340 U.S. 383 (1951), 329, Amalgamated Association of Street, Electric Railway &

Docket Nº:No. 329
Citation:340 U.S. 383, 71 S.Ct. 359, 95 L.Ed. 364
Party Name:Amalgamated Association of Street, Electric Railway &
Case Date:February 26, 1951
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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340 U.S. 383 (1951)

71 S.Ct. 359, 95 L.Ed. 364

Amalgamated Association of Street, Electric Railway &

No. 329

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 26, 1951

Motor Coach Employees of America, Division 998

v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Board

Argued January 9-10, 1951

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF WISCONSIN

Syllabus

The Wisconsin Public Utility Anti-Strike Law, which makes it a misdemeanor for any group of public utility employees to engage in a strike which would cause an interruption of an essential public utility service, as applied in these cases, conflicts with the National Labor Relations Act, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, and is invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 385-399.

1. By the National Labor Relations Act, as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, safeguarding the right of employees to strike, Congress occupied this field and closed it to state regulation, and any concurrent state regulation of peaceful strikes for higher wages is invalid. Automobile Workers v. O'Brien, 339 U.S. 454. Pp. 389-390.

2. The Federal Act applies to a privately owned public utility whose business and activities are carried on wholly within a single state. Consolidated Edison Co. v. Labor Board, 305 U.S. 197. Pp. 391-393.

3. The result finds further support in the 1947 amendments, whereby Congress provided special procedures to deal with strikes which might create national emergencies. Pp. 393-396.

4. The questions of policy raised here are for legislative determination, and have been resolved by Congress adversely to respondents. This Court, in the exercise of its judicial function, must take the comprehensive and valid federal legislation as enacted and declare invalid state regulation which impinges on that legislation. Pp. 397-398.

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5. As applied in this case, the Wisconsin Act is in direct conflict with the Federal Act, and therefore is invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 398-399.

257 Wis. 43, 42 N.W.2d 471; 258 Wis. 1, 44 N.W.2d 547, reversed.

The cases are stated in the second and third paragraphs of the opinion. The judgments below are reversed, p. 399.

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VINSON, J., lead opinion

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

In these cases, the constitutionality of labor legislation of the Wisconsin known as the Public Utility Anti-Strike Law1 has been drawn in question.

Petitioners in No. 329 are the union and its officers who represent the employees of the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Transport Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for collective bargaining purposes.2 For many years, the transit workers entered [71 S.Ct. 361] into collective bargaining agreements with the transit company without resorting to strike. In 1948, however, the collective agreement was terminated when the parties were unable to agree on wages, hours, and working conditions and the transit workers' union called a strike to enforce union demands. The respondent Wisconsin Employment Relations Board secured immediately an ex parte order from a State Circuit Court restraining the strike and, in compliance with that order, the union postponed its strike. Thereafter, the same Circuit Court entered a judgment under which petitioners are

perpetually restrained and enjoined from calling a strike . . . which would cause an interruption of the passenger service of the [transit company].

The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, 257 Wis. 43, 42 N.W.2d 471 (1950), and we granted certiorari, 340 U.S. 874 (1950), to review the important questions decided below.

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Petitioners in No. 438 are the union and its officers who represent employees of the Milwaukee Gas Light Company and its subsidiary, the Milwaukee Solvay Coke Company, both of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pursuant to a certification of the National Labor Relations Board.3 In 1949, the collective agreement between petitioners and the gas company was terminated and, upon failure of further bargaining and conciliation to resolve the dispute, a strike was called, and the gas workers left their jobs. Respondent Wisconsin Employment Relations Board obtained forthwith an ex parte restraining order from a State Circuit Court requiring that petitioners

absolutely desist and refrain from calling strike [or] going out on strike . . . which would cause an interruption of the service of the [gas company]

and ordering petitioners to "take immediate steps to notify all employees called out on strike to resume service forthwith." Although the strike was settled soon thereafter, the Circuit Court found that petitioners had not obeyed the restraining order, and entered a judgment of contempt, imposing fines of $250 upon each petitioner. The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed that judgment, Wisconsin Employment Relations Board v. Milwaukee Gas Light Co., 258 Wis. 1, 44 N.W.2d 547 (1950), and we granted certiorari, 340 U.S. 903 (1950), since this case raises the same substantial questions as those before the Court in No. 329.

