351 U.S. 225 (1956), 451, Railway Employees' Department, American

Docket Nº:No. 451
Citation:351 U.S. 225, 76 S.Ct. 714, 100 L.Ed. 1112
Party Name:Railway Employees' Department, American
Case Date:May 21, 1956
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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351 U.S. 225 (1956)

76 S.Ct. 714, 100 L.Ed. 1112

Railway Employees' Department, American

No. 451

United States Supreme Court

May 21, 1956

Federation of Labor v. Hanson

Argued May 2, 1956

APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF NEBRASKA

Syllabus

Claiming that a "union shop" agreement between an interstate railroad and unions of its employees made pursuant to § 2, Eleventh, of the Railway Labor Act, which expressly authorizes such agreements notwithstanding any state law, violated the First and Fifth Amendments of the Federal Constitution and the "right to work" provision of the Nebraska Constitution, nonunion employees of the railroad sued in a Nebraska state court to enjoin enforcement of such an agreement.

Held: on the record in this case, the agreement is valid and enforceable as to these employees. Pp. 227-238.

1. The enactment of the federal statute authorizing union shop agreements is the governmental action on which the Constitution operates, though it takes a private agreement to invoke the federal sanction. Pp. 231-232.

2. Since § 2, Eleventh, of the Railway Labor Act expressly permits "union shop" agreements notwithstanding any state law, an agreement made pursuant thereto has the imprimatur of the federal law upon it and, by force of the Supremacy Clause of Art. VI of the Constitution, could not be invalidated or vitiated by any state law. P. 232.

3. On the record in this case, the requirement for financial support of a collective bargaining agency by all who receive the benefits of its work is within the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause, and does not violate either the First or the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 233-238.

(a) Enactment of the provision of § 2, Eleventh, of the Railway Labor Act authorizing union shop agreements between interstate railroads and unions of their employees was a valid exercise by Congress of its powers under the Commerce Clause, and it does not violate the Due Process Clause. Pp. 233-235.

(b) The only conditions to union membership authorized by § 2, Eleventh, of the Railway Labor Act are the payment of "periodic dues, initiation fees, and assessments," which relate to

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financial support of the work of the union in the realm of collective bargaining, and this involves no violation of the First or the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 235-238.

(c) Judgment is reserved a to the validity or enforceability of a union or closed shop agreement if other conditions of union membership are imposed or if the exaction of dues, initiation fees, or assessments is used as a cover for forcing ideological conformity or other action in contravention of the First or the Fifth Amendment. P. 238.

160 Neb. 669, 71 N.W.2d 526, reversed.

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DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

[76 S.Ct. 715] MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

[76 S.Ct. 716] This is a suit brought in the Nebraska courts by employees of the Union Pacific Railroad Co. against that company and labor organizations representing various groups of employees of the railroad to enjoin the application and enforcement of a union shop agreement entered into between the railroad company and the labor organizations. Plaintiffs are not members of any of the defendant labor organizations and desire not to join. Under the terms of the union shop agreement all employees of the railroad, as a condition of their continued employment, must become members of the specified union within 60 days and thereafter maintain that membership. It is alleged that failure on their part to join the union will mean the loss of their employment together with seniority, retirement, pension, and other rights.

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The employees claim that the union shop agreement violates the "right to work" provision of the Nebraska Constitution, Art. XV, § 13, which provides:1

No person shall be denied employment because of membership in or affiliation with, or resignation or expulsion from a labor organization or because of refusal to join or affiliate with a labor organization; nor shall any individual or corporation or association of any kind enter into any contract, written or oral, to exclude persons from employment because of membership in or nonmembership in a labor organization.

They ask for an injunction restraining the railroad company from enforcing and applying the union shop agreement.

