. 490 (1949), 182, Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co.

Docket NºNo. 182
Citation336 U.S. 490, 69 S.Ct. 684, 93 L.Ed. 834
Party NameGiboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co.
Case DateApril 04, 1949
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 490

336 U.S. 490 (1949)

69 S.Ct. 684, 93 L.Ed. 834



Empire Storage & Ice Co.

No. 182

United States Supreme Court

April 4, 1949

Argued January 4-5, 1949



A state court enjoined officers and members of a union of ice peddlers from peacefully picketing appellee's place of business, finding that the sole purpose of the picketing was to induce appellee to agree not to sell ice to non-union peddlers. The State Supreme Court affirmed, holding that picketing for this purpose violated a state statute forbidding agreements in restraint of trade.

Held: The state law, as construed and applied in this case, does not violate the Federal Constitution, and the judgment is affirmed. Pp. 491-504.

1. States have constitutional power to prohibit dealers and their aiders and abettors from combining to restrain freedom of trade. P. 495.

2. The guaranties of freedom of speech and press stemming from the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal Constitution do not immunize members of labor unions from such a valid state law. Pp. 495-497.

3. Nor do they prevent state courts from enjoining peaceful picketing by members of a labor union in violation of such a valid state law, even though the picketing involves dissemination of truthful information about a labor dispute. Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88; Carlson v. California, 310 U.S. 106, distinguished. Pp. 497-504.

(a) The constitutional freedom of speech and press does not immunize speech or writing used as an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal statute. P. 498.

(b) The circumstances here justified restraint of the picketing, since it was engaged in for the sole purpose of inducing a violation of a valid state law. Pp. 501-504.

(c) The State, and not the labor union, has paramount constitutional power to regulate and govern the manner in which certain trade practices may be carried on. P. 504.

357 Mo. 671, 210 S.W.2d 55, affirmed.

A state trial court enjoined officers and members of a labor union from picketing appellee's place of business

Page 491

in order to force appellee to enter into an agreement in restraint of trade in violation of Mo.Rev.Stat.Ann., § 8301. The State Supreme Court affirmed. 57 Mo. 671, 210 S.W.2d 55. On appeal to this Court, affirmed, p. 504.

BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case here on appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1257 raises questions concerning the constitutional power of a state to apply its anti-trade-restraint law1 to labor union activities, and to enjoin union members from peaceful picketing carried on as an essential and inseparable part of a course of conduct which is in violation of the state

Page 492

law. The picketing occurred in Kansas City, Missouri. The injunction was issued by a Missouri state court.

The appellants are members and officers of the Ice and Coal Drivers and Handlers Local Union No. 953, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. Its membership includes about 160 of 200 retail ice peddlers who drive their own trucks in selling ice from door to door in Kansas City. The union began efforts to induce all the nonunion peddlers to join. One objective of the organizational drive was to better wage and working conditions of peddlers and their helpers. Most of the non-union peddlers refused to join the union. To break down their resistance, the union adopted a plan which was designed to make it impossible for non-union peddlers to buy ice to supply their retail customers in Kansas City. Pursuant to the plan, the union set about to obtain from all Kansas City wholesale ice distributors agreements that they would not sell ice to non-union peddlers. Agreements were obtained from all distributors except the appellee, Empire [69 S.Ct. 686] Storage and Ice Company. Empire refused to agree. The union thereupon informed Empire that it would use other means at its disposal to force Empire to come around to the union view. Empire still refused to agree. Its place of business was promptly picketed by union members, although the only complaint registered against Empire, as indicated by placards carried by the pickets, was its continued sale of ice to non-union peddlers.

Thus, the avowed immediate purpose of the picketing was to compel Empire to agree to stop selling ice to non-union peddlers. Missouri statutes, set out in note 1, make such an agreement a crime punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 and by imprisonment in the penitentiary for not more than five years. Furthermore, under § 8308 of the Missouri Revised Statutes Ann.

Page 493

(1939), had Empire made the agreement, the ice peddlers could have brought actions for triple damages for any injuries they sustained as a result of the agreement.