The injunctions were issued in each case upon the complaint of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board, charged by statute with the enforcement of the Public Utility Anti-Strike Law. That act vests in the state

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circuit courts jurisdiction to enjoin violations of the Act, Wis.Stat. 1949, § 111.63, the substantive provision involved in these cases providing as follows:

It shall be unlawful for any group of employees of a public utility employer acting in concert to call a strike or to go out on strike, or to cause any work stoppage or slowdown which would cause an interruption of an essential service; it also shall be unlawful for any public utility employer to lock out his employees when such action would cause an interruption of essential service, and it shall be unlawful for any person or persons to instigate, to induce, to conspire with, or to encourage any other person or persons to engage in any strike or lockout or slowdown or work stoppage which would cause an interruption of an essential service. Any violation of this section by any member of a group of employees acting in concert or by any employer or by any officer of an employer acting for such employer, or by any other individual, [71 S.Ct. 362] shall constitute a misdemeanor.

Wis.Stat. 1949, § 111.62.4

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This provision is part of a statutory pattern designed to become effective whenever collective bargaining results in an "impasse and stalemate" likely to cause interruption of the supply of an "essential public utility service," Wis.Stat. 1949, § 111.50, that service including water, heat, gas, electric power, public passenger transportation, and communications. Id., § 111.51. Whenever such an "impasse" occurs, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board is empowered to appoint a conciliator to meet with the parties in an effort to settled the dispute. Id., § 111.54. In the event of a failure of conciliation, the Board is directed to select arbitrators who shall "hear and determine" the dispute. Id., § 111.55. The act establishes standards to govern the decision of the arbitrators, id. §§ 111.57-111.58, and provides that the order of the arbitrators shall be final and binding upon the parties, id. § 111.59, subject to judicial review, id. § 111.60. In summary, the act substitutes arbitration upon order of the Board for collective bargaining whenever an impasse is reached in the bargaining process. And, to insure conformity with the statutory scheme, Wisconsin denies to utility employees the right to strike.

In upholding the constitutionality of the Public Utility Anti-Strike Act, the Wisconsin Supreme Court stressed the importance of utility service to the public welfare and the plenary power which a state is accustomed to exercise over such enterprises. Petitioners' claim that the Wisconsin law conflicts with federal legislation enacted under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution (Art. I, § 8) was overruled, as were petitioners' contentions that the Wisconsin Act violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Thirteenth Amendment. Respondents controvert each of these contentions and, apart from the questions of res judicata discussed in No. 302, decided this day, post, p. 411, raise no other grounds in support of the judgments below. We deal only with

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the question of conflicting federal legislation, as we have found that issue dispositive of both cases.

First. We have recently examined the extent to which Congress has regulated peaceful strikes for higher wages in industries affecting commerce. Automobile Workers v. O'Brien, 339 U.S. 454 (1950). We noted that Congress, in § 7 of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935,5 as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947,6 expressly safeguarded for employees in such industries the "right . . . to engage in . . . concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,"7 "e.g., to strike."8 We also listed the qualifications and regulations which [71 S.Ct. 363] Congress itself has imposed upon its guarantee of the right to strike,

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including requirements that notice be given prior to any strike upon termination of a contract,9 prohibitions on strikes for certain objectives declared unlawful by Congress,10 and special procedures for certain strikes which might create national emergencies.11 Upon review of these federal legislative provisions, we held, 339 U.S. at 457:

None of these sections can be read as permitting concurrent state regulation of peaceful strikes for higher wages. Congress occupied this field and closed it to state regulation. Plankinton Packing Co. v. Wisconsin Board, 338...

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