The answers deny that the Nebraska Constitution and laws control, and allege that the union shop agreement is authorized by § 2, Eleventh of the Railway Labor Act, as amended, 64 Stat. 1238, 45 U.S.C. § 152, Eleventh, which provides that, notwithstanding the law of "any State," a carrier and a labor organization may make an agreement requiring all employees within a stated time to become a member of the labor organization, provided there is no discrimination against any employee and provided

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that membership is not denied nor terminated

for any reason other than the failure of the employee to tender the periodic dues, initiation fees, and assessments (not including fines and penalties) uniformly required as a condition of acquiring or retaining membership.2

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[76 S.Ct. 717] The Nebraska trial court issued an injunction. The Supreme Court of Nebraska affirmed. It held that the union shop agreement violates the First Amendment in that it deprives the employees of their freedom of association and violates the Fifth Amendment in that it requires the members to pay for many things besides the cost of collective bargaining. The Nebraska Supreme Court, therefore, held that there is no valid federal law to supersede the "right to work" provision of the Nebraska Constitution. 160 Neb. 669, 71 N.W.2d 526. The case is here by appeal. 28 U.S.C. § 1257(1) and (2). We noted probable jurisdiction. 350 U.S. 910.

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The union shop3 provision of the Railway Labor Act was written into the law in 1951. Prior to that date, the Railway Labor Act prohibited union shop agreements. 48 Stat. 1186, 45 U.S.C. § 152, Fourth and Fifth; 40 Op.Atty.Gen. 254. Those provisions were enacted in 1934, when the union shop was being used by employers to establish and maintain company unions, "thus effectively depriving a substantial number of employees of their right to bargain collectively." S.Rep.No. 2262, 81st Cong., 2d Sess., p. 3. By 1950, company unions in this field had practically disappeared. Id. Between 75 and 80% of railroad employees were members [76 S.Ct. 718] of labor organizations. H.R.Rep.No.2811, 81st Cong., 2d Sess., p. 4. While nonunion members got the benefits of the collective bargaining of the unions, they bore "no share of the cost of obtaining such benefits." Id. at p. 4. As Senator Hill, who managed the bill on the floor of the Senate, said,

The question in this instance is whether those who enjoy the fruits and the benefits of the unions should make a fair contribution to the support of the unions.

96 Cong.Rec., Pt. 12, p. 16279.

The union shop provision of the Railway Labor Act is only permissive. Congress has not compelled nor required carriers and employees to enter into union shop agreements. The Supreme Court of Nebraska nevertheless took the view that justiciable questions under the First and Fifth Amendments were presented, since Congress, by the union shop provision of the Railway Labor

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Act, sought to strike down inconsistent laws in 17 States. Cf. Hudson v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 242 N.C. 650, 89 S.E.2d 441; Otten v. Baltimore & O. R. Co., 205 F.2d 58. The Supreme Court of Nebraska said,

Such action on the part of Congress is a necessary part of every union shop contract entered into on the railroads as far as these 17 states are concerned, for, without it, such contracts could not be enforced therein.

160 Neb. at 698, 71 N.W.2d at 547. We agree with that view. If private rights are being invaded, it is by force of an agreement made pursuant to federal law which expressly declares that state law is superseded. Cf. Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649, 663. In other words, the federal statute is the source of the power and authority by which any private rights are lost or sacrificed.4 Cf. Steele v. Louisville & N. R. Co., 323 U.S. 192, 198-199, 204; Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Howard, 343 U.S. 768; Public Utilities Commission of District of Columbia v. Pollak, 343 U.S. 451, 462. The enactment of the federal statute authorizing union shop agreements is the governmental action on which the Constitution operates, though it takes a private agreement to invoke the federal sanction.

As already noted, the 1951 amendment, permitting the negotiation of union shop agreements, expressly allows those agreements notwithstanding any law "of any State." § 2, Eleventh.5 A union agreement made pursuant to the Railway Labor Act has, therefore, the imprimatur of the federal law upon it and, by force of the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the Constitution, could not be made illegal nor vitiated by any provision of the laws of a State.

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We come then to the merits.

In the absence of conflicting federal legislation, there can be no doubt that it is within the police power of a State to prohibit the union or the closed shop. We so held in Lincoln Union v. Northwestern Iron & Metal Co., 335 U.S. 525, and in American Federation of Labor v. American Sash & Door Co., 335 U.S. 538, against the challenge that local "right to work" laws, including Nebraska's, violated the requirements of due process. But the power of Congress to regulate labor relations in interstate industries is likewise well established. Congress has authority to adopt all appropriate measures to "facilitate [76 S.Ct. 719] the amicable settlement of disputes which threaten the service of the necessary agencies of interstate transportation." Texas & N.O. R. Co. v. Railway Clerks, 281 U.S. 548, 570. These measures include provisions that will encourage the settlement of disputes

by inducing...

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