About 85% of the truck drivers working for Empire's customers were members of labor unions. These union truck drivers refused to deliver goods to or from Empire's place of business. Had any one of them crossed the picket line, he would have been subject to fine or suspension by the union of which he was a member.

Because of the foregoing facts, shown either by admissions, by undisputed evidence, or by unchallenged findings, the picketing had an instantaneous adverse effect on Empire's business. It was reduced 85%. In this dilemma, Empire was faced with three alternatives: it could continue to sell ice to non-union peddlers, in which event it would be compelled to wage a fight for survival against overwhelming odds; it could stop selling ice to non-union peddlers, thereby relieving itself from further conflict with the union, in which event it would be subject to prosecution for crime and suits for triple damages; it could invoke the protection of the law. The last alternative was adopted.

Empire's complaint charged that the concerted efforts of union members to restrain Empire from selling to non-union members was a violation of the anti-trade restraint statute, and that an agreement by Empire to refuse to make such sales would violate the same statute. It prayed for an injunction against the picketing. In answering, appellants asserted a constitutional right to picket Empire's premises in order to force it to discontinue sale of ice to non-union peddlers. They contended that their right to do so was "guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments" because there was "a labor dispute existing" between appellants and appellee, and because the picketers publicized only the truthful information

Page 494

that appellee was "selling ice to peddlers who are not members of the sad defendants' union."

The trial court heard evidence, made findings, and issued an injunction restraining the appellants from "placing pickets or picketing around or about the buildings" of Empire.

The State Supreme Court affirmed. 357 Mo. 671, 210 S.W.2d 55. It agreed with the findings of the trial court that the conduct of appellants was pursuant to a local transportation combination used to compel Empire to stop selling ice to non-union peddlers, and that the purpose of the picketing was to force Empire to become a party to such combination. It held that such activities were unlawful because in violation of § 8301 of the Missouri statutes, and further held that the injunction to prevent picketing for such unlawful purpose did not contravene the appellants' right of free speech.

In this Court, appellants do not raise problems similar to those discussed in Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697, relating to censorship prior to publication, as distinguished from sanctions to be imposed after publication, nor are their objections to the form, language, or scope of the injunction. See Milk Wagon Drivers v. Meadowmoor Dairies, 312 U.S. 287, 297-298, also dissenting opinion, 299-303. Attacking the Missouri statute as construed and applied, appellants broadly challenge the power of the state to issue any injunction against their conduct, since, they assert, the primary objective of their combination and picketing was to improve wage and working conditions. On this premise, they argue that their right to combine, to picket, and to publish must be determined by focusing attention exclusively upon their lawful purpose to improve labor conditions, and that their violation of the state anti-trade restraint laws must be dismissed as merely incidental to this lawful purpose.

Page 495

First. That states have constitutional power to prohibit competing dealers and their aiders and abettors from combining to restrain freedom of trade is beyond question. Watson v. Buck, 313 U.S. 387, 403-404. In speaking of the Missouri statutory antecedent of the statute here challenged, this Court said:

The purpose of such statutes is to secure competition and preclude combinations which tend to defeat it. . . . There is nothing in the Constitution of the United States which precludes a State from adopting and enforcing such policy. To so decide would be stepping backwards.

International Harvester Co. v. Missouri, 234 U.S. 199, 209. Agreements and combinations not to sell to or buy goods from particular persons or to dictate the terms under which transportation will be supplied are well recognized trade restraint practices which both state and national legislation can and do prohibit. Grenada Lbr. Co. v. Mississippi, 217 U.S. 433, 440-441; Eastern States Lbr. Assn. v. United States, 234 U.S. 600, 612-614; Fashion Guild v. Trade Comm'n, 312 U.S. 457, 465; United States v. Freight Assn., 166 U.S. 290, 324-325.

Second. It is contended that, though the Missouri statute can be applied validly to combinations of businessmen who agree not to sell to certain persons, it cannot be applied constitutionally to combinations of union workers who agree in their self-interest to use their joint power to prevent sales to non-union workers. This contention appears to be grounded on the...